I’m catching a plane today, which is not that unusual. Because I have an artificial hip — which is a bit unusual — I enjoy a brief encounter each trip with a certain group of people.
I’m referring to the TSA, or Transportation Security Administration.
If you travel by air, you know the dear people who have the joy of screening passengers at airports across the United States, and their peers in airports globally.
“Step to the side, sir. Male assist!” Have you ever heard that? If you have ever heard the familiar beeping of a metal detector you just set off in an airport (and you are a male), you have. I’ve flown all over the world and have set off more metal detectors than I can recall. I know the airport security drill.
The drill changes through the years. I remember when you could greet your loved ones at the gate. The details change over time, but what remains constant is this: If you set off the metal detector, you will have to be screened further. Maybe you forgot the change in your pocket or failed to take off your belt. If you have set it off, you know what happens next: The personal screener gets a little more than intrusive to make sure you are safe to travel. Today, most airports have magnetic resonance machines that allow me to avoid the “personal touch” of such thorough customer care.
I received my metal hip in 1998. But I started setting off metal detectors in 2001, in late September in fact, on the aforementioned trip to South Africa. Why did my hip suddenly begin to set off the metal detector? Three numbers: 9-1-1. The terrorist attack on the U.S. changed a lot of lives and at some level has touched the whole world. Why?
Several years before that September a man sitting in a tent in eastern Afghanistan had become pretty ticked off at the West, and at Americans in particular. Osama bin Laden had a Why big enough to cause him to want to harm the most powerful nation on the earth. He convinced a couple dozen men to come to the States to attend flight training schools in order to learn how to fly domestic air carriers. These men boarded flights on September 11, 2001, and armed with nothing more than box cutters and the ability to steer airliners, unleashed an attack unprecedented in American history, leaving almost three thousand dead.
Immediately after the attacks, the metal detectors were turned to a more sensitive frequency. For the first time in three years of having a metal hip, I set off a metal detector less than two weeks after 9/11, on my first trip to Africa.
Osama bin Laden started a movement of the worst kind. He sold a handful of men on a Why big enough to die for, leading them to conduct a most sinister act, one that has led to the recognition of a global movement of terrorism just when we thought the Cold War’s end would lead to a much more peaceful world.
While many have been involved, one man started the movement.
He was not a dictator.
Nor was he the leader of a massive, organized army.
But using an idea and modern communication tools such as social media, Osama bin Laden to some degree changed the whole world. Not for the better.
Good news: Almost two thousand years ago a band of believers, a gaggle of Galileans, a den of disciples numbering only 120, gathered in Jerusalem. They had no standing in the culture. But they had a mission so big only God could accomplish it through them. He took a man intent on leading a movement to persecute followers of Christ and turned him into one of the leaders of the early Christian movement. Saul of Tarsus became the apostle Paul because of the power of the gospel. Their Why was big enough to change the world.
What if you started living every day with the passion for Jesus hungry to advance the gospel in your community and around the world, no matter the cost? It would take a Why that big. And that’s what Jesus has called you and I to have, and to do.