At Work & Theology 101

Remembering God’s Coworkers on 9/11

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Today, it is only fitting that we take some time to remember what happened to Americans on 9/11. Thousands of families were directly affected by the events on that terrible day.

Most people can recall where they were when they heard the news and saw the footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York City. My son, who was 13 at the time, wrote a vivid account of what he felt several years later that I shared on my blog. Here is an excerpt:

School starts and we get the news. It’s hard to comprehend what’s happening a few thousand miles east of us. The teachers are really worried and don’t teach that much. All they can do is listen to the radio or watch TV or answer our questions and try and give us as much normalcy as possible without giving away the fact that they are more afraid than we are because they understand what it all means. . . The rest of the day is a blur. A lot of my friends who have parents in the service like me are extra worried. We know what they’re saying. “Act of war” sticks in my head. War. My dad. I need to get home.

Though it is appropriate to spend time mourning the victims, today  I want to highlight various types of workers we saw on that day. I think most Christians would agree that God was very present in the work that needed to get done. There were a large number of people God used to rescue, bring comfort, and defend this nation against further violence. 

God Uses Human Beings to Do His Work

Let me provide a little theological background before we examine these special workers.

What I have seen in the Bible and in many books on the theology of work is this: God worked to create the world, and then he created his greatest creation to continue his work as his coworkers. We see this in Genesis 1:26-28, which is called the creation mandate. God in his mercy and grace made Adam and Eve in his image to be his representatives to care for and expand the garden. God still chooses to use human beings today to do the work of sustaining his creation. 

In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman shares a concept of God as our vocational model, a concept she credits to Robert Banks and his book Faith Goes to Work. He describes the different kinds of work God does in our midst and how our human vocations fit into this model: 

  • Redemptive work: God’s saving and reconciling actions
  • Creative work: God’s fashioning of the physical and human world
  • Providential work: God’s provision for and sustaining of humans and the creation
  • Justice work: God’s maintenance of justice
  • Compassionate work: God’s involvement in comforting, healing, guiding, and shepherding
  • Revelatory work: God’s work to enlighten with truth

Although God could do all of these types of jobs on his own, he chooses to work through humans as his coworkers to get this work done. Just about any job you can think of could fall into one of these categories above. Those who perform these jobs are participating in God’s work. When we do them, we become an answer to prayer. People prayed for rescuers to come, and they did.

God Rescued Those Who Needed Rescuing

God rescued thousands of people in harm’s way through the work of first responders. Those involved in God’s providential work included firefighters, police, dispatchers, emergency medical technicians, and others; many gave their lives as they fulfilled their calling.

Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I think he would have understood that it was God who sent them.

King David often acknowledged that God would rescue him as he faced threats from his enemies, foreign and domestic, including members of his own family. This was based on a faith in God who delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and who would deliver him. “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Ps. 18:6). “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield” (Ps. 33:20). “Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered (Ps. 60:5).

God Brought Comfort to Those Who Needed Comfort

On a day filled with overwhelming, unimaginable loss, God brought comfort through the work of a large number of skilled compassionate workers. These workers included doctors, nurses, ministers, chaplains, counselors, teachers, and parents.

We know there will never be an end to suffering in this broken world, However, that doesn’t mean that we need to endure it alone. In the Psalms, we find comfort in these words: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). God is present with us in our time of need (Ps. 46:1). In the midst of such devastating losses on 9/11, God was indeed present. He provided comfort to body and soul through the work of human comforters.

The Apostle Paul sheds some light on the comfort that God brings, often in partnership with others. Paul refers to God as “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). He then highlights a special purpose for recipients of God’s comfort, “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor 1:4). Those whom God uses to bring comfort have often had personal experiences in needing and receiving it themselves. God calls those individuals to a ministry of compassion to others as his coworkers.

God Brought Security Through Those Who Defended this Country

Finally, let us look at the justice work that God did through our military men and women on this day and beyond to protect the citizens of this country and the world from further acts of terrorism. They fought the good fight to bring peace and security to those who were justifiably fearful. 

I know soldiers who were directly impacted by the events that day. One coworker was a military policeman who was ordered to the Pentagon after it was hit to assist with search and rescue efforts. I personally trained soldiers in several Army Reserve and National Guard units that were called to active duty. Many soldiers I have worked with in my current job deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times in support of the Global War on Terror to destroy our enemies and prevent another tragedy like this from happening on American soil.

Through the sacrifices of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who held a variety of occupational specialties, their efforts to bring peace to this nation were not in vain. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently pointed out, “For two decades our nation was not attacked from Afghanistan – that was our mission.” 

The Apostle Paul gave us some insight into the value of our government leaders to use their military force appropriately. In Romans 13:4, we read, “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Paul indicates that government leaders are God’s servants and that the military forces under their control can be used rightly to bring justice to those who brought death and destruction to God’s people.

Closing Thoughts

When it really mattered, God brought deliverance, comfort, and justice to this nation through ordinary workers like you and me. He did this on 9/11, when people showed up and just did their job. I thank God for these workers and for those who do this kind of work today. I am grateful to be his coworker to help meet the full spectrum of human needs, for his honor and glory. 

Let us continue to look for the helpers, and let us always remember that God is the source of that help. Let us keep on doing the work that God calls us to do using the talents he gave us, to meet the needs of those whom he loved so much that he sent his son Jesus to die for them.

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