|Patriotic crowds gathered outside the White House to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.
Last night, the White House announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in an air strike in Pakistan about a week ago. Facebook, Twitter, and—I’m sure—the blogosphere immediately erupted with celebration. In fact, large crowds gathered in front of the White House and in several major cities to celebrate. Just from checking my Facebook News Feed, you would’ve thought it meant we had won the global war on terror and that now a new age of global peace and prosperity can finally begin because we killed the one man who was standing in the way!
I had—and still have—some very mixed feelings about this whole deal, especially after reading how people are responding to the announcement of Osama’s death. I’ll admit, my first response was actually shocked disbelief: I thought Osama was long dead and that we were just on a wild goose chase. Then I started to get a little excited. That us, until I looked at Facebook and realized all those un-Christian responses were really just saying what I was feeling deep inside… For example, I’ve read statuses that say, “rot in hell,” “gotcha b*tch,” and “really glad hells population increased with osama bin ladin. Really wish we could have tortured him a little first. Oh well burn in hell.” Oh, I forgot to mention that these posts are all from people who claim to be Christians. On the last one, someone commented, “This is the best news Ive heard in so long, that I don’t remember any better.Maybe he was tortured. We can hope!!Hopefully the devil is a very happy tonight.”
So, in light of Osama’s death how do we interpret Jesus’ commands in Matthew 5:43-44 to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us? In The Message of Matthew : The Kingdom of Heaven, Michael Green writes,
The Great Lover has poured his love upon us unworthy rebels. He has purified us, has adopted us into his kingdom, and wants us to be his ambassadors in the human kingdoms. How is it to be done, and how is our allegiance to be shown? Supremely, by love. Love is the mark which, above all else, should distinguish those who know themselves to have been found by a loving God (97).
Apparently, our interpretation is to simply ignore Jesus’ command, right? “Who cares. Let’s all just gloat over the fact that a man is dead and—we all presume—burning in hell.” But suddenly, I don’t see a difference between Evangelical Christians and the terrorists that we’re fighting against. Suddenly, the lines are beginning to blur. Consider the words of Ezekiel 18:23: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
What are your thoughts about this supposed victory? Is it ever okay for Christians to gloat over the death of someone? Does it matter how wicked we think they are? Should we ever be glad that someone is burning in hell? What’s a safe balance of patriotism and love? Or, in this case, is there a safe balance? Is this a case of either/or?
I am very obviously still sorting through all this, but I encourage you to leave your comments and let me know what you think is a good Christian response to this current event?