Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Sobering Death

I've been fascinated by the discussion happening this week about how we should be reacting to the death of Osama bin Laden. For my own part, I wasn't dancing in the living room, but that may primarily have been because of the late hour. My reaction was rather sober. "I hope this is for real. I hope it's for sure. I hope we don't have serious, violent reactions to this."

On the other hand, I found the videos of all the people celebrating to be rather exhilarating as well. At least, I wasn't offended by them. The reaction is quite understandable. The question is, is that reaction right? Or, perhaps the more important question for most of my friends, is it Christian?

It's a tricky question. One can find scripture to support both sides of the debate. In Ezekiel, God tells us that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but longs instead that they turn from their ways. On the other hand, there are passages throughout the Bible about God bringing justice upon the wicked and often using governmental authorities to do so. God's victory over evil sure seems like something we should celebrate.

Once again, there is danger in pulling out individual scriptures to back up whatever view you espouse. Rather than picking out our favorite trees, we need to study the layout of the entire forest. We need to examine the principles taught in the Bible. And one of the primary principles I find there -- particularly in the New Testament, the teachings of Christ -- is that God looks on the heart.

If those celebrants chanting in front of the White House at midnight were celebrating because they hated Osama bin Laden and wanted him to suffer for what he did to our country (and the world, really), then that's wrong. Hard as it may be to fathom, bin Laden was a man just like us. The sins that led him to the evil he committed are the same sins that we struggle with: selfishness, pride, lust for power and more. That he did not turn from his ways and turn to God in time to save himself (presumably) is a tragedy that God himself is mourning today.

However, if those celebrants were rejoicing over the deliverance from an agent of evil in this world, celebrating an event that may ultimately lead to a more secure world for all of us . . . well, yes, that is worth partying about.

I just pray that a more secure world will result from this death. And I'm not confident that it will, as much as the killing needed to happen. Now that the partying has subsided, it seems to me that a day of prayer and fasting for our country would be in order.

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