he U.S. Military has finally been able to accomplish its mission of ending the influence of the terrorist and ideologue, Osama Bin Laden. As an American and former Marine, a part of me wants to celebrate this "victory." The skeptic in me wonders who will come along to fill his shoes. There are plenty of people in this world with a bent toward destruction to take his place. Removing this man's influence is surely a good thing. However
I'm very concerned as a follower of Jesus about what I saw on television last night when this news was announced. Will this event help to bring a sense of "closure" to some of the families and loved one's of victims of the September 11th attack in New York? Perhaps. I'd like to hear some comments from some real victims, though. I bet some of them would feel that way, while others would not. Will this bring a sooner end to the war on terror? Perhaps. But, again, I'll wait and see on that one. The enemy in this war is a set of ideas and ideas are much more difficult to kill than the individual people who believe them.
Last night, when the news was announced, everyone from the news commentators to the people gathered near the White House cheered and rejoiced in the death of this man. No doubt many of them are professed Christians. One commentator compared it with a "what if" scenario of having killed Hitler early in WWII. The comparison is a real stretch. We are fighting a war with an idea that can infect others and actually has already. Pure Nazism has continued in smaller forms. Will that be what happens in this case? I guess we will have to wait and see.
What concerns me most is that last night and no doubt today, countless Americans rejoice in the killing of this man. Was he a good guy? Am I sad that he is gone? The answer is no in both cases. But do I rejoice in his death? Am I going to start a parade or applaud that our world is in such a state of chaos and sin that brave men had to use the most violent kind of means to resolve the problem of this man's terrible influence? The answer to that one is also no.
In Ezekiel 18:23 the Bible says, "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" (NIV) God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He does not delight in the destruction that we (humans) bring to bear on one another in our homes, our communities, and in national or other conflicts.Is it agood thing that Osama Bin Laden no longer has the power to influence other ideologues to commit acts of violence? Sure it is! Should Christians rejoice that he was killed and that we asked brave men to kill him on our behalf and that the state of the world is such that both were probably necessary? Surely not!
It is tragic that military friends of mine have died in conflicts which were created by evil men. It is aterrible that families are separated for long periods of time due to militaryservice. It is a horrible reality that the stress of war causes pain and heartache on our military and in the lives of those who live in the areas where we currently wage war. All of it is ugly. None of it deserving of celbration. All of it is less than God's ideal for this world. Creation groans under the weight of sin and cries out for relief.
God has instructed followers of Christ not to take revenge and surely that command carries with it the implicit constraint on celebrating when vengeance is taken on one's behalf. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place untowrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Romans12:19 KJV) Now, I "get" that nations are not able to "turn the other cheek" and at the same time protect the rights of their citizens. However, is it good for followers of Jesus the master of mercy to celebrate the death of this man? Surely he was a criminal of the highest order. But should we rejoice in his death; celebrating the brokenness of this world which we (the Church) are called to fight - not through violence - but through love, sacrifice, and submission?
We are called to look like Jesus. I cannot recall any instance in the New Testament where Jesus celebrated the death and rampant destruction that is found in this world. Like it or not, Jesus died on the Cross for Osama Bin Laden as much as he died for you or me. While many choose to rebel against His grace,some to the degree of a murder like Osama Bin Laden, His love does not stop just short of a man like Bin Laden. Christ died for sinners - all sinners.
Wars will not cease and real lasting victory and peace will not be established on this earth until the Prince of Peace returns in glory to conquer sin, crush war, and establish the Kingdom of God. In Revelation 21:4 we are told that the day is coming when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (NIV)
I desperately hope that more good comes out of this than bad. However, my hope is fixed steadfastly on the coming of the one who will end wars, not in yet another bullet fired in the hopes of securing a little more peace. While many rejoice in the death of Osama Bin Laden, my heart grieves to watch followers of Jesus rejoice, cheer, and celebrate the brokenness fo this world.
Jesus will one day return and He will wipe away every tear. I'm very pleased that Osama Bin Laden is no longer able to influence others to commit acts of violence, but if you are a follower of Jesus, please allow at least one tear which flows from your eye onto the Master's hand to be for Osama Bin Laden and those like Him, who though being made in the image of God, chose to use their life to the destruction of others made in God's image. Rejoice in the coming reign of Christ. Weep for the present reign of destruction.
I am rejoicing not in present victories, but in the knowledge that one day the King of Kings will return to end all wars, crush pain, and then death will be consumed.
Chris Surber is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Peru, Illinois. A graduate of Liberty Theological Seminary, he is known for his compassion for people and his passion in the pulpit.
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