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Chapel Talk on the Terrorist Attacks

(One who had been in the audience the day this chapel talk was delivered recommended it to the Spokesman. The speaker was Prof. John Pfeiffer, president of our Immanuel Lutheran College, Eau Claire, Wisconsin)

Scripture Text: “And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Gen. 4: 8).

From heaven's throne, O Lord, bend down
And touch our hearts this day,
That we may find the cause for hope
Upon our heavenward way. Amen.

Whose fault was it that the World Trade Center was destroyed, the Pentagon attacked, and the airplane crashed into the fields of Pennsylvania?

Does this seem like an easy question?

We say, “Of course, it was the fault of the terrorists, who hijacked the planes.” Perhaps we want to point to Osama bin Laden. Some people would even like to get rid of everyone of Arabic descent.

But are any of these answers correct? If, indeed, the fault lies with the terrorists themselves, then we should be safe, because those who flew the planes are dead. — If the fault lies with Osama bin Laden, then getting rid of him should bring an end to our fears. — If the fault lies with . . . And we could go on and on.

It is true that our government should bring the guilty parties to justice. All governments should do everything in their power to stop terrorists. However, we should realize that the governments of this world are not going to stop terrorism.

“And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Gen. 4:8).

Since the moment that Cain struck Abel with a deadly blow, terrorism has existed in this world. Actually, it has existed since the moment that Eve “gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6).

The root cause of this horror in our country is not a handful of terrorists, nor is it bin Laden, nor the Muslim religion. All of these are fruit hanging from the branches of a deadly tree, and that tree is rooted in the ground of sin.

Every disaster that strikes this world is caused by sin. It is either the result of the sinful acts of men, or it is God’s judgment upon the sinful acts of men, or it is God’s discipline, teaching His children to avoid sin.

So, whose fault is it? Adam’s? Eve’s? Satan’s? Surely they are at fault. But we need to look beyond them. We need to get at the root. Get rid of sin and you will get rid of terrorism. It’s the only way. Every other effort is just stop-gap. It’s only temporary. Pluck the fruit off the tree and the tree of sin will produce more fruit.

Whose fault is it? Jesus said, “Do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:4f). The disaster at the tower of Siloam gave Jesus cause to point to everyone.

Whose fault? It’s my fault and it’s your fault and it’s the fault of everyone who sins . . . and that is everyone. If we want to get rid of terrorism, we have to start right here at ILC. We have to start with you and me.

The sin that crouched like a lion at the door of Cain’s heart is the same sin that crouches at the door of your heart and mine. . . . “sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7).

We cannot see this lion as it lurks about the campus of ILC, because it is lurking inside of us. The Apostle Paul writes, “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:23). Sin is waging a war within each of us, and we must master it.

Of course, we cannot master sin. We cannot get rid of the sin tree. It is far beyond our ability. This is why our wonderful Creator, who so greatly loves His creation, sent His own dear Son into this world of sin. Christ Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of men–including that of the hijackers–and suffered the penalty for us all. How horribly sad for those who died without knowing this.

We have to get rid of sin. Only in Christ will this happen. Christ has poisoned the root of the tree with His own blood. Those who put their faith in Jesus’ blood and righteousness have gained the mastery over sin.

Oh, I do not mean that we never sin, but sin cannot rule us, because we are always turning to Christ for forgiveness and regeneration. We are always finding peace and hope in His blood-stained cross.

Now, instead of resorting to terrorism, we preach the message of peace . . . peace with God through Christ Jesus. We speak to others about the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Especially here at ILC we need to be about the work of training people to proclaim this gospel. Only where the gospel has taken root will the tree of sin be uprooted.

Of course, we know that the vast majority in this world has rejected and will continue to reject this peace. And so terrorism will continue until Christ returns to blot it out forever, and along with it, all sin.

In the meantime, we Christians are the only ones who can really do something about terrorism. This we do by hearing the gospel and by preaching the gospel. Then, one by one, potential terrorists will become peaceful citizens of the kingdom of heaven. God help us to be true anti-terrorists.

Let us pray:

Father in heaven, look upon us with mercy and blot out our sins, for we daily sin much. Turn our eyes to the cross of Christ, where He paid our debt and the debt of all people. Give us the courage and zeal to carry this good news to a world of enemies, that some may be transformed by it and gain their eternal salvation. Grant this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.