We have seen this face many times over the past nine and a half years. It has haunted us and reminded us of the terrible events that took place on September 11, 2001. Yesterday, the news that Osama bin Laden was killed in a US Special Forces operation brought to close a difficult and frustrating chapter in American history. Since last night, social media networks have lit up with buzz and excitement from all around the world in celebration of the death of Osama bin Laden. The news has been showing constant images of crowds cheering all over the United States with people singing songs and enjoying the newly minted world without Public Enemy # 1. I have found myself wondering how to feel.
On one hand, I am thrilled at the news. My heart wants to celebrate! On the other, as a follower of Christ I feel compelled to check myself. How should I respond? How should I feel? Is it ok for me to celebrate the death of someone? What if that person is an enemy of the state? What if that person was the murderer of thousands? Is there a point where it is alright, as a Christian, to be happy that someone is dead? I believe the Bible sheds light on this subject.
There are two main passages that I think help to illuminate this subject. Proverbs 24:17-20 says:
“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble, or else the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from them. Do not fret because of evildoers. Do not envy the wicked; for the evil have no future; the lamp of the wicked will go out.”
Matthew 5:43-48 reads:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Both of these passages seem to suggest that we should not celebrate in the death of Osama bin Laden. In fact, the first passage appears to outright command against it! Can this be right? Are we to be denied the feeling of satisfaction that a terrible bringer of death has been removed from our world? I think the answer is actually, no. Now, I’m not contradicting scripture here. I completely believe in the truth of the Bible. I am simply saying that I think there is more to these passages than we may think.
As I thought more and more about how I should feel about the news, I could not reconcile the very real emotions I was feeling. How could a God that stands for justice be upset with my celebrating the death of a mass-murderer? I believe the answer lies in my motivations. Don’t they always?
You see, as a follower of Christ, I am compelled to love my enemies and to pray for them. No matter how terrible they may be. Jesus died on the cross for even the most wretched individuals. My heart longs for every human being on this planet to come to God; to know Him; to be forgiven. Osama bin Laden is no exception. So how do I reconcile this feeling of wanting to celebrate and still remain faithful to my beliefs? By celebrating in the justice of the event, and what is means to our nation and the people who have dealth with the pain from September 11th. I can celebrate that justice has been done in our world and still remain faithful to the Bible’s commands. I am not celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, but instead celebrating that the man who wreaked havoc on our world for the last 20 years has been brought to justice for his crimes. Simultaneously, my heart can still be saddened by the fact that his soul is lost forever, and that he will never again have the chance to be reconciled to God.
God is a God of justice. There are plenty of stories in the Bible that show God cares about the wrongdoings of our world and that he judges the individuals, cities, or even nations for their actions and hearts. 2 Thesslonians 1:6 highlights this point:
“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.”
By celebrating that justice has been done through this event, I am aligning with God’s perspective of judgement befalling those who do wrong, whether in this world or the next. I am not speculating whether God caused this event to take place or not. What I am saying is that, from what I know of God’s laws and his characteristics, the demise of Osama bin Laden is absolutely justice having been served. And that by affirming this justice, we can rightly celebrate with the rest of the world!