Osama bin Laden is dead. Nearly ten years of searching is over.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of Osama bin Laden’s death was the reaction it garnered from people around the States. I found it interesting, first of all, that most people probably haven’t given a thought to bin Laden on a daily basis. But now that he’s gone, people celebrate like Mardi Gras.
Secondly, it was bizarre to see college students celebrating in the streets of D.C. Some of these students were eight years old when the search for bin Laden first began. Eight. That’s a sobering thought. Finally, I was immediately torn when I saw the reaction of Christians online. Some couldn’t sleep because of the excitement. Others were immediately critical of those same sleepless people around the country. Which side should I be on?
I think as Christians, we need to walk a fine line here. During my personal time of worship this morning, I spent some time meditating on Scriptures that were challenging and helpful to me with this particular issue. I pray this helps you, too.
First of all, we cannot condemn a country or government for pursuing a violent man who harms and makes threats toward others. Romans 13:1-4 teaches us that the only government that exists is one that God has put in place. Some are good, and some are bad. Still, one purpose of government is to punish evil. That is what happened last night when bin Laden was killed.
Therefore we rejoice that justice was done, and thus hope that this will bring relief to those who have suffered because of bin Laden’s leadership. We rejoice that God, in his divine wisdom, used human means as an instrument of wrath.
Nevertheless, we mourn the fact that a life was wasted on desires to harm people and gain money, power, and control. We mourn the fact that a man made in the image of God lived his life in opposition to Jesus and rejected him as the only hope of salvation. Even Jesus wept over the lost people around him (Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:41; 23:34).
God does not smile over the fact that Osama bin Laden has been killed and now faces judgment. God does not delight in the death of any wicked man (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11). However, God ordains everything, including death (Deut. 32:39), so does God ever delight that a wicked man is rightly punished? Deuteronomy 28:63 and Psalm 5:4-6 tell us plainly that God does delight in punishing wicked, unrepentant people. Is this a contradiction? No. As Denny Burk points out, Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 mean “that God prefers for sinners to repent rather than to perish.” Furthermore, Burk writes, “If they refuse to repent, however, God delights in His own justice to punish them appropriately.”
Therefore we rejoice, as God does, in his justice and glory, not in the fact that bin Laden ceases to live on earth.
This morning 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 was particularly helpful for me as I wrestled with this and I pray it is helpful for you as well. The context is marriage, but in these few verses, Paul speaks to all of life. I won’t comment on these verses. I pray that the weight of Paul’s words crush your spirit and cause you to have a Christ-centered, eternal perspective on every circumstance in this world (my emphasis in italics):
This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Read this post by Christopher Morgan at The Gospel Coalition blog for more on this.