Today is a great day to be an American, and a confusing day to be a Christian. In the immediate aftermath of the death of Osama Bin Laden, I think us who are Christians and Americans find ourselves with many emotions. We are proud of our military, our intelligent agency, and our government for their continued pursuits of justice for September 11, 2001 that resulted in a successful military operation. We feel relieved that a man who has done an unfathomable amount of evil is no longer able to do that evil. We mourn as we are reminded about the loss of life from September 11th, and our hearts hurt for those families who live with the painful reality of loss every day. And some of us feel joy that Bin Laden has been killed, and we wonder if we should feel that way.
As Christians, it is right to ask about what we should feel when our enemies have been conquered and killed. Here are a few things I know about Osama Bin Laden. He was created by the same God that created you and me. God loves him. He is a sinner, who needs atonement for his sins. God’s grace is greater than all his many, many sins. If he truly and earnestly sought forgiveness, he would have received it. Now, I have absolutely no reason to believe that Bin Laden did seek forgiveness, but I believe Jesus died for him as well as me.
The question that became apparent on Facebook last night was this, should a Christian rejoice in the death of an evil man? Jesus said plainly in the Sermon on the Mount, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:44-48. And because of that I must confess that I did not pray for Bin Laden, our enemy. And because of this I do not think that we should rejoice in the death of a man, no matter how awful he was.
At the same time, we must rejoice in the defeat of evil. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a preacher, opposed the Nazi regime, participated in an assassination plot against Hitler, and was killed for that participation. He made the decision to participate in the assassination plot because he lived Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” In order to do the most good for all people, than Hitler needed to be killed. In the same manner, Bin Laden needed to be stopped, and because he would not turn himself in, his death was the best choice for stopping that evil. Like us all, he will experience final judgment not from men, but from the Almighty God who though He loves Bin Laden, hates his sin. As Christians, we believe that those who have not reached out to God and confessed their sin and righted their relationship with God, have chosen Hell and will be separated from the loving God.
This month we are talking about forgiveness on Sunday mornings, and that includes us forgiving Osama Bin Laden. This Sunday, May 8th, I will be addressing how we can forgive this man whose sins are many, and how we can forgive each other for the sins we have committed. I pray that you would join us, and I hope that each of us spend some additional time in prayer this week praying for our military, our government, and especially our enemies. Because our only hope for true peace is through Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the World.