WASHINGTON, October 15—-American Airlines Flight 11 had fallen mysteriously silent. The air traffic controller called over and over for a response. None came. Then he heard an unidentified voice from the cockpit: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you’ll be O.K. We are returning to the airport.”
The controller, confused, asked, “Who’s trying to call me?”
No response. Then he heard the voice again: “Nobody move, please; we are going back to the airport. Don’t try to make any stupid moves.”
Where were you on September 11, 2001? When the New York Times released this conversation to America’s ears a month later, we relived the grief all over again, though many Montgomery businesses had already replaced their “Pray for America” signs with “Don’t Wait! Make Your Holiday Reservation Today!” Though I knew that “business as usual” would grind its way front and center, for the moment, I rejoiced in the spreading wave of red, white and blue, currently hitting every fall festival this side of the Mississippi in the form of T-shirts, jewelry, bumper stickers, previously unprocurable flags, and even soaps and candles! I rejoiced that, for most, it seemed that the torch of a love for one another, our country, truth, and God burned lively and well.
What struck me with the recorded conversation of Flight11 was this hard reality: these passengers were assured that they would be returning home. The promise of an airport return probably assuaged the bilious fear rising within them, as they thought of hugging spouses, children, and friends again, having survived a narrow escape. The reporters had pondered the amazement that, save for the insightful courage of the heroes of Flight 93, which crashed into a southwest Pennsylvania farm field, mere box cutters were able to keep three planes of passengers at bay. There had to be another reason that kept them contained, and on October 15, 2001, we learned the reason: they were motivated by HOPE.
Does this not fit God’s creation of His children to a T? Have you ever seen a child’s face light up as Friday approaches, knowing full well he has earned a “red apple” for every day of the week? Is there not something wonderful about the anticipation of a new birth, a long-awaited vacation, or the possibility that a marvelous day beyond compare will follow an excruciatingly horrible one? Are we not ecstatic at the promise of a life beyond that of ours on earth, where there is no suffering, pain, oppression, separation, or ISIS?
Members of militant Islamic sects (not to be confused with most Muslims) state that they believe it is a sign of honor to be martyred for their faith, with a supposed waiting list of those craving to wage jihad (their version of “Holy War”) even to the point of losing their own lives. Research tells us that the surviving families of suicide bombers are well-respected and cared for after the loss of their loved ones, and even small children, even in light of seeing fathers meet their demise in this way, aspire to be like them.
We also, as Christians, believe in offering our lives for the sake of another, as well, with history full of Christian martyrs, following the example of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly gave His life for humanity. Without His sacrifice, we would have no other way of meeting a pure and holy Father because of the sin which stains each one of us, our ancestors, and our progeny as well. Yet, though we are willing to die for this cause, God has created in all of His children a respectful, appreciative value of the sanctity of life. The debate rages in secular circles as to how “life” is interpreted, but it seems hardly debatable that Scripture teaches that God’s ultimate desire for His children is that each of us would treat His gift of life with gentle awe and the will to preserve it.
We are like the passengers of Flight 11 and the others: motivated by hope. The honor of dying for a cause may be real, and perhaps culturally divergent, but it is hope which gives us the faith to keep on going, even in the face of box cutters and paralyzing fear. Though some try to motivate with fear, success in this manner cannot touch the track record of hope. There can be no greater hope than that hope which is bestowed freely upon all who believe in Christ, through the acceptance of God’s ultimate gift and with the growing desire to obey His words, which just happen to be for our ultimate best, anyway! Only Christ acting in us can help us grow beyond our tendency toward selfish pursuits to make a daily practice, be it in theory or reality to, as the passengers of Flight 93 knew, “die so that others may live.” Knowing full well that, in the twinkling of His eye, Christ could come in full glory to take us home, regardless of how many unfinished projects lie waiting for us or how many debates continue to rage regarding “flag perception” or the intent of America’s founding fathers, let us spread the hope of Christ today as if there were no tomorrow, for this ray of sunshine is needed now, perhaps more than it has ever been needed before.