After midnight in Pakistan, an elite team of Navy Seals, following meticulously gathered intelligence and months of planning, invaded a million-dollar mansion, carrying out their mission in 40 minutes. At long last, Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world, was dead. Word spread quickly. I saw the news first on a friend's facebook status. I quickly turned on my TV to find out that Americans at Ground Zero in New York, at baseball stadiums, and at military installations worldwide were reacting with jubilation, many chanting "USA! USA!" President Obama soon confirmed the news with a live address to the nation.
Since that time, I have experienced a whirlwind of emotions. I must admit, I'm not much of a news watcher typically, but I have been transfixed by the news in the past 36 hours. I have also listened to and read with interest the reactions of ordinary Americans like me, some of whom are strangers, some of whom are friends. We live in an interesting time, when the internet has given each of us the ability to express our feelings and opinions to a global audience. My friends have expressed views that range from triumphant glee to uneasy relief to discomfort at the joy so many feel at the violent death of a fellow human being. So how SHOULD we react?
As followers of Christ, every part of our lives is supposed to be under the authority of Jesus. We are His ambassadors, after all. So we should be asking ourselves, "How does God feel about the death of Osama Bin Laden?" That, above all else, should determine how we express ourselves when we hear such news.
A friend posted a Scripture on my facebook page: Proverbs 11:10, "When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices. When the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy." We can indeed rejoice at the death of Osama bin Laden. We can rejoice that a man who believed that the violent deaths of innocent men, women and children was sanctioned by his god can no longer follow such a warped, satanic theology to its logical conclusion. We can feel satisfaction in knowing that justice was served. We can marvel at the effective tradecraft of our intelligence agents, and the incredible courage of the commandos who executed the mission. We praise God that a man who many militants believed was divinely protected from harm, whose image and words have recruited and emboldened untold thousands to commit horrific acts of destruction, has been exposed as far too mortal. Yes, we can rejoice.
But many other friends have posted the following Scripture as well: Ezekiel 33:11, "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." Jim Denison quoted a small child's reaction at the news of bin Laden's death, "That's sad because now he will never get to know Jesus." Perhaps--as is so often the case--that child had a better read on the mind of God than the rest of us. We should thank God for the death of bin Laden, but we should also feel a sense of sorrow, because we know that the Lord Himself does. We should repent of our chest-thumping, as if an action hero in a movie had just defeated the bad guy. This is not a movie. An eternal soul, one who was created by a God who loved Him, one for whom Christ died, is lost forever. Moreover, we should repent of reveling in the violence of it, the lurid longing for more details of the mission or photographs of his corpse, the distasteful derision some of us (including me, I must admit) felt when we heard bin Laden was buried with respect for his Islamic faith. Yes, I know war is an ugly, violent thing. But we don't have to--we must not--glory in it. These emotions come from our sin nature, our inborn longing for revenge, not from the Holy Spirit's presence inside us.
Along with that joy and sorrow, there should be prayer. Yes, prayer for the protection of military and civilian Americans around the world, as we anticipate the possibility of reprisals. But just as importantly, prayer for awakening in the Muslim world. Jim Denison said he and his wife Janet had been praying that bin Laden would accept Christ and would become an Apostle Paul for today. It's too late for that now, but not for other al Quaeda leaders, including Ayman al Zawahiri, thought by many to be bin Laden's second in command. Is such a view naive? As Denison is fond of pointing out, more Muslims are becoming believers in Jesus today than ever before in history, many after witnessing dreams and visions of Christ. I hope that you will join me in praying for an awakening across the Muslim world, even as we pray for revival here in our country. Let's do our best to live somewhere between Proverbs 11:10 and Ezekiel 33:11, and seek above all else for the love and power of our magnificent Savior to be glorified.