I am not the most informed (nor interested) person when it comes to matters of news and politics, but when reports of the death of Osama bin Laden begin to surface even I take notice. This was the case yesterday as I found myself following these reports with interest until confirmation was given by our president. As the hours passed, I also began to take notice of something else – something that was of far greater interest to me. What I noticed was the enormous reaction to this news and what began to trouble me was the joyful and celebratory attitude that I was observing from fellow Christians. While I am neither politician nor writer, I feel compelled to make some comments about these things and I pray that they will be taken in the sincere and well-intentioned spirit in which they are written.
I suppose I should begin by saying that I am not opposed to this government-led execution of a criminal and terrorist. I have read the sentiment equating the actions of our government with the actions of bin Laden himself and while I won’t take the time to debate this, I think that it is a ridiculous argument. The execution of one guilty of murder is a mandated function of human government (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1-5) and in bin Laden’s case, justice has been served.
The Bible says, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15). The troubling thing to me, though, is in the nature of this joy. As I read this verse I cannot help but notice that it is the righteous that receive joy when justice is done. This is significant because a righteous person is not finding joy in someone else’s misery or punishment, but in the fact that God is receiving glory through the manifestation of His character. To find joy in the death of even a wicked man goes against God’s own declaration in His Word. Ezekiel 18:23 says “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?
While it is perfectly acceptable to be glad that bin Laden is no longer murdering and it is proper to rejoice in justice for the glory it brings to God, we should evaluate the motives behind our joy. We must also remember that God finds pleasure not in the demise of the wicked, but in their salvation. We are commanded to go into all the world preaching the Gospel and making disciples (Mat 28:19-20). While most of us have never had the personal opportunity to share the Gospel with a man like bin Laden, to rejoice that he is dead and in hell is a direct violation of and contradiction to the evangelistic heart that all Christians must have. Rather than rejoice in his death, I am challenging myself to pray for his fellow terrorist to turn from their wickedness and experience God’ s mercy and love. Will you join me?