The last 24 hours has been dominated by the killing of Osama bin Laden. Ten years ago very few of us would have recognized his picture, but following the 9/11 attacks he has rarely been out of the news. Today our news papers are covered with reports and pictures of how a US special units team ‘The Seals’ raided bin Laden’s hideout which resulted in a fatal shoot out. In the days to come the security experts will assess how effective this will be on the war on terrorism while the media will analyse the international relationship between the US and Pakistan.
My intention is not to speculate but to ask what our response as Christians should be to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The scenes outside the White House and at Ground Zero suggest almost a party atmosphere. A joyous celebration that the FBI’s most wanted has been assassinated. Flags and banners have been waved triumphantly as the one held responsible for 9/11 has been finally been removed. International leaders have also joined in, but with greater reserve, as they thank President Obama for his determination and resolve to hunt down the world’s most infamous terrorist.
Of course if I had family or friends murdered on 9/11 or by any other Al Qaeda cell I think I too would be rejoicing – we must never forget the devastation and destruction on human lives caused by the ideologies of Osama bin Laden.
But is ‘joy’ the right response?
Well perhaps the way to answer that is to ask How would God respond? I think the bible reflects a God who is both grieved and satisfied.
One of the great pictures of God is found in Exodus 34v6-7. ‘The Lord the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands , and forgiving wickedness rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished..’ Here is a God who is simultaneously loving and just. This is worked out throughout the bibles story.
We meet a God who is so loving that ‘he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live.’ Ezekiel 33v11 This is reflected for us again in the New Testament ‘Godd is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’. So is God waving banners in delight that Osama is dead? No I don’t think so. I think God is grieved, saddened that someone made in his own image has died without turning to God in repentance (As far as we can know).
But through the bible we also meet a God who delights in justice. He hates when people are wronged and he desires that justice be done. ‘For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity.’ Isaiah 61v8 Osama bin Laden has certainly robbed people of life and security, and God has made it crystal clear that God’s justice will be done. This is expressed most clearly on The Day of justice. The picture is one of celebration as God’s justice is done. ‘Hallelujah…for true and just are his judgement’s’ Revelation 19v1-2. So is God unmoved by what has happened? No I don’t think so. I think God is satisfied, that his longing and desire that justice be done is being worked out.
Our response ought to be measured. We should be both grieved and satisfied.
In line with God’s revealed character we should grieve over the loss of any life. To face God without repentance is to face an eternity in Hell, separated forever from all that is good and beautiful. This is not something to rejoice over. We should also be satisfied that justice has been done. That one who took so much life and bought so much suffering has been removed and can hurt no more. A picture of what God will ultimately do.
But perhaps there is one other response. We should be humbled.
One day God has promised that Justice will be done. One day he will come again and put all wrongs to right. He will remove all evil not just terrorists and murderers but gossips and liars! He will establish a new world, a world we all want that is free of evil and is good and perfect. Thankfully Jesus Christ has come to deal with God’s justice, so that we can be forgiven, changed and transformed. If it were not for Jesus we would have no hope at all. Now that is worth celebrating and being joyful about!