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
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=187700703 Eric Teetsel

    Well said friend. Osama was an evil man who murdered, and so it is just and good that he was put down, but his sins and mine are the result of a world gone awry. Only Jesus will save me from the same eternal fate Osama now faces. Let’s celebrate that fact.

  • Sara Kruger

    Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, & let not your heart be glad when he stumbles — Proverbs 24:17 and yet When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” (Prov 11:10) And we applaud David for taking down Goliath. Isn’t Osama a Goliath of sorts? A giant in terrorism bent on destroying a nation? How can we on one hand applaud the military for taking him down and on the other feel sorrow that he was taken down? I guess we’re should be grateful for justice being done while feeling sorrow that it was necessary.

  • Aydiallo

    You were in my head and I had this exact debate on my Facebook page in response to my post that said “Anytime we celebrate someone’s death we should question/evaluate our own humanity.” Boy did that set off some folks.

  • http://willfjohnston.com Will Johnston

    Good observations.

    I think you may be right that there are some parallels to Goliath, although there is some difference in that he was defying God and opposing His people, whereas Osama stood in opposition to America, not the people of God.

    I would go beyond stating that we should feel sorrow that justice was necessary (although that is appropriate as well) and say that there should be sorrow in his death. I might even applaud the military, although again that seems somewhat celebratory, but I would applaud their efforts and success at bringing justice, not the actual outcome of death. I would have preferred Osama been captured, although he denied himself that when he put up a fight.

    As to the Proverbs, definitely nuggets of wisdom there, but I wonder if Proverbs 11:10 is descriptive rather than prescriptive. It was certainly descriptive of last night.

  • Pat Provost

    I am thrilled to know that the threat from Ben Laden is no longer. However, I had a similar reflection on hearing the news Here is an rticle you may find enlightening:
    http://ipolitics.ca/2011/05/02/bin-ladens-death-no-cause-for-celebration-canadian-victims-families/

  • http://willfjohnston.com Will Johnston

    Yeah, one thing that was interesting that I haven’t mentioned is that most of the people at the rally, and certainly most of those going crazy and cheering, were college students. I’m not sure their sentiment exactly echos that of the American public as a whole.

  • Efgumby

    Look, I already realize what a horrible Christian I am. I realize that I need Jesus to help me realize that it’s bad for me to imagine the scene over and over in my head of the bullet entering his face in slow motion… But I enjoy it! Because the image of the twin towers falling never left my mind- and I coralate the two images. May Jesus forgive my soul.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ritterml Mike Ritter

    While you are right that the death of an unrepentant sinner is a tragedy, you do make a few assertions that jump a little far.

    This whole concept that we are precious because we are created in the image of God is popular among humanitarians of all sorts, but even the life of a puppy or horse is valuable to us. What distinguishes life is the specter of death. We know all things living will die, so we cherish life while it is there.

    “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

    But when someone is willfully following such a destructive path and affecting the lives of so many they are in another realm. Osama bin Laden was committed to the destruction of this nation. He was not going to repent.

  • Danny

    And it happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments.
    And t…he women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands. And David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:6-7).

    Psalms 58:10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,
    The righteous should rejoice because they love justice and hate evil, not people :-) We must seek the whole counsel of God and not mock justice or have a holier than thou attitude. Or are we more loving than God?

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