when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
May 1, 2011 will go down in history as a momentous day of retribution and justice. Osama bin Ladin, the mastermind and head enthusiast of Al Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan by American Special Forces. Under bin Ladin's leadership, Al Qaeda led the world in terrorism and murder in the name of a god they call Allah. Ten years ago, their work killed nearly 3,000 American civilians on four airplanes, the Twin Towers of New York, and the Pentagon. American citizens of every race and creed, going about their daily business of living, were snuffed out in a few terrifying moments. Life in the USA has never been the same.
Security at airports has become nothing short of ridiculous. Six year olds are patted down for explosives, and everyone is subject to x-ray. Liquids are not allowed in greater amounts than 3 ounces. Some places confiscate anything sharp---including nail clippers and files. Even shoes are subject to x-ray. Airline travel has become a long and tedious process, filled with warnings and stringent rules.
American military families have endured the greatest burden, next to those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks. Multiple tours of duty, roadside bombs, improvised explosive devices, snipers, searing heat, duststorms, bitter cold, and long separations from family are a few of the sacrifices made by US Armed Forces. Men and women served multiple tours to places full of danger, where Americans are subject to the worst treatment possible if captured.
American tourists risked criticism abroad, as our nation was perceived to be the instigator of an "unjust" war against terrorism and extremism. For ten years, the US has persevered in seeking out retribution for the 9/11 attacks, and justice for the one who promoted "death to the infidels."
So, according to the law, a mass murderer who breathed hatred and spewed evil with every speech received his due punishment. In the early morning hours, US Navy Seals acted on intelligence from the CIA (and a variety of sources, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay) and shot Osama bin Ladin twice in the head. It was justice: quick, decisive, and final. Details will continue to be revealed over the next days and weeks, but the most important news is this: Osama bin Ladin is dead.
According to the law of justice, there is cause for joy. Proverbs says:
When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteousThe message of justice is clear: the evil ones will be held accountable for their actions, and their just punishment should serve a warning to others who may consider perpetrating further evil. Whenever any of bin Ladin's disciples struck a blow against Americans, people who followed him danced in the streets, burning American flags, and desecrating the symbols and values that American's hold dear. We were horrified by the celebrations at the murder of one of ours.
but terror to evildoers.
Now, however, it is the Americans who cheer at death. Worse yet, it is many Christians who "thank God" that bin Ladin now faces eternity in torment. "We got him," they shout as they plan parties to celebrate the death. The sentiment mimics the same one that so horrified us when the tables were turned. We must consider that bin Ladin chose to follow after evil, but his followers believe their mission is from Allah. Their holy writings have been interpreted in such a way that they espouse violence toward all non-Muslims. These people are deceived. They are blind. They do not have ears to hear the truth. They celebrate because they do not know the God of grace and mercy, but only a god of violence and retribution.
How, then, can Christians find cause to gloat and celebrate? Osama bin Ladin received justice according to the law, but he faces eternity in the torments of hell. He could have chosen mercy, but instead followed a god of his own making. That should not be a cause for rejoicing, but for thoughtful introspection. Osama bin Ladin is now beyond hope. Those who revere him will move farther down the path of iniquity, and may well follow him to hell. How is that a cause for celebration?
God certainly doesn't rejoice when this kind of justice is meted out. Ezekiel 18:32 says, " For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!" Granted, the passage refers to rebellious Israel, but the New Testament reiterates the idea that God's mercy is extended to all people. All have sinned; Christ died for us--while we were still in our sin; God so loved the world; there is no difference between Jew and Greek---the theme is the same: God created mankind for fellowship with Him, and to lose one breaks His heart (even though, yes, He knew in advance who would reject Him and who would draw near.)
If all of humanity were to stand trial and make an account of actions, thoughts, and motives, NO ONE would be spared the punishments according to the law that justice requires. It is mercy given by the grace of God Himself that saves us. We, as Christians, must remember that we are set apart by God's mercy and that it is ONLY His mercy that saves us. Gloating has no place in the heart and mind of the believer. Zechariah wrote, "'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'" (Zechariah 7:9) This, then, must be our response to bin Ladin's death: justice administered, but compassion for those whom he has misled.
1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.