On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, millions of Americans – and others around the world – were astonished, horrified, frightened, and grieved over a world that had seemingly changed in a matter of minutes. One moment, people were going about their day, the next moment the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been attacked and thousands of people had been killed, including those on Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
In many ways, the world did change that day, and some of those changes are hard to assess because they're still unfolding. A British jury's decision earlier this week regarding a subsequent plot to attack airliners brought home the impact of terrorist threats on air travel and the complexities it has introduced. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are additional examples of how 9/11 has touched people's lives.
But there are other changes, too. One is the somewhat fractious unity that has developed as nations work together to resist terrorist threats. This unity has helped cool off some of the rhetoric about Iranian nuclear activities and has provided a unified response to the Russia-Georgia standoff. New opportunities to do good by working together are gradually being accepted more willingly by the US and other nations.
In a short article titled "Other ways than by war," Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "The characters and lives of men determine the peace, prosperity, and life of nations" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 277). Each individual's character and life are shaped by what he or she values. Those who embrace envy, suspicion, hatred, resentment, and lack of respect for others would divide humanity into haves and have-nots, into ethnic or religious rivals. This is what might be called the "fog of 9/11" – the motivation that leads to war, bloodshed, and terrorist attacks.
But these feelings will never be the final word or result because the spiritual reality for each of us – even, ultimately, for terrorists – is the love of God, as Jesus taught and lived it, and our purity and goodness as God's spiritual ideas. Clarity on this point – that true motivation unites and heals, instead of destroys and kills – is the light that outshined the fog on September 11, 2001. It was seen in the heroic efforts made by firefighters, police, medical, and other emergency personnel to save lives, even through risking and in some cases losing their own.
As more people adopt this selflessness, that light will shine more brightly than any other influence. It's able to do this because its source is God, divine Love. Under Love's guidance, progress among the nations becomes inevitable, despite rough patches along the way.
The spiritual response to 9/11 – including efforts to build understanding between Muslims and Christians, among others – shows that even when the distress was greatest, individuals saw beyond vengeance to a higher goal, to the higher character that all people share.
Each individual, no matter what his or her background, is inseparable from a good and loving God. And ultimately, everyone will come face to face with the divine law, which Jesus summed up as: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37-39).
To intelligently love and trust God, and to love our neighbors – here and abroad – as we love ourselves is a great and worthy goal. It's also one filled with challenges. But the fact that today, seven years later, people are still working together toward their highest sense of right is a sign that the ancient truths are still true: good does prevail; love, not hate, is what makes the world work better and with lasting harmony.
So while some things have changed, the power and love of God continue to do their work in the world, ever leading people to a closer walk with divine Love. And with each step, humanity continues to be blessed.