This morning a friend sent me an email showing newly released photos of the World Trade Center buildings as they began burning, and then crumpled and toppled to the ground on that horrendous day on Sept. 11.
The title of the email, “September 11, 2001 — Never Forget!” reminded me of other times when something terrible has happened and we’ve been urged to never forget (and maybe even consider taking revenge):
• “Remember the Alamo!”
• “Remember the Maine!”
• “Remember Pearl Harbor!”
These remembers stand in sharp contrast to what Jesus teaches us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven …’ ” (Matthew 5:43-45).
And again in Luke: “But I say to you that listen, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’ ” (6:27-28).
The idea of never forgetting, of trying to get even, comes too easily to all of us. Witness these billboards currently showing in U.S. cities:
• For a new shoot-’em-up movie: “Revenge is beautiful.”
• For a new TV drama, in huge letters that stretch across the whole display: “Revenge.”
How different from the way the Amish responded when a lone gunman attacked their one-room country school in Nickel Mines, Pa., in October 2006. After he shot and killed five young girls and wounded five more, then turned his gun on himself, the Amish didn’t urge each other to “never forget.” Instead they hurried over to the gunman’s home to comfort his widow and children and give them the help they needed. And within a week they tore down the school and built a new one a distance away to keep tourists from visiting the site and remembering.
There can be times when we need to remember past events that were extremely damaging, extremely hurtful. Those living in Germany today need to remember Adolf Hitler’s atrocities and work to never let such things happen again. We in the U.S. need to remember how American Indians and our African brothers and sisters were treated and do what we can to make things right. Maybe Jesus is calling us to be less concerned about remembering how others have hurt us, and more concerned about how we might help those we’ve hurt.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers