The reactions of many Christians (and others who have been influenced by Christian beliefs) to Bin Laden’s demise has been a bit shocking and a lot eye-opening for me. All over the Internet—Facebook, Twitter, and blogs—you hear a cacophony of Christians rejoicing and doing a happy dance over the death of a terrorist:
“Welcome to hell, bin Laden.” Mike Huckabee
“Forgive Bin Laden? No way in hell.” Charles Lewis
“Osama Bin Laden Now in Hell” Joel C. Rosenberg
“Rot in Hell” New York Daily News
Do we realize what we are saying? Is this the statement we really want to make to the world? Is this attitude a reflection of the true Father’s heart? Are we to live with a fatalistic fear of evil, put limits on God’s mercy for the worst of sinners, and then rejoice at the catastrophic loss of others?
First of all, I want to clarify that this post does not pertain to secular justice, or military efforts fighting for freedom and human rights, or in general the expectation of the “unbelieving world,” but is dealing directly and exclusively with the attitude of Christians—Christ followers—in response to terrorism and violence. I fully recognize and understand the need for moral justice and order in our world.
Secondly, I want you to know that I hate injustice. I hate murder. I hate what was done on 9/11. I long for justice, and for the world to be turned upside down to follow a new, uncorrupted order, where the weak are honored, the poor are blessed, and the humble are heroes. I also fully believe God hates injustice, and that He has kept a record of every wrong suffered for a future day in Heaven’s Court. But that is God’s Court, which sometimes we forget isn’t our court or patterned after the ways of men.
Thirdly, I believe that Christians have a moral obligation to be light in this world, and that includes “fighting” for justice and human rights. But what does this look like for Christ-followers? According to Jesus, it is done by taking the higher road, becoming and example of true justice through loving kindness, meekness, and gentleness, while meeting the needs of the poor and afflicted; not repaying evil for evil. Living in the way of peace and grace.
What I think I’m witnessing is that many Christians are donning a terrorist mentality. In celebrating death and the destruction of their enemies, and feeling rightly justified in such, they are beginning to emulate the very thing they stand against. They have forgotten that this world is not our home, that this age is not the age of vengeance, and that justice is not ours to decide. Let me ask…
- If you believe in a literal hell—burning over hot coals forever and ever—should you really be happy that anyone went there, even the most cold-blooded killer?
- Isn’t that killer ultimately a child of God, created in His image?
- Do we not consider what might have gone wrong in that person’s life that led him to fear and hate, and to ultimately live a sorry, empty life?
- And if you are happy at the terrorizing destruction of others, does that reveal a terrorist mentality in you?
One more question: Did it bring God happiness to bring a terrorist to death?
“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? …As I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!” (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11).
In the discussion of Bin Laden the last couple days, many Christians have adamantly expressed to me that if someone came into their home and threatened their family, they would have no trouble killing that person and being happy about it. Many Christians feel that same way about terrorists—they would delight in destroying them. But is this the way of Jesus? Can you imagine Jesus hunting down Osama with guns and bombs, and then taking him out at the first opportunity? Is this what Jesus did with the Roman soldiers who put Him on a cross for being innocent?
“You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matt. 5:38–39)
It is the easy road to take vengeance into our own hands in this lifetime, but that is only if we are living for the wrong story, following the ways of this world and this system. We have a greater calling—to demonstrate the way of love and peace to the world, just as Jesus did, and to wait for the future age when justice and judgment will have the last say.
Though ironic in light of history, I close with a sentiment to this week’s events by the Vatican: “Christians do not rejoice over death.”