Today in America, or on my Facebook at least, Christians are torn. The natural reaction for a human being when a mortal enemy is destroyed is celebration. A sense of victory. Relief. But should we join in the celebration? The western world may rejoice in the death of Osama Bin Laden, but we are not of this world. Should believers in Jesus feel guilty for feeling good about the death of someone? It is difficult not to “feel” something. But what should I do with those feelings?
Questions like these are part of being a Christian. Following Christ is not a matter of eating, drinking, wearing certain kinds of clothing, repeating particular phrases at church, voting a particular way, or any of those outward, surface things. I have my own opinions on what food is worth eating, what drinks are worth drinking, and what kinds of clothes look good. I have favorite phrases I use, and I have plenty of opinions on political things.
But that’s not what following Christ is about. The Bible says when it comes to following Jesus, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” -Galatians 5:6
It’s faith in Jesus, trust in Jesus, expressing itself in our lives through putting God ahead of ourselves, and putting others ahead of ourselves. See, that’s the Biblical definition of love, and the example of love when Jesus made Himself nothing, took the form of a servant and obeyed the Father by dying on a cross for the sins of everyone else. Everyone. Even Osama’s if he would only have taken hold of that forgiveness.
So for a believer and follower of Jesus, because we are to love God by putting Him first, and because He lives in us through the Spirit that He gave us, we should honor God with our reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden. Therefore we should be thoughtful with how we conduct ourselves and careful to guard our hearts. God did say:
‘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
And in another place:
Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him. -Proverbs 24:17-18
I think it is worth noticing that the above verse instructed us to conduct ourselves humbly so that God would continue to pour out His wrath on our enemies. In fact, desiring wrath on mortal enemies is found in several places in the Bible where it is not condemned by God.
In Revelation 6:10, martyrs asked God how long before he “avenged” their deaths. In Revelation 18:20 it says to rejoice when Babylon the Great is destroyed for she killed God’s people. And regardless of what someone interprets “Babylon the Great” to be, the end result is destruction that involves people.
In the Psalms, David often appealed for his enemies to be destroyed or put to shame by God. He would write things like“Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword.” -Psalm 17:13
In that Psalm, as in Revelation, and other places in the Bible, it was God who received the praise for His justice in destroying the wicked. It seems that God accepts that praise, even though as He said in Ezekiel, he takes no pleasure Himself in the death of the wicked. He would rather that they repent.
Thus, it follows that Proverbs would warn us not to gloat over the death of our enemies because God does not destroy the wicked to feed our desire for power and pride. God brings justice, but at the same time, He sacrificed His Son for the likes of Osama Bin Laden as well. Anyone can be forgiven if they turn to God as we all know. And a sobering reminder for us is found in Luke 13:1-5. If not for Jesus, we all face judgment.
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”-Luke 13:1-5
In many ways, the death of Osama Bin Laden is merely the natural result of his own actions. Jesus said that those who choose to live by the sword, will die by the sword. But I believe that Osama’s death at the hands of his enemies was also an act of justice by a Holy God, avenging the death of thousands of people. I praise the Lord for His justice and His judgment on our enemies. But it is also a sobering reminder which makes me grateful for the grace of God through Christ which is available for all, that all might be forgiven and receive eternal life, if they will call upon the name of the Lord.