Friday, May 06, 2011

Rejoicing in someone's death?

When I first heard on Sunday night that Osama bin Laden had been killed, I really didn't have much reaction to it.  Whether I was too tired to think at that point is a fairly valid question, but nevertheless, I did not have feel the jubilation that so many others did.

From looking around the net in the past couple of days, one could see that reactions have run the gamut from hoping that bin Laden is roasting in hell to praising the troops (as Sarah Palin did Monday in a speech previously scheduled to praise them anyway) to, unfortunately, using his death to make really lousy political points (as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also did Monday).

As for my personal reaction:  when I first got online Monday morning, the first thoughts I had were to blip some appropriately themed music (For the uninitiated, is a service for sharing music; I have my Blip account tied to my Twitter account.  That way, everyone can see that I have very diverse and strange tastes in music.) such as Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue", or even "Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead", but I stopped myself.

And I stopped because I had to ask myself this question:  should I be celebrating anyone's death?  Yes, the death of Osama bin Laden is definitely a relief, a closure, as it were, for so many people affected by the events of September 11, 2001.  And it is probably a good thing.  But was it the best possible solution?  As a Christian, I say no.  At least three of my Facebook friends posted some reference to the following:

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
   when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the LORD will see and disapprove

   and turn his wrath away from them.
(Proverbs 24:17-18, from the New International Version (2011), courtesy

Another friend posted that she "should have wished Bin Laden would get right with God and that his soul would be saved".  That's an awfully hard thing for me, at least, to think about someone who obviously took great joy in watching so many people die through the events of September 11.

So I've been doing some soul-searching to determine if my response to this week's news has been what it should be for me as a Christian.  I started by reading a column from Joshua Graves written just before bin Laden's death; in this column, Mr. Graves reminds Christians about Jesus's call to love our enemies, up to and including those who would kill us. 

Then I read another column from Ryan Messmore entitled "Rejoicing in Justice Done".  Mr. Messmore was describing how he talked with his 8-year-old son about bin Laden's death:

I was able to remind him that acting out of vengeance or hatred is wrong, but that we are called to seek justice. The cheering in our home is not gloating over someone’s death. Rather, it is celebrating the fact that a terrorist’s murderous acts have been judged wrong, and he won’t be committing them again.

(Personally, I don't know if absolutely none of the cheering could be considered to be gloating over bin Laden's death, but since I don't want to get any more political in this post than I have already done, I'll drop it for now.)

But I think this section from Pastor Dan Scott's blog best reflects how I feel about everything:

Perhaps we believe his death brings some sort of closure to a decade that has been extraordinarily bloody and disruptive. Perhaps we think that justice has been done, since the architect of the 9/11 infamy has now paid the ultimate price. Perhaps we feel that a national shame has been erased.

I feel all those things.

As a Christian however, I cannot rejoice in any one’s death, however wicked. Even if I believe, as I do, that some offenses are so unspeakably evil that it becomes the responsibility of human government to end the life of the one who perpetrates them; the scripture forbids me to rejoice or gloat that such an action was necessary.

I'm happy that justice is done.  I'm relieved that there is finally some sort of closure.  I'm proud of our military for its continued service to our country. 

But I'm sorry that there are so many people who turn their backs on God's call to love each other, and that there are so many lives wasted, as bin Laden's was, because of his own hatred.

As Peter wrote:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

(2 Peter 3:9, from the New American Standard Bible, courtesy

God wants us all to be saved, and, I'm sure, is not rejoicing in the death of Osama bin Laden.

And I don't care if people say I'm not a true American, or a true conservative, or a true whatever, just because I am not dancing in the streets about Osama bin Laden's death.  Because I'm called to be something more than that.  And that's what I am aiming to become.


Mark L. said...

Glad yes. Celebrate no.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

John Scotus said...

I think you got it about right. I am glad that justice was served, but it is not a time to gloat.