September 11, 2001 - Terrorists attacked our unsuspecting country, murdering thousands of men, women and children. What was our country’s reaction? Shock, sorrow and anger – and two wars that have lasted over a decade. These wars were initiated with the intent to destroy those who had attacked us, and protect our citizens from further harm. As the leader of the terrorists who attacked on 9/11, Osama Bin Laden was a primary target of destruction.
I have read a significant amount of the discussions and opinions on the joyous reactions of Americans to the destruction of Osama Bin Laden. The general gist of the discussions seems to center around whether or not it is acceptable for Christians to rejoice over the destruction of Bin Laden. Is this response unbiblical and wrong? Read why Goose says it’s okay to appreciate bin Laden’s death here. The conversation quickly becomes quite nuanced, involving questions of just war theory, Christian non violence and the right of nations to defend their people. I will attempt to state my view on this issue, while at the same time recognizing that thoroughly addressing all the issues involved would require a substantial document, too detailed for this medium.
I think it is important to look at the New Testament view of a government’s authority. The Apostle Paul talks about ruler’s authority being given to them by God. And themes throughout Scripture emphasize the importance of a good/righteous/just leader standing up to defend the innocent and helpless against those who would do them harm. Based on these themes, I have no problem appreciating the actions of the United States government to destroy Bin Laden. I believe that it was a just response for a government, entrusted with protecting its citizens.
I believe that the correct context in which to view this, is not one of an individual rejoicing over the lost life of one sinful man, but the triumph of a government earnestly trying to protect its people over an enemy bent on its destruction. Now immediately some will say that Bin Laden was no longer a threat to the security of the United States. He was an old man, living out the last of his days in solitude. I strongly disagree with this assertion. Bin Laden was the face of the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 and an active proponent of additional terrorist actions against America. Not only do I believe his death hurts the terrorist network, but I believe that his destruction speaks volumes about the length to which our country will go to defend itself against future attacks.
As my friend Kristina Bjorkman pointed out in her comments on this issue, Scriptures show God both laughing in the face of his enemies, (psalm 2) , but Ezekiel 33:11 also says that God takes no joy in the death of the wicked. David rejoiced over the downfall of his enemies. All of these themes need to be balanced with God’s clear passion for justice. And this justice is shown not only on personal level, but also on the broader theme of nations and their rulers. God is also loving and merciful. However, I do not believe it is wise to invoke the mercy of God when dealing with national enemies. His mercy and salvation are offered to all on a personal level, but He has also established rulers to enforce justice on those who chose not to accept that mercy.
So what should our reaction be? Be humble. Remember that all of us are sinners. But for His grace, we are all damned to the same fate that Bin Laden now finds to be his reality. Rejoice in the victory of good over evil. It is okay. God has given those in authority the means and ability to destroy evil, and that is a good thing. Temper your joy with the knowledge of your dependence on Christ for any good thing that you do. Above all, love each other, and don’t let your facebook interactions be lacking in that love
Comments? sure, let them fly!
Image Credit – longwarjournal.org