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Part 1: The Call to Holiness?

 

Will any American forget the shock of 9/11? That September morning in 2001 began like other Tuesday mornings. Men and women arose and went to work as usual, and children climbed onto buses to go to school. From small towns to great cities, the pulse of life quickened. The throbbing activity of a great nation saw businesses opening for the day and highway traffic building into the morning rush hour. The day’s commercial airline schedules and communication networks predicted a day of pride-filled national life and success.

Suddenly a deadly blow fell on New York City. A passenger airliner struck one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. An accident, perhaps. As thousands in Manhattan gasped and television news departments and emergency first responders jumped into action, a second passenger liner struck the other twin tower. This was not a day of vibrant life; it was a day of vicious death. Before long it became apparent that this blow of tragedy was not an accident. A terrorist plot involving four aircraft ended the lives of 2,996 people in Manhattan, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (1)

In the years that have followed, the numerals “9/11” have become the commemorative symbol of national rage and grief. They have borne with them the embarrassment that America’s security was breached and the determination to exterminate the perpetrators at all costs. Among those costs were two frustrating wars that seemed to have no end.

Year after year grief-filled commemorative services were conducted on succeeding 9/11s. The Freedom Tower replaced the Twin Towers as a show of recovery and patriotism. Yet as the years have passed the emotions echoing from that tragic day, that “horrific” day, have subsided. In 2013, twelve years later, a newspaper headline read: “Observances more low-key than in past.” (2)

Do We Remember the Maine?

Will Americans forget the shock of 9/11? Yes, they will.

The disaster of September 11, 2001, was not the first disaster to stamp itself on the American memory for many years. On December 7, 1941, Japanese suicide aircraft bombed the US Navy’s Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (3) For many, many years “Remember Pearl Harbor” flagged an annual day of commemoration. But that remembrance faded. About forty years earlier, on February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded and sank in the Havana, Cuba, harbor from undetermined causes. “Remember the Maine” became the battle cry of the United States military forces and was still heard into the 1920s. (4) But that tragic loss of life and pride also faded and was forgotten.

For 2,100 years Christians have been commemorating the stunning events that launched the Christian religion–the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Have the observances, in cross-bearing country fields, in churches and in hearts, become more “low key” than in the centuries past? Will Christians forget the cross?

The pride of great successes and the pain of great tragedies fade as generations come and go. As early as 60 years after the glorious resurrection of Jesus, the believers in Ephesus were described as having abandoned the love they had at first (Rev. 2:4), and the Laodicean believers were described as having become lukewarm (3:16).

Is there no cure for this human characteristic of collective forgetfulness? If epochal events like the terrorists’ cunning destruction of the Twin Towers in the so-called greatest nation on earth can come and go–if the emotions and significance of such an event were already beginning to fade away after only twelve years–can anything be done to keep our salvation story alive?

A Higher Level of Loyalty

Despite patriotic services and songs, historical events will fade, but the events related to our salvation must not. We rightly commemorate the events of Christ’s life. We have services complete with instruction in righteousness. But our services and prayer times of commemoration are not sufficient to keep the picture of the cross and its meaning vividly alive in our memories and in our heart-sanctuaries. Commemoration marks only past events. We must add consecration. With consecration we focus on our future fellowship with Jesus and the one grand event to which we eagerly look forward–His coming to take us home. For the preparation of ourselves and every nation, kindred, tongue and people we give ourselves in daily consecration.

Consecration is spiritual patriotism, yet a great deal more. It is personal commitment to a living Savior and to a lively cause in His behalf. Bible writers used the words “qodhesh” (Hebrew) and “hagios” (Greek) to designate a level of loyalty to our Creator that far exceeds patriotism. These words mean separating ourselves from the values and affairs of earthly life and attaching ourselves without reservation to heavenly values and affairs, in fact, to the Author of our salvation This behavior of heart does not fade, for it is to be renewed every day. It is called “holiness.”

The Word of God reads: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” Therefore, “pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (1 Peter 1:3, 4; Heb. 12:14).