“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, you also to the, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Entered by the narrow gate. The gate is wide in the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are met. For the gate is now the way that leads to life, and those who find are a few.” – Matthew 7:12–14; ESV

Looking back 20 years, these are some of the headlines that were listed (courtesy of Boston.com): “As economy fell,” “Bush tried to find cover,” “Battle on missile-defense funds heated up,” “Mexican farmers troubled by third-world imports.”

The United States was dealing with its own internal issues on Sept. 10, 2001. People were struggling with police issues, political issues, economic issues, racial tension and a host of other things that we commonly bicker and argue about, much like today.

And then, on Sept. 11, the attack….

I remember that morning very well. I had just left my home in Fort Wayne to head up to the church in Pleasant Lake. I was just assigned to be the pastor at the church and had only been there since July 2001. I stopped in to the daycare that our church has, and as I arrived at the church, the first plane was reported to have struck the one tower of the Twin Towers.

The TV was providing coverage, and at first I thought to myself, “This was a horrible accident...” And then I saw the other plane strike the second tower. News reports began to pile in about how another plane had struck the Pentagon and that yet another plane went down in Pennsylvania. I knew at that point, after seeing the second plane strike the tower, that this was some form of attack.

The whole world stopped as information started pouring in. We started to hear about the multiple deaths that had taken place. We saw some horrific photos of not only the destruction but of people actually jumping out of the towers to avoid being burned or buried alive in the rubble.

America was breathless, as was I. I knew at that moment that I had to prepare a sermon so that we could try to bring peace to my congregation (and to myself). All of the political strife, the racial tension, the differences that America had going on at that time stopped, and all began to focus on how to come together as a nation to not only heal but stand and defend this land that we love, the United States of America.

For months to follow, America united to put every difference aside and rescue those who we could, to clean up after the destruction, to stand together as a country, to bring hope back to America. All the things that we were fighting over the day before were meaningless in comparison to the destruction and the tragic loss of lives due to the terrorist attacks of that day. Tragedies always bring us together, and even though I never want this to happen again, I wish that America could come together again as a nation these 20 years later.

As we look at America today, we’ve gone backwards in our humanity for one another, our ability to work together as a nation and family, to be able to see that what really matters in life is far beyond that which we are fighting over. The unity of a nation, the importance of family and relationships, our spirituality and our relationship with God, trying to live life to the fullest and at the same time respecting each and everyone’s opinion and diversity are but a few of the things that truly are important today.

Regardless of what you may think, we need to return to how we were that day after 9/11 and show the love and respect towards one another that we did then. Yes, we definitely should remember those whose lives were taken and those lives that were given (the first responders, the military personnel, the multiple volunteers who came to assist and to defend our great nation and those people affected by the 9/11 attacks). At the same time, it is equally vital that we come together as a nation and put aside all of our senseless and, I daresay, stupid arguments and disagreements and start living together as a united nation that respects and honors one another regardless of political stances, sexual orientation, racial differences, social status and so on.

The passage provided shares this very sentiment. As we want to be treated, so should we treat others. If I want to be respected, I need to get respect. If I want to be loved, I must give love. If I want help, I must be willing to help others. This is a very simple and straightforward approach to how to heal a nation. If we were able to do this with one another in our own home, our own communities, our own states and our nation, then we would get rid of so much drama and hatred and be truly indivisible.

Until we begin to put this into practice and make it part of our lives, we will be forever divided. Will we allow this? I pray to God that the answer is no!

I cannot do this alone. I need each and every one of you to be able to share this with everybody that you know. We need to start loving one another, having compassion and forgiveness for one another, respecting one another and our differences and, most importantly, being able to show one another the love of God, the way Jesus showed us God’s love.

John Boyanowski is the pastor at Pleasant Lake United Methodist Church.

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