I am troubled today. Deep down inside I am troubled and trying to find a place of balance. I am not sure how to process all that I am seeing. The main news item over the last two days has been the death of known terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Each newscast has given more and more information, more and more detail of the military operation that led to his death. Once bin Laden was identified as the mastermind of the terrorist attacks on America in September of 2001, our military has been searching for him in order to hold him accountable for his unspeakable acts of violence. Persistence paid off, bin Laden was found, and justice was carried out on behalf of the American people. There is a great sense of relief on the minds and faces of Americans as a result. This is most clearly seen in the police, first responder, and firefighting communities, along with the families of those fallen on that September day. Television news programs have been running this news story over and over and over, each one with a different twist. There have been images of people cheering in the streets on Sunday night and early Monday morning, even in front of the White House. There have been images released of President Obama and his military leaders watching live Sunday’s raid on Bin Laden’s compound. There have been images of the actual scene released of the room in which bin Laden was killed. The US is celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden. I believe some of this celebration is rightly placed. After all, he is believed to be responsible for the death of over 3000 American on 9/11 and other attacks around the world on Americans. The US is at war with terrorists like Osama bin Laden who would seek to do harm to Americans, and the values America holds so dearly. We go to great lengths to protect and defend those values and hold accountable anyone who would threaten them. I understand this belief and resolve very clearly. I understand that the actions taken by our government in this case were necessary to further protect American life and liberty. I am former US Marine and Gulf War veteran. I enlisted in the military to serve and protect the United States from threats just like Osama bin Laden. I understand the military side of what has happened.
Let me say a few things first. I am not a fan of Osama bin Laden. Not in the least. I am not a fan of terrorists who shed innocent blood in the name of religion. I am a proud American who would want to live nowhere else in the world. I am a Christian and believe that God is sovereign over the events and actions of His creation. I also believe that God will judge all men and women fairly according to His righteousness. Having said all of this, some questions come to mind.
1. What is the watching world seeing and thinking as we celebrate bin Laden’s death in the fashion that some are? Will the world see this as the US seeking justice, or merely wanting revenge?
2. Will our witness and ability to share the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world be hindered by our public celebrations? Is it possible that when we as Western Christians present the gospel to those in the east, they will simply, and only, remember our celebration?
3. Will our missionaries serving in predominantly Muslim regions of the world have a now tougher time in breaking down the walls of religion that place such a high value on martyrdom and death? Will the threat of physical harm be greater to our missionaries now? This is my greatest fear.
4. Is the excitement and celebration over the death of another human being, regardless of their crimes and actions against humanity, contradictory to the Christian message of love and humility?
5. How far should we push our excitement and celebration in light of what God’s Word has revealed to us?
Proverbs 24:17 reminds us “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” Justice should always be pursued in the economy of God. Judgment and revenge however, belong to God. As Christians, we celebrate life. We celebrate the life that Jesus Christ gives to us. A basic mission of all Christ-followers is to be active in showing those who are locked into darkness that there is a way out, that there is a light. That light is Jesus Christ. Ezekiel 33:11 says “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways”. Everyone of us are guilty before God and are condemned because of our sin. It is only because of the amazing grace of God that we have had our sin and judgment atoned for. Did bin Laden deserve death for his actions and crimes, I believe so. But so do you and I and everyone else in the world for our sin. The only difference is the grace of God. He allowed us to pass from death unto life. I believe that bin Laden is in a real place called Hell today. The reason is not because of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It is because, as best as I can understand, he refused acknowledge the one true God and His son Jesus Christ as the only source of forgiveness and pardon from the sin that separates us from God. His death represents one more individual who died outside of the sphere of God’s grace. For me personally, that is kind of hard to celebrate.