Another September 11 has come and gone. As I wrote the date yesterday, it suddenly hit me what day it was–and what the significance was! September 11 was the day that terrorist attacks became more than just international news; they became part of the American experience.

The thing about terrorist attacks is that they are unreachable and indefatigable. Difficult to pin down, they exhaust you and make you start to wonder if there are other ways to obtain peace. Because that’s what you want–you didn’t want to pick the fight with them; they lashed out at you while you were busy living and letting them live. And as you start wracking your brain for other alternatives, as you try to make sense out of what happened, you start to see their point of view a little more, start to grasp their motives a little better. And then it’s easy for things to become more and more twisted from the effort of trying to make sense out of it all. And then you begin to accept the blame little by little for what happened, hoping that if you come half-way, if you accept your part of the blame, they will admit their part and meet you in the middle. After all, isn’t that how peace comes in normal relationships?

But terrorism is not a normal relationship. And the terrorists are not interested in making peace. They are not going to admit they were wrong. They are not the ones that want peace–you are.

Somewhere along the line we have to realize what forgiving others really means. Forgiveness stems from a recognition of the wrong that has been done to us, not from rationalizing the behavior. Forgiveness has to be firmly grounded in truth. Sometimes the truth may include the fact that the person who wronged us did so unintentionally, but it cannot ignore the wrong! Nor can it ignore the fact that there is a price to be paid for what was done to us. Instinctively we know that the price must be paid, and that’s how we get things twisted–when the other person refuses to acknowledge his wrong, we begin to wonder if perhaps we deserved it all along and then start to think that we are simply paying for our wrongs ourselves. That mindset bears only a small resemblance to the truth and it stops us from truly forgiving and moving on. Instead it makes us a slave to the one that has hurt us and now holds power over us.

It works that way with bullies on playgrounds. Why would it be any different between nations and people groups?