It was a scary realization: We are hated.
If you were old enough to take in what was happening on 9/11, you remember snapshots of horror and heroism. Horror: Planes full of people bulleting into towers full of people. Skyline of smoke. Jumping from top stories. Dazed and debris-blown survivors. Bloody stretchers. Heroism: First responders rushing into burning towers. Flight 93 passengers resolving to take back the plane. A nation coming together to weep on each other’s shoulders and resolve to never forget.
And somewhere amid those unforgettable impressions came an awful discovery: There are people who hate, hate, hate us.
The terrorists’ hatred of America and Americans was so intense that they felt joyful, victorious—even saintly—when they succeeded in killing 3,000 of our civilians in terrifying ways. It made them overjoyed to turn hundreds of us into missiles which they used to bomb many more hundreds of us.
What do you do when you find out you are hated so intensely? That’s a frightening realization. That’s a scary place to be. But there is an appropriate response to a terrifying realization.
If you’ve had young kids, do you remember their go-to response the moment something scary happened to them? If young children fall and hurt themselves—or if they fall and aren’t sure if they’re hurt or not—they will typically find you, the parent, with their eyes. Scared and uncertain, they want to lock eyes with you and make sure it’s going to be okay. As a dad, it’s a gift knowing that, when they are scared, your kids know what to do. They know whom to go to.
So, when you find out that you and your nation are the targets of cruel and zealous hatred, the day takes a dark and scary turn. What do you do with a frightening realization like that?
You lock eyes with your Father.
That’s the point, after all, of the “Lord’s Prayer,” also known as the “Our Father.” In this prayer, we lock eyes with our Father and pray, “Our Father in heaven…”
That’s what Todd Beamer did. As a passenger on Flight 93, he and others on the plane connected the dots between their own hijacking and the other three hijackings that had ended with planes being flown into landmark buildings. He and others resolved to fight and thwart the terrorists. He was scared.
And he knew whom to go to. During a call with phone operator Lisa Jefferson, Todd asked her to give a personal message to his wife and then asked if she would pray the Lord’s Prayer with him.
“Our Father in heaven…”
Twenty years later, we still have times we get scared. Moments we realize with surprise that we are hated by some people—even as we find ourselves to be Christians who simply hold unpopular moral standards and no longer have “home court advantage” in the Western world.
In such moments, we need courage. We need reassurance. We need an infusion of peace into our souls.
So, like Todd Beamer, we go to our Father. We lock eyes with him. We remind ourselves by the prayer Jesus gave us that God’s kingdom reigns. God’s name is set apart as holy. God’s will is going to be done because his kingdom is on its way.
In a very different context from 9/11, Jesus once explained to his disciples that they would be hated. It was going to be part of the job of following him. But that was okay because rescue was on its way. Here’s how Jesus put it to them:
“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22)
Our job as Christians and churches is to stand firm even when hated.
And how are we going to do that? Standing firm has everything to do with where our eyes land. We stand firm in our faith by locking eyes with our Father.
So, in uncertain times that come with scary realizations, let’s all pray, “Our Father in heaven…”