Monday, May 2, 2011

A Christian perspective on Osama Bin Laden's Death. To celebrate, or not to celebrate?

Without a doubt, as an American citizen, this morning's news headlines of the death of the terrorist mastermind behind the 9-11 Twin Tower attacks incites emotion, and a sense of relief that "justice has been served".  I vividly remember watching and praying, with feelings and emotions I can't begin to describe, as the attacks were happening live, glued to the TV, as the events of the morning unfolded in a downward spiral.

As I learned the news of Bin Laden's death 10 years later this morning, I've seen a variety of responses on facebook, in the news, and other media sources.  Some seemed relieved, vindicated, somber, thankful, patriotic, while others seemed jubilant, arrogant, prideful,  full of gloating and revelry.  The latter being not much different from some (certainly not all) Muslims we see on TV getting worked up into a riotous frenzy against Americans routinely as they burn our flags, Bibles, and images of our leaders, which got me to thinking.

How should we as Christians respond to the news that our enemy, Osama Bin Laden is dead? As always, we need to go to Scripture for our answer.
Proverbs 24:17-18 (ESV)
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, and turn away His anger from him.
Sounds pretty plain to me!

While pondering this news and our proper response, a couple of Biblical examples come to mind.  I think of King David in the Old Testament when he received the news that King Saul, who had hunted David like a dog and attempted to kill David for years, was dead.
2 Samuel 1:11-12 (ESV) Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him.  And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
Now I certainly realize this passage describes a different event, in a different context, and Saul was much different than Bin Laden, and that there's really little or no comparison between the two.  They definitely are not parallel events, but I think it gives us a glimpse of David's response (or lack of celebration) being in line with the Proverb quoted above, and we can learn from David here.

I was also thinking of King David's response when Absalom, his wayward and rebellious son, who also had David on the run and attempted to kill David and take his kingdom from him, was reported to be dead. 
2 Samuel 18:33 (ESV) And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept...
Again, I admit there's no real comparison with this event and the one at hand, but David's response (and lack of celebration) to the death of another of his "enemies" is the thing that strikes me.  In both of these passages, the messengers of the news of the death of his enemies were expecting him to be jubilant, ecstatic, and ready for a celebration. 

However, David's actual response was drastically different.  Isn't that the way of the Christian life?  On many levels, in various situations, and at different times, our response should be different than that of the world.  God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise, paraphrasing the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians.

Many Americans were anxious and impatient as they awaited justice to be served to Bin Laden over the last 10 years or so, and understandably so, especially for those more closely affected with family members killed during the attacks, or family and friends killed or injured during and after the events, but we do well to remember the Lord's words:
Deuteronomy 32:35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’
I believe Scripture teaches consistently  (see Romans Chapter 13, and 1 Peter Chapter 2 for two examples) that Government, Military, etc. are tools used by God to accomplish His purposes many times, and I'm thankful for ours (yes, even under the current administration with which I disagree on many issues), and I commend our U.S. Government and U.S. Military Servicemen, as they carried out their mission, being used by God to accomplish His purposes.
But let us always be careful to remember our Lord Jesus Christ's Words in Luke 13:3 (ESV)
...I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
I invite you to leave comments below for further discussion.


  1. I sincerely believe the Sermon on the Mount is a glimpse of the Kingdom of God as described in words of Jesus. While there who would this description is a "goal" only fully realized in God's eternal Kingdom, I would push back against that reminded of Jesus' instructions to us concerning our prayer: "Our Father... May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." As we pray, we act in faith on that prayer by doing. If we are praying and doing people (assumed that we are also filled with the Third Person of the Trinity), should not our hearts be filled with the same desire for restoration of all men? Should not our hearts be quick to forgive? Should not our hearts be filled with remorse when even one is lost to sickness, disease, sin, and/or eternal separation from God Almighty? It seems incongruous to me that a Christian response would be jubilant celebration over this event. Perhaps justice was served, but even if that is true my response should also be one of quiet and somber remorse. --my 2 cents.

  2. Amen, and thanks for sharing, Jeff.

  3. AnonymousMay 03, 2011

    I read this from someone's post on Facebook and thought it was relevant here:
    The fact is that when a government acts justly, it is something that should be commended by Christians.

    Romans 13:4 describes the role of the government in justice by saying "but if you do wrong, be afraid, for he 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.”

    People often forget that justice is a huge part of love. As Solomon says in Proverbs 18:5 "It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice."

    Today I celebrate the training and ability of the Navy Seals to be able to bring this justice swiftly (after finding out where he was hiding) and skillfully (with minimal casualties) and also the fact that the families of many victims of the terrorists attacks have not been deprived of justice.

  4. AnonymousMay 03, 2011

    This is from Esther:

    Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, OBLIGING (emphasis added) them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

    PS: The Jews still celebrate to THIS DAY.

  5. Good points, "Anonymous".

    I have often pondered, contemplated, and tried to understand and reconcile the different types of responses recorded in Scripture, such as those you mentioned, some of the "Imprecatory Psalms of David" such as Chapters 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139, etc., and also some passages in Revelation, after the letters to the 7 Churches.

    For example,
    Psalm 139:21 (ESV) Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
    Revelation 6:10 (ESV)10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

    They seem to usually be dealing directly with the Jewish people, the Israelites. I can't recall seeing this type of response in the Gospels or the Epistles directed specifically to Gentile believers. (I realize I may be overlooking some). And I realize many of you reading will say "but we are Israel" today, and you make no distinction between the Church and Israel. I respect that, and I don't really want to get into that at this time.

    But when I read the Gospels, and see Jesus tell us to behave differently toward our enemies, scolding James and John for wanting to call down fire from Heaven to consume the Samaritans, and on the cross praying "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", I have trouble fully understanding where the imprecatory responses fit in with those of us living during this age, and how to apply them, in between Christ's first and second Advent. I'm not saying they don't have a place, I'm just not there yet on my understanding.

    I realize this can open up a "whole new can of worms", dealing with differences we may have in eschatology, the Church and Israel, etc., and I realize Paul told Timothy "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness".

    So, in summary, the more I study and learn many mysteries of God revealed in His Word, and I realize Scripture contains God's Word for our lives, this is one of many areas of Scripture that I'm still working through, and don't have all the answers on.

    Thanks for commenting, and I look forward to more.