“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased…” (Proverbs 24:17-18a)
I know it’s Mother’s Day and that this isn’t the most fitting day to write an article about the death of an
internationally hunted man, but it’s been a week since his death and to wait any longer would completely allow time to set our hard hearts in our own human ways of thinking.
Osama bin Laden was a murderer, no doubt. As the architect of the 9/11 attacks (among others), he was responsible for the death of thousands. He was an evil man. He turned wives to widows and children to orphans. Few individuals in history have ever become the “face of evil” more than he did. He was the sworn enemy of the United States of America and the Western “free world” of which she is the leader. I do not doubt that, given the opportunity, he would have destroyed this country and our way of life. Do not misunderstand me, I do not defend his memory nor pretend atonement has been made for him.
In the days since his death, Americans have taken to the streets in revelry, dancing in the streets and waving the flag; people have voiced exhilaration, thrill, relief, and joy that such a man was killed by the very capable Navy SEALs; it is a time –it seems– for national celebration. Yes, it has been said, American military prowess and determination have won the day. Not to leave out our national sense of religion, Amazing Grace was majestically piped from the ruins at Ground Zero, NYC. In response to the bagpiper’s tune, the crowd chanted “USA, USA!” as they, again, waved Stars and Stripes (this video can still be seen on CNN.com).
I have two points I want to make:
1) Such Americans are worshipping themselves, worshipping an idolatrous notion that Americanism is inherently Christian and vice-versa. Many have made this a moment of vain self-glory.
Washington bickers back and forth about which political party is more responsible for this victory, while the-man-on-the-street dismisses D.C. and praises the US military for their power. Yet, who gives God the credit? Should we really be so proud of ourselves, a nation that is increasingly atheistic, accepting of homosexuality, promiscuity, pornography, abortion, and substance abuse; a nation where corruption runs rampant, the guilty go free, and many are trapped in self-destructive cycles of behavior? To just such a nation God once said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!” (Isaiah 5:20-23) Do you hear what God says to that kind of nation? “Woe!” Indeed, our days, too, are numbered as we turn away from godliness. It is not because of our own national righteousness or selectivity that God used the US to bring Osama to earthly justice. God could have used “tiny” Luxemburg or “evil” North Korea to accomplish the same goal. Instead of hearing “was blind, but now I see” and shouting “USA, USA!,” we Christians should fall on our knees and echo Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” This is not a time to build ourselves up, but to take inventory of ourselves, lest our nation come under judgment next (now, go read Habakkuk 1-3).
Osama was not brought to justice by the United States. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). God directs the affairs of nations (Daniel 2:21). Instead of prattling on about ourselves, let us know “…the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20) because “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:7). The Bible does not tell us to decry that bin Laden has been brought to justice, but it does call us to recognize that God is in control and to give Him the glory. “…if you do wrong, be afraid, for [the one in authority] does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). Are we Christians first then Americans, do we put them on equal footing, or are we Americans first, then Christians?
2) Many have turned the death of yet another human – even a terrible one – into a moment of celebration and a continued excuse for hatred for “the other side,” instead of reflecting on deeper, spiritual realities.
I wonder: What did you feel when you heard the news of his death? Did you, too, rejoice that this enemy of our country, of freedom, this evil man was dead? Why were so many people actually rejoicing at his death? If we are Christians, we have given up the right to hold onto our own notions; they must give way to a godly view of the world. We need to ask, “What do the Scriptures say about how we should view this death?”
“‘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?’ … ‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the Lord God; ‘so turn, and live’” (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). Do you hear who’s speaking? That’s God Himself. Even when He is the one who passes out judgment, He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Heaven mourned the death of Osama bin Laden. Read the last couple words in that quote from Ezekiel 18: “so turn, and live.” God sees things on a spiritual level (it’s our challenge to see the world as He sees it). His goal is that our hearts would be turned towards Him while we yet live on earth. God does not dislike the death of everyone: Psalm 116:15 tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” God looks forward to the death of the righteous, but He laments the death of the wicked. Why are we backwards? Why do we want to hang on to the saints, yet hurry sinners to their eternal destiny?
Consider this poignant thought: Christ is the only difference between us and bin Laden. He was evil, yet the Bible tells us that without Christ you and I were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). He was a murder of innocents, yet the Bible tells us that you and I have “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). Yes, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is only because of God’s amazing grace that we are saved from sin. When we hear the strains of that song let us not shout “USA, USA!,” but, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24f)
As believers, we must beexhorting one another to be transformed into the image of the Christ who said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44f; Romans 8:29). “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God … if you enemy is hungry, feed him … do not be overcome
by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21). In the days of Roman injustice and oppression neither Jesus nor His apostles urged believers to rejoice over the death of the church’s persecutors. Interestingly, God’s way of dealing with the greatest persecutor (Saul of Tarsus) was to convert him, not to have him die (Acts 9).
World peace will not come when all the “evil people” are imprisoned, bombed, or otherwise taken out of the picture. True peace, on any scale, comes from being lead to trust in Jesus. Christian, do not sleep better at night knowing Osama is dead, but rather “Rejoice in the Lord … And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4, 7). As the lyrics to the bugle call Taps conclude, “All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).