I still remember that morning ten years past. I am speaking of the morning of September 12th, 2001. You see, on September 11th, I awoke to my life in a lovely little college town in Georgia, where I thought I had the luxury of focusing only on my wonderful parish and university classes. A small-town pastor and professor-that was me, and I was comfortable. But as I awoke on September 12th, it hit me in an instant: Things had changed. I had to wake up to the fact that I am a citizen of the world, of God's world. And it would be up to me, and not simply someone else, to claim my role as one of God's ambassadors for true and lasting peace in this world.
The martyred archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, never lived to see September 11th, but in his own time and country he also faced large-scale hatred and death and in absolutely despairing circumstances proclaimed to his fellow Salvadoran believers: "If there is hope of a new world, of a new nation, of a more just order, of a reflection of God's kingdom in our society, brothers and sisters, surely you are the Christians who will bring about this wonder of a new world." He was one of God's ambassadors, which made him a dangerous person to a world that often chooses hatred over love and death over life. Like Romero, German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called his fellow Christians to bold witness and service as God's ambassadors to the entire world. "Mere waiting and looking on," Bonhoeffer asserted in a letter written during World War II, "is not Christian behavior." Those who would follow Christ, he continued, "are called to compassion and action."
It was not that these sentiments were unknown to me before I awoke on September 12th. In my comfortableness, I had still been able to accomplish some good, but my vision of good and of evil was so small, so much about being a "nice guy" that I failed to appreciate that Jesus calls all of us to be more than that. He calls us all to be awake and alive as ambassadors who will work to bring about a new world through our compassion and action. It is so easy to move through life as a sleepwalker, speaking and acting as if we are awake to the world and its needs-but really are not.
On the morning of September 11, I knew that there always had been "wars and rumors of wars," there had always been the poor, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, but all these were someone else's problem. As I awoke on September 12, I realized that the world's problems are mine, too. All of us who would be God's ambassadors have to find new ways, intentional ways, to do more than what is comfortable-to wake up and make a difference.
(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)