A Christian Response to the Killing of Osama bin Laden

I stood outside the White House last night as a mass of people chanted “U-S-A” and “Na, na, na, na; na, na, na na; hey, hey, hey; good-bye.”  It was as if I was experiencing an Olympic victory and a Final Four rout at the same time.  People waved flags and dressed in costume.  There was singing and dancing and cheering.

To be honest, it reminded me of scenes of Muslim extremists dancing in the streets after the 9/11 attacks.

It was the celebration of death.

The Christian response to the killing of Osama bin Laden must stand against that.  It must not be jubilation but sorrow, sorrow at the death of a man created in the image of God, a man who by all accounts did not know Christ.

Now, before I get pigeonholed as a terrorist sympathizer, let me clarify that I am not attempting to make a value judgment as to whether or not the American government should have killed Osama bin Laden.  I personally believe their actions were justified and am grateful for the Navy Seals and CIA agents who risked their lives, but that gets into a debate about pacificism, the appropriate use of force, just war, et cetera, going far beyond what I can possibly cover in this post.

I merely want to examine what our attitude as Christians should be, and it doesn’t matter if you are a pacifist, anarchist, militarist, or pragmatist, we must express sorrow at the violent end of a man created in God’s image and loved by him, even as we are relieved and perhaps even jubilant at the end of his reign of terror.

As we read Scripture we find over and over again this affirmation that we are created in the image of God.  It is this possession of a reflection of the divine that gives a man worth.  Surely this image is corrupted.  We do not reflect God as we should, as we were designed to.  Perhaps this reflection is especially dim in some, but we all maintain some glimmer of it, presenting to the world a piece of the divine.  And the violent end of any part of the image of God is a somber occasion.

Bin Laden’s death serves to remind us that we are all sinners in need of grace, that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. … [But] while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 3:10b-12, 5:6-8).

And it was this same Christ who commanded us “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:44b-46a)

Scripture makes it abundantly evident that no matter how evil a man, how much relief we may feel at his death, the Christian response to such an end is sorrow, perhaps not the same unadulterated sorrow that we feel at the passing of most, but sorrow nonetheless.

Thoughts? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Posted at 5:31 PM on May 2nd, 2011
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