For two days I’ve been pondering this whole Osama bin Laden thing – what to think of it, how to respond to it, and, perhaps most importantly of all, where to go with it. Apparently, I’m not the only one – here are just a couple of the websites and blogs I’ve read recently:
One of my high school friends wrote a blog post on it in the form of a letter to her two small small children, and another friend from Florida wrote one of the most thoughtful posts in a note on Facebook (sorry, I can’t post that link because it won’t go anywhere if you’re not her friend…) It’s ironic that no one can agree on what feeling is appropriate. There are arguments flowing back and forth on blogs (both personal and professional), Twitter, Facebook, and everywhere else.
As I think about the implications of bin Laden’s death I do not care to debate the appropriate response to it. All those scriptures people are sharing about not rejoicing in the fall of your enemy and not rejoicing in the death of the wicked are true. And all those verses that proclaim God is a God of justice, that government’s role is to protect and defend the righteous while punishing the wicked, that God takes vengence on the wick – they’re all true, too. Here are two more verses that I’d like to share with both sides of the aisle:
The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. (Deut 29:29)
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Tim 2:23)
God is God simply because he is able to reconcile what we can not. Somehow all those verses people are quoting are true – even though it seems they are mutually exclusive. God’s ways are not our ways, and this might be one of those things best left up to God.
The night I heard of bin Laden’s death I posted a simple statement on Facebook: “I guess May 1, 2011 is the day OBL realized Islam is not the way to Heaven, 40 virgins weren’t waiting for his arrival into the after life, Alah is not Jehovah, and Jesus is way more than just some good prophet who lived a long time ago.. Yet I feel no pride at this moment, only awesome gratitude that even though OBL and I deserve the same punishment, b/c of God’s grace I am saved from it by a risen Savior and Lord.” (yes, I know I mis-typed – it’s not 40 virgins, it’s 72, but you get the point!). I wasn’t being sarcastic, I wasn’t trying to be funny or self-righteous or uber-holy, I was just trying to state a fact. I wasn’t rejoicing or mourning, I was simply trying to process my own feelings towards the death OBL and what it meant for our country, the world, and my own family’s life. For the record, I still stand by what I said that night.
As I consider the whole thing, though, I begin to ask myself: What is it I want my girls to know about this? What is it this situation teaches us about life? And that’s where I start to find my answers.
First, evil is present in this world – and they need to know that. Yes, I protect them as best I can – as does my wife. They are not exposed to many of the evils of this world because I don’t believe they need to be or should be. But they need to understand that people are bad and that this world is not ruled by Jesus right now but by Satan – and it is a terrible, terrible place. Yes there is good, yes God’s Spirit is in the world, but scripture teaches us that this world is the domain of Satan right now – and that is why people get sick and die, it’s why people hurt our feelings and “stab us in the back”, it’s why people lie and cheat and steal. My girls need to know that we are in enemy territory every moment of every day of our lives until we physically reside with Jesus.
Second, they need to know that evil will be defeated because God is just. OBL was an evil man; I don’t care how much people want to talk about him being made in the image of God. He was made in the image of God (as we all are), but scripture also says that while he was made in the image of God he was corrupt and fallen, his heart did not not know good. OBL received his justice on Earth at the hands of the government – the government established by God to protect us from evil and dole out punishment on evil doers. OBL also faced judgement when he met Yahweh after his physical death. And God delivered justice when he sent OBL to Hell for all eternity. Not because he killed thousands of people here on Earth, not because he was a terrorist who attacked my country, but because he was a fallen, evil man (like we all are) who was destined for Hell from the beginning of time unless he accepted the way of the Savior – the God-man who died on a cross at Calvary and then rose from the dead three days later – the God-man we call Jesus. OBL was destined for Hell as all of us are destined for Hell.
Third, my girls need to see that God is also a God of grace and love. What’s that saying I love so much? “But for the grace of God, there go I.” We talk about God’s grace all the time in Christian circles in terms of us being saved, but have we ever considered that it’s more than just “getting saved”? Here’s the issue – if I had been born to different parents, at a different time, in a different place I would be living a very different life. Why wasn’t I born as a child of OBL or Saddam Hussein? Why wasn’t I delivered by a non-believing woman in a far-away country that hated Christianity? And if I had been, what would my life be like now? There’s always these debates about whether we are products of our environment or not – the answer is absolutely we are! If I had been born in Iran in 1976 I can pretty much guarantee you that I would not be a Christian right now one day headed for Heaven but would be following my destiny towards Hell. Am I saying that those born in Iran are all going to Hell? Yes. Am I saying that those born in the USA are all going to Hell? Yes. What I’m saying is that all those who are born – regardless of where they are born – are going to Hell. Grace comes in to play because God placed me in a family who resided in a country that allowed us the freedom to learn about Him, to worship Him without fear of persecution. And because of that I came to know Him and love Him and serve Him – in short, He worked through my environment to save me. People don’t go to Hell for any other reason than the simple fact that they are people, regardless of where they came from or who they are. My girls need to understand that because of the freedoms we have they have more opportunities to experience Jesus Christ in a week than some people will have in a lifetime. And for that they should be eternally grateful. And for that they should (also) be eternally broken that people will die tonight and spend eternity in Hell because they did not have the privileges we do. Hopefully, it will motivate them to serve and share.
Finally, they need to rejoice not just in the defeat of evil, but, more importantly, they need to rejoice in the victory of good. GK Chesterton’s famous quote came to mind often the last two days: “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” My girls need to see the world is full of dragons – but, more importantly, they need to see that the dragons can be defeated (and, most importantly, The Dragon has been!). I’ll be honest and tell you that the video of all the people outside the White House chanting and cheering broke my heart and disgusted me. Not because they were celebrating the death of a terrorist and murderer and not because they were screaming “U-S-A”. No, I was disgusted and broken over the fact that they were worshipping a false god. See, exactly one week prior to OBL’s death I led my church in worship – worship on the most glorious day of the year: Easter Sunday – the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead, eternally defeating death, Satan, and the grave and opening the way for me to have a relationship with God based on soley on Jesus paying my debt. And I can tell you that, to my shame, my church service did not look like that event outside the White House on May 1. Why is it that we rejoiced more over the death of an evil man than we did over the triumphant victory of God?
And that’s why I’ve wept for the past two days. Not because of OBL’s death, but because we have rejoiced more over his death than I saw most of us rejoice over the resurrection of Jesus. I wept not because I felt sorry for OBL’s family or thought we shouldn’t have killed him. No, I wept – I weep still – because we, as the body of Christ, have spent more hours blogging, Tweeting, posting on Facebook, and arguing over whether OBL’s death was righteous or not. What we should have been doing – what we should BE doing – is blog, Tweet, post on Facebook, and share the love of God in Christ Jesus – the grace of God found in Christ Jesus – the chance that we as Hell-bound human sinners have to turn around and walk the victorious, free, forgiven life found in Jesus because of his death AND RESURRECTION – with every soul made in the image of God we come into contact with.
I don’t care if my girls know about OBL or not. What I want them to know is that Jesus is alive, that He loves them, and He wants to forgive them. That’s what matters, and its is worth shouting about and staying up late over.