Warning: this might be the most candid post I’ve yet written.
I am in a strange place today. One of confusion and struggle, torn between joy and grief. And it is all centered around one of the most evil men to dwell upon this planet in recent years.
Of course, I am talking about the news of Osama bin Laden’s death.
Millions of blogs, articles, tweets, and facebook statuses have already been written on the topic. I’ve done a few myself. But I want to reflect for a few moments on what I have been wrestling through over the hours since hearing the news.
My immediate reaction when hearing the news of bin Laden’s death was shock. I thought, “Wow, that’s it.” A man, who for decades has terrorized America, was dead. I didn’t necessarily feel any safer. I didn’t even necessarily feel avenged. I just felt closure.
Then the tweets and facebook statuses began to roll in…
The response was overwhelming. The sense of national pride and victory was poignant. As I was reading, suddenly it hit me – I didn’t feel the same way.
Now, let me explain. I love my country. I am proud to be an American. (My favorite song in 4th grade was by Lee Greenwood.) But for some reason, my heart was heavy, not joyful, as I began to reflect on Osama bin Laden’s death.
I don’t know why this is. I certainly do not think myself as more holy than any others, nor do I consider my response to be the appropriate one. In fact, my own response has confused me more than comforted me. This was my initial post:
“I struggle to have any love for Osama bin Laden, but for some reason I also have trouble rejoicing in his death. He was definitely evil, but I grieve for his soul.”
I couldn’t bring myself to rejoice over this death. I felt grief. I felt sorrow for a man who rejected so strongly God’s grace and love. And the ongoing tweets and statuses did not help. I felt guilty for not joining in the celebration. I felt anger and shame at some of the things fellow Christians were posting. I felt confusion as many friends and mentors raised good thoughts on appropriate approaches to this celebration.
Yet, in the midst of it all, I kept thinking to myself, “What is the appropriate Christian response? How do I reflect the heart of God in this moment?” I have and offer no definite answers. I can only relate my own process right now.
The best place to begin any search like this is by looking at what the Bible says. The first part of Ezekiel 33:11 states, “Say to them, As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”
Furthermore, Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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.”
Maybe it’s an empathetic heart God has placed in me, but I cannot delight in the death of any person, be they wicked or good. In fact, I grieve harder knowing that another soul has been lost. As a Christian, I cannot bring myself to delight in that. Likewise, I struggle to find that line where I begin to worship my nation over my God.
However, in the midst of this, I have found that my proper response needs to be one of worship. I worship by lamenting over evil and the destruction that evil has brought into this world. I worship by celebrating God’s ultimate victory over death and over the powers of evil. He reigns victorious, and I give Him the glory. I worship by submitting to the Holy Spirit, allowing its peace and comfort to penetrate my life, being okay with not having all the answers I am looking for. I worship by knowing there is a community of faith in this process with me, finding ways to seek out and do justice.
And so, today I celebrate justice, not vengeance. Peace, not violence. A sense of closure for victims, not feelings of wrath. The end of an evil era, not the end of another child of God. I grieve that evil people continue to be at work in this world, and pray that we will continue to stand up against such evil. I pray, not for the destruction of evil people, but that they will repent and know Christ. I celebrate Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. I celebrate that I am a child of God, and that feelings like this remind me He’s not done with me yet.