Monday, May 09, 2011

Should We Celebrate the Death of Osama Bin Laden?

A week ago, media channels were abuzz - broadcasting the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. The news was met in many quarters by celebration in the streets and in the social media world – Twitter and Facebook lighting up with updates.

Almost immediately, many Christians felt uncomfortable about rejoicing over anyone’s death, even someone as universally opposed as Bin Laden. Others experienced no such internal conflict of conscience.

Christian leaders and influencers were just as varied in their responses. Check out their varied responses here.

Bible verses like Proverbs 24:17 seem to call for restraint in our jubilation over Bin Laden’s demise - “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles"

Yet, Proverbs 11:10 tells us that “when it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices and when the wicked perish, there are shouts of gladness”

What do we make of this seeming contradiction? How should we respond when our enemies are crushed? How does this square with our Savior’s command to love our enemies?

From the collective wisdom of the best biblical scholars and pastors we can draw the following insights –

1. Celebrate justice, not death

We may have to kill for just cause but we do not delight in the death of another because it means taking the life of one made to be an image bearer of God. It is perhaps why God says in Ezekiel 18:23 – “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

In his book Love in Hard Places, D.A. Carson makes reference to Osama Bin Laden and says this –

“He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone “

2. Celebrate justice humbly

Even as we celebrate justice, we do so as ones forgiven much. We resist the subtle temptation to favorably comparing ourselves with Bin Laden. We know better – we deserve judgment but have received grace and mercy. So we celebrate justice humbly as ones who have received mercy rather than justice.

Sentiments from the Resurgence blog“So we can be thankful that God is just and we can be very thankful that God is gracious"

3. How God feels about Osama’s death isn’t single threaded

John Piper offers a helpful, nuanced thought on how God might “feel” about the demise of Bin Laden. He starts by reminding us that God’s emotions are complex - like ours often are. Quoting Ezekiel 18:23, he makes the point that “in one sense, human death is not God’s pleasure” but citing Ezekiel 5, also reminds us that “the death and judgment of the unrepentant is God’s pleasure”

“Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that “I am the LORD – that I have spoken in my jealousy when I spend my fury upon them”.

Both are true. God is vehemently opposed to wickedness while lovingly and patiently calling image bearers to repentance.


Halfmom said...

reposted through my FB account - I too cringed at the shouts of "hooray".

lorenzothellama said...

Read this with interest.
One point of view might say that Bin Laden wasn't given time to repent. There is more rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of one sinner.....

Every Square Inch said...

Halfmom - thx for reposting on FB. This was a post I didn't want to write to quickly - it's not so easy to reconcile emotions that resonate with putting a stop to an evil man.

lorenzo-I understand the sentiment. Yet God calls each sinner to repentance - we cannot at the end say "I never had a chance to repent" nor " I had no time"

Ted M. Gossard said...

Appreciate your take and thoughts. Glad for the Christians who do not rejoice over this. Though those oppressed do rejoice when the wicked's destructive hand is stopped.

I guess I see justice on a certain level done, no doubt, albeit arguably not perfectly.

But as followers of Jesus we are to advocate a justice which seeks reconciliation for all in this life. A good example of how that might be done in a government of this world is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa which dealt with no less than murderers to bring some kind of closure and even reconciliation where possible.

That is in part from scripture why I oppose the death penalty today, and war in general. Or at least hopefully better put, I would be among those who would advocate by hopefully showing the better way in Jesus. A way which seeks reconciliation for all to God. By showing that among ourselves. A higher way set in the world in God's kingdom come in Jesus for the here and now.

Ted M. Gossard said... the Auca Indian tribe and Jim Elliot (himself a Christian pacifist, by the way), whose killer his grandchildren now call grandpa. What if justice would have been done according to this world's terms? Yes, spelled out in scripture, but in Jesus is now the way of the cross and reconciliation for all. Sorry for all these words. I'll stop here.