This is a question that I believe every Christian should wrestle with and figure out the proper way our hearts and actions should respond…after all, we are called to display the beauty and worth of Jesus (Isaiah 61:3). Scriptures could be a little confusing on this issue (well, I should say that our understanding of Scriptures can be confusing). In the Old Testament (OT), there were songs of victory written out of a heart of worship and thankfulness for God delivering them from the hand of the enemy. Also, God always takes people out who oppose Him and cleared the map for the Israelites to occupy the promised land. Then we go to the gospels and read about this whole new way to be human; love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, bless those who curse and abuse you, count it all joy when you encounter various trials, blessed are you if you are persecuted for righteousness sake, etc…
Seems like a dichotomy, but I don’t believe it is. If God is just, and He is, then he has to hate evil. Actually Psalm 5:5 says that He hates all evildoers. So much for the saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner!” This is refreshing to me, because if God openly received evil doers and there was no recompense for their wickedness, then I don’t know that I could ever feel safe in His hands. It would be like a judge letting an habitual sexual predator go free of all his charges with no punishment or payment for the destruction of his behavior. We would all cry out, “That judges needs to be removed!”, or “What an idiot!” But God is not that kind of judge. He is a just judge. So those who are deserving of punishment before God, rightly deserve whatever it is that God sees fit for them.
So let’s apply this to Osama Bin Laden first, and then to us. First Bin Laden, he was a very wicked man who was deceived and believed that what he was doing was the will of his false god, Allah. His deceived view that Allah was pleased by the destruction of all who oppose Allah, created a severe amount of suffering and devastation in this world. September 11th, 2001 is a day that most people in the world will never forget. What evil! There is nothing about the actions of Bin Laden that we should justify. Nor should we make excuses as to why the US shouldn’t have killed him. He was evil and deserved the just punishment that came to him. The only problem is that Christians are called to live differently when it comes to loving people. To be excited about Bin Laden’s death and that he can no longer harm people MUST be second to our sorrow over a man who was deceived and now (as far as we know he did not repent before Jesus) is in an eternal hell, forever separated from the God who offered us complete grace so that our fate would be different.
I read a tweet on Twitter yesterday by JR Vassar, the pastor of Apostles Church in NYC, that read like this: “Christians, I think I’ve wanted Bin Laden’s death more than his conversion. You? Are we Americans first, then Christians?” I think this is vital for us to wrestle with. How easy is it for us to cheer for the evil to be taken out, and all the while we have received grace upon grace, even though we are still evil in heart? How often have we placed our rights as Americans above the call to die to ourselves and bless those who persecute us?
This is where we need to turn the application to ourselves. We who are evil, have received mercy, and have freely been forgiven through belief in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are just as deserving to be taken out before God as the worst of all sinners is (in this case, our hearts may consider Bin Laden to be the worst of all sinners). But then as good Christians, we remember the Apostle Paul say at the end of his ministry that he was the chief of all sinners and we gladly agree with him, but our lives and actions disagree with what our words say.We are just as deserving of death and we all will be taken out by God (physical death of our bodies), but aren’t we to model a new way to be human? Herein lies the problem.
The problem is not that our hearts rejoice that good has won over evil in this long standing battle to find Bin Laden. I rejoice that God’s sovereignty saw fit to allow us to take out this man who has provoked great evils. But I walk away from the way I first responded to Bin Laden’s death with a sorrowful heart that rejoiced more in his death and had no initial sorrow for his unregenerate state. I have been humbled the past 24 hours and have been reminded of the mercy’s of our God and do not think that I deserve a better fate than anyone else.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Did I truly do that? Am I modeling the true character of our Lord Jesus in the way that I responded to Bin Laden’s death? Was my heart broken that a soul was eternally lost to the enemy? In a world full of people who think Christianity’s a joke, have I taken seriously the mandate to pick up my cross and follow Jesus when it comes to repsonding to Bin Laden’s death? Did I display the beauty and worth of Jesus to those looking in on my life, who know me to be a follower of Jesus? Have I given unbelieving friends any reason to see Jesus’ mercy in light of my response to Bin Laden’s death?Have I placed my love for justice and my country over my love for God and people?
I believe that our response to these real life situations is the difference between those who profess Jesus and those who pick up their cross and follow Jesus. The road less traveled is the road that is easily forgotten about. May we as Christians not lose sight of the narrow road that we have been called to walk and may our obedience to the gospel be what allows our proclamation of the gospel to be received among those who are far from God. I pray that I learn from my response to Bin Laden’s death and seek to live differently so that God would look magnificent!