Sep. 22, 2020
As news of Osama bin Laden’s death began to spread on May 1, many people — Christians included — found themselves dealing with conflicting thoughts and emotions: Is it right to feel joy and relief at the death of another human being, even one who was responsible for the killing of thousands of people?
Below, professor John Mark Reynolds, a regular blog contributor to The Washington Post’s “On Faith” forum, offers his thoughts on the death of bin Laden from a Christian perspective. Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and a regular writer at the Scriptorium Daily blog.
Justice and Love
A soul created in the image of God has gone to God. An enemy of the United States has received justice for his crimes. This is a moment for solemn thanksgiving.
Not for a biblical Christian is the easy path of pretending America’s foes are always enemies of God. Neither have traditional Christians been allowed the soft path of passivity in the face of evil. Christians know the state bears the sword for a reason, but does not use it out of personal malice or desire for revenge.
The Lord Jesus commands Christians to love their enemies, but that is not incompatible with rejoicing in their death. The United States has executed justice on Osama bin Laden at long last, but the joy in the triumph of justice is tempered by sorrow for a soul corrupted by evil.
We rejoice in the victory, but not as narrow-minded men with no hope for an afterlife. Our joy in this life is tempered by our knowledge that there is a life to come and a solemn realization that in that day no man will be judged righteous in himself.
Bin Laden was a bad man and if he had continued to live would have done many more evil things. This is true of every human, but bin Laden’s evil was particularly vile. He was harming his own soul, but also the souls of those deluded enough to follow him. For his own sake, and for the sake of those he was corrupting and killing, he had to die.
We rejoice that lives and souls will be saved as a result, but we are fearful of the judgment that bin Laden now faces, because we will someday face that same Judge.
Bin Laden is beyond our power now and faces a just judge. He can do no more evil and no more good and his actions will be judged by a court unimpressed with pettifogging, position, or patriotisms.
We pray for mercy for bin Laden as we hope to receive mercy. We rejoice that his reign of terror is ended and thank God for the bravery of the American troops who ended it. We commend our president for his wise and courageous order to those same troops and ask God to continue to give President Obama insight as the war against terror continues.
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