(BNC) — Shortly after 11 Sept. 2001, we knew the number of lives lost. In New York, 2,753 died in the World Trade Center or as a result of the attacks. Another 224 died at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
New York Magazine has all kinds of statistics on the consequences of that day.
One number it does not have: how many were saved.
Stories have been told and retold about people whose lives were saved on that day.
But we’ve never seen a tally of the total number of people who lived on that day because of heroic actions of others and the selfless intervention of police, firemen, and citizens such as those who prevented United Flight 93 from crashing into the White House or the US Capitol.
Society still debates precautions that should have been taken to prevent such loss of life. Some say the threat of terrorist attacks is greater today than ever before. It may be that radical Islamists are refocusing their attacks to softer targets, as recent incidents in Europe might suggest.
However that may be, in an attempt to recognize the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 and the important efforts of the various countries to provide security to their citizens, we’d direct our attention to a spiritual reaction to this delicate moment in history.
The church of God has always faced the horrors of history by steadfastness in its mission. It has focused on its mission to save souls by the proclamation of the gospel. Aware of the masses who enter eternity every day to face final judgment, it works to add to the number of the saved.
In the US, saints struggled to fulfill their task in the midst of such crises like the Civil War. But struggle they did.
Missionaries in foreign countries have faced persecution, restrictions, confiscation of property, and death as they remained in place to do their work.
During World War II, missionary Sarah Andrews was imprisoned in Japan in 1942. Kevin Moore wrote that “because of damp conditions and a starvation diet, she contracted tuberculosis and was sent to her home in Numazu, Shizuoka to die.”
At home, she continued to work during the war, Kevin said.
Seventeen wounded soldiers were brought to Sarah’s house for her to nurse. She was allowed only one cup of rice each day, and at times was so weak she had to crawl between cots. She had to sell her furniture, piece by piece, to buy food. She boiled leaves and cornstalks for nourishment, used seawater for salt, and ate grasshoppers. Neighborhood children, to whom she had ministered, supplemented her measly diet and helped prolong her life. In July 1945, near the end of the war, the city was bombed while Sarah slept. The entire area was devastated, and the only house left standing was hers.
After the war, Sarah Andrews continued to serve in Japan teaching the gospel and so fulfilled her calling until the end.
As do so many of God’s people in the face of crises. While people die around us, either naturally or due to war, terrorism, or natural disasters, the family of God has but a single focus, that of saving souls for eternity.
We count those souls because each number represents a person created in the image of God, for whom Jesus Christ gave his life on a Roman cross.
God knows the number of the lost. And he knows the number of those who are being saved.
Not for nothing do we read about numbers in the book of Acts, as the church is established in Jerusalem, starting with three thousand, then growing to five thousand.
Not for nothing do we see disciples preaching the Good News as they are scattered because of persecution, and disciples facing opposition because they preached where the gospel had never been heard before.
It is God’s design to cover the earth with the message of salvation. He did it in the book of Acts, and he does it today, through his people.
So while no one apparently has done a count of those saved on 9/11, God’s people count the saved as souls who are precious in his sight.
Our count will not be precise, but God knows the actual number.
Our count is not done against the number of dollars spent, nor measuring the “per dollar efficiency,” as Roy Davison, missionary to Belgium, described it.
Be count we will, in the joy of seeing the power of God to save through the proclamation of Jesus Christ.
On this somber day when many remember 9/11, the body of Christ remembers her mission and rejoices in being used by God in the greatest frontal attack of all, rescuing the lost and giving eternal life to those who live in fear of death.
~ Randal Matheny