After reading the big, bold lettering of today’s heading in the Register-Guard, “U.S. Kills bin Laden,” I’m having mixed feelings about the event. On one hand, I’m glad that justice was carried out and yet on another, I find no justification for my joy in Scripture. Jesus said to love our enemies and while our inclination is to object in this particular situation, He gave no exceptions to the rule. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44).
Many of my friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter might recall my posts; “We goin’ fiiind you, we goin’ fiiind you! So run and tell that!” and “F U Osama!” While my American upbringing tells me that these are good responses to such a wretched person, my Christian conversion is telling me otherwise. “But God is a just God!” some might argue. And I would agree whole-heartedly, but simply because He’s a just God doesn’t mean that He enjoys watching His creation – no matter how wretched that creation chose to be – die.
As a fellow blogger said earlier today, there is tension in this issue. Psalm 137: 8-9 is a tough couple of verses to swallow given Jesus’ words in Matthew. At first glance, it seems as though God is happy when His justice is carried out, but I would have to agree with Brian LePort: “It seems to be a basic human reaction to breathe a sigh of relief, even to let forth a shout of joy, when someone who was an oppressor has been driven into the grave.” Perhaps the Psalmist here is venting his own disdain for the Babylonians?
It’s a tough pill to swallow – this whole love-your-enemy business. I remember the sheer terror I felt when watching the towers fall. I remember being paranoid of any plane I’d see in the sky during the ensuing weeks of 9/11. I remember following our military’s actions religiously – even forsaking much of my homework. I remember hanging up an American flag in my bedroom. And when my brother went on his first tour to the Middle East, I remember several late-nights in prayers and tears hoping that he would return home. I’m not sure any of this would have happened had Osama not been successful with his attack.
There is a small scene in the movie Troy where Achilles is weeping over Hector – the man he had just killed. When I watched this movie for the first time, I was confused by Achilles’ reaction. And yet, now that I think about, I think even he realized that there is nothing glorious in killing another man – even the man who had taken his cousin’s life. I merely bring this up to highlight that justice doesn’t have to equate with joy. When Christ’s crucifixion hit me – I mean, really hit me – I was weeping. I wasn’t celebrating that He had died in my place; I was mourning His death. No, I don’t mean at all to compare bin Laden with Christ; I’m simply pointing out that there is nothing joyous about a dead man.
For many Americans, this was a moment of closure. Knowing the tyrant who was the mastermind of 9/11 is now dead – that he has been killed for his actions – is relieving. But I think it should remain just that: relief. I don’t think that killing a bad man should bring joy to anyone; I think we should breathe a sigh of relief that it’s one more evil man out of the world, not able to cause any more death and destruction. And yet, after we’ve sighed, we must remember the problem still persists. Christ hasn’t returned to restore all things; we’re still tainted with the wretchedness of sin – and therefore prone to committing terrible acts of evil.
I realize that what I’ve written here isn’t popular and that you might even be pissed off at me or think I’m un-American. To some degree, you might be right. My God’s teachings and commandments take precedence over my American sentiments. But with that said, I still look upon any man or woman in uniform with, at the very least, respect. American soldiers have been asked repeatedly throughout history to do things that I don’t think I could ever endure. Without these soldiers and their sacrifice, I might not be blogging right now. I might not experience the joys of the freedom we each experience in this nation. Without them, I may not even know who God is.
Think/pray about this for yourself; are you rejoicing over bin Laden’s death or his inability to conduct further acts of evil? Terrorism is not over with and it’s unlikely that it ever will be (completely anyway). But yet a major player in it all has been removed. For that and that alone we can be glad about; but rejoicing in a man’s death – no matter how wicked – ought not to be.