“As surely as I live,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” ~Ezekiel 33:11
I knew it the moment I watched the first images late last night of the crowds in front of the White House and in Times Square boisterously celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden. I knew it this morning when the news programs showed us image after image of young men and women waving flags and singing songs on their city streets and campus squares. I knew it when I drove my girls to school and listened to the talk show hosts discussing what they would have done to bin Laden’s body had they been in charge. And I realized it when I started seeing the forwarded emails. From Christians.
I’ve known all day today that this is not how Christians behave. We do not celebrate the death of a human being made in the image of God and loved by our Father. No matter how ruthless and vile Bin Laden may be, we love our enemies. We pray for our enemies and their families. We do good things for our enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:43-45
God’s children do not dance and rejoice in the death of anyone. It’s decidedly un-Christ-like. To join in the worldly celebration of the death of a man who did not know our God is to deny our Christ and his Gospel. After all, our Lord died for us (you and me) while we (you and me) were his enemies. That’s the part I’ve not been able to understand today: doesn’t whooping and hollering and taking great joy and pleasure in the death of another human being deny just about everything Scripture teaches us about the nature and the will of our Father? Does it not oppose the clear commands from our Lord?
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” ~Luke 6:27-28
It is good today to grieve anew with the families of those who lost dear friends and relatives in the violent attacks orchestrated by this man. It is proper to mourn the loss of soldiers and civilians who’ve been trapped in the middle of the on-going conflict. It’s OK to acknowledge God’s sovereign use of nations and armies to enact his justice. It is right today to join the faithful lament of the prophets and the groaning of the martyred souls under the altar and cry out to our God, “How long?!? How much longer are you going to allow this to continue?!? When will you finally put all things to right?!?” Today is a day for prayer. Reflection. Meditation. Thanksgiving. Mixed feelings. It’s not a day for dancing in the streets.
I’ve known all along that if I were to blog today about the way I’m feeling, I would be criticized. I’ve known that if I preach this Sunday on what the Scriptures say about the death of this terrorist, I might be fired. So, instead, I chose this morning to blog about God expecting more out of the people he’s blessed with his good gifts and matchless grace; about God requiring more out of his children; about God demanding more from the people he’s saved; about how that verse in Luke 12:48 is the very thing that pushed me over the top and compelled me to ditch sports radio and start preaching the Good News.
Please forgive me. I, too, have denied my Lord today.
Peace (not as the world gives peace),
Thanks for the courage of this post. While I am somewhat relieved for the elimination of OBL’s leadership against us, the unknown that lingers is a bit more unsettling in some ways. How much more powerful an event it might have been had he become a believer.
As God himself raises and diminishes the kingdoms of this world, I wonder what might be in store for [Christians in] America next. Could it be a great test of faith? Could it be decline? Could it be revival? We can pray for the latter, and even live it out in our daily lives.
Amen brother. Courageous post indeed.
Grace and Peace,
You said it much better than I did. Last night I was appalled that not a single politician, cabinet member, or White House spokesperson expressed any regret for the taking of a human life. So much for being a Christian nation.
Thanks for proclaiming the truth.
I was actually impressed at the number of Facebook posts that were in line with your (Christ’s) thoughts. Was it a minority? Absolutely. But we are the minority.
But did those posts represent a majority of Christians? Umm….
I want to give some push back against some of what you were saying. I’ll number them to help with responses.
1. The people who killed Osama bin Laden were part of the US government. Governments exist to execute justice on behalf of God (Rom. 13). Therefore, this was not a “fall of the wicked” but a governmental execution of a known murderer.
2. I rejoice that our government executed justice to this man. We tend to read only small sections of the Old Testament, the parts devoid of anger, calls for justice, and complaints to God. These emotions are too raw, too real for many Christians who believe Jesus brings only joy, even in times of deep trouble. Instead we stay in the easier sections, ones where God is praised ceaselessly. This stunts our spiritual growth. Passages such as Prov. 11:10 and 21:15, more relevant to this situation, give what actually goes on in a person and a healthy response when the wicked are punished. To stay these feelings are out of bounds because Jesus taught to love our enemies and I was once an enemy of God is simplistic and reductionist. I am not the same as an unrepentant murderer.
3. I can pray for my enemy to repent and rejoice in justice for the wicked. To put it succinctly, I pray he will repent but rejoice when he is brought to justice. I do not see how these are mutually exclusive. A Christian can do both.
4. I do not want to defend those who gloat about Osama bin Laden’s fate or wish to desecrate his body. I will not wish for him to “burn in hell” for eternity. Thank God (literally!) that this is not my decision. I’m glad the military treated his body humanely and gave him a traditional Muslim-style burial.
I believe our witness is diminished when we deny that feeling of anger and calls for vengeance can be directed to God and call ‘un-Christian’ shouts of joy when the wicked are given justice. It makes Christianity seem aloof and detached from real life. Christ did not die so that we could turn off our emotions and when we die go to a disembodied oasis of pleasure. He died so we could be in relationship with God, the church and the world. Those who violate this relationship are punished by the proper authorities. I am saddened that Osama bin Laden never knew the God I love and serve and repented of his sins. But I have joy that this man has paid the price for his actions through our government. To equate the execution to the death of only another human life is to insult every person murdered by this man’s direct intentions and a very limited view of scripture, especially the Old Testament.
Graham, I always appreciate push-back. Thank you for your comments. Allow me to kindly engage. And to humbly affirm that this is tough for us to talk about.
1) I wrote that we acknowledge God’s sovereign use of nations and armies to enact his justice. Yes, I agree: it was the execution of a known murderer by known murderers.
2) I don’t believe it is simplistic or reductionist to appeal, as I did, to the prophets in these circumstances. I wrote that we are to join them in lamenting and complaining to God. Habakkuk comes to mind. “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds!” And, I know you’re not calling the teachings of Jesus simplistic and reductionist. Right? They are difficult. Counter-cultural. Not of this world. Just like his Kingdom. Love your enemy and bless those who persecute you is hard.
3) When we pray for an enemy of the United States, such as Osama bin Laden, for what specifically do we pray? If we pray for his heart to turn to God and for him to repent and to become one with our risen King, doesn’t that exclude us from rejoicing in his death?
4) Yes, praise God that he alone is sovereign over the nations. He makes them stand and fall, he raises up rulers and causes others to be destroyed. That is his will and his way. It didn’t make sense to Habakkuk either.
I believe our Christian witness is strengthened when we uphold the eternal value of every God-created and God-loved child of his and hold out in hope and prayer that all will come to know salvation in our Christ. Scripture never asks us to turn off our emotions, rather we are called to bring our emotions and thoughts and actions under his Lordship.