Wrestling with justice and death

I have been doing a lot of wrestling today over the events of the last 24 hours or so; the killing of Osama bin Laden.  My wrestling will continue but I wanted to write down what I have been mulling over so far.

Throughout today I have been keeping an eye on Facebook and Twitter to see what others have been saying.  I have also watched some news reports and read a few articles.  As I reflect on everything I have seen and read I find myself dealing with a tension.

First off…I am proud of our military and of their sacrifice.   Those men and women have made great sacrifices in the war on terror and in their hunt for bin Laden.  There is a part of me that is glad that this terrorist is gone.  There was a part of me that felt relief last night when I heard the official word of his death.  Will the world be a safer place…I doubt it.  But has justice been served…Yes.  So this part of me is happy and glad.

But now here’s the tension…

…as a Christian how are we to respond to the death of an individual who was created by God.  That’s right…Osama bin Laden was created by God…it’s hard to believe sometimes but he was.  So the question is this:  Is it a proper Christian response to cheer, celebrate and party over the death of a human life…no matter how evil we may think they are?  That is what I am struggling with…and the struggle feels even worse considering that it is bin Laden; a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and for changing our lives forever.  But another problem I am having is if it is alright to cheer this person’s death where do we draw the line?  It seems to be a slippery slope and one I am not willing to approach.

Another theological issue arose this morning for me.  I received a phone call from a parishioner who asked me if Osama is in hell.  I know what they wanted to here but I was forced to respond with a very difficult phrase:  “I don’t know…only God knows“.  This person wanted me to do better so we talked about the fact that we are not God and that God is the only true judge.  We also discussed that it is a dangerous business to get into; trying to determine who is going to hell and who isn’t.  “Do not judge lest ye be judged“. (Matthew 7:1)

So where I am at now is the fact that I live in two different worlds.  I am a citizen of the United States of America and a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  These worlds are in tension with one another but it is a tension we need to learn to live with and respond to.  Maybe the challenge for all Christians is to follow what Jesus commanded us to do…pray for our enemies.  That can be a tall order sometimes.

I am not going to mourn bin Laden’s death but I am going to try to refrain from celebrating it.  So in the mean time the wrestling match is going to continue…and maybe that is a good thing.

How are you responding to Osama bin Laden’s death?

-edh-

10 thoughts on “Wrestling with justice and death

  1. Well said. I heard a comment on the radio this morning, “There is only one Man whose death can change EVERYTHING, and we celebrated that last week.”

  2. Thanks.

    I used a quote like that as one of my Facebook statuses this morning. Wow…we are brothers 🙂

  3. Not that you need to hear any more from me on this subject, but I learned this news at about 11pm last night. I’d gone to bed really early, and then couldn’t sleep. I logged onto facebook and saw about a bajillion posts pertaining to bin Laden. The one that really got me was my cousin’s husband, who said something to the effect of ‘let’s cover Osama in hog droppings and string him up for the world to see what they can expect when they mess with America.’ Let’s just say it didn’t help my insomnia any.
    How am I responding ? By living my life and being grateful for it. However, the emotion I’ve felt most today is sadness. I’m unable to find joy in anything about this situation.
    I’ll close with another quote:
    “If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that, but I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.” -Harry Waizer, 9/11 survivor

  4. Anne…thank you for your comment. I really like that last quote…very powerful.

  5. Thank you for your wise words. I too have been struggling with the celebrations in the streets over another life lost…and more than that, troubled by our brothers and sisters in Christ who are celebrating so loudly in life and on line. Even though he was responsible for the death of thousands, how does killing him make us any better? I will continue to pray that God’s peace will reign in our world. And I will pray for you and the awesome ministry you are doing.

    • You’re welcome.

      I have come across a number of people troubled by those street celebrations. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in my wrestling. Tomorrow (Wednesday) a couple of us local clergy are gathering to discuss this current event and what the church’s response should be. It should be an interesting conversation.

  6. Ezekiel 33:11 says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.”

    There is a part of me that wants to be happy that the a great evil has been removed from the world, but I just can’t. My pastor taught me something once that really changed my heart towards others. “The devil,” he said, “wants us to view each other as the enemy. So, he has us raise up offenses against each other so that we become divided and fight against each other. In reality, *THE DEVIL* is our enemy; not each other.” When we see how the devil has fooled others to take offense at us, it becomes much easier to forgive them and unite with them against our real enemy, the devil.

    Let’s face it, although bin Laden used his gifts for evil purposes, he was a very charismatic leader. How much *good* could he have done if he had come to know Jesus?

    • I appreciate those words from your pastor…they are very helpful and makes a lot of sense. Thank you 🙂

  7. I like the person who said, “there is only one man whose death changes everything.” yes. I do not mourn bin Laden, but I don’t cheer his death. not sure what will happen now that he is gone.

    • That comment is something I have been thinking about all week. Maybe it is because that statement describe what we are to do as Christians…share with people that the death (and resurrection) of Jesus is FOR YOU.

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