Late this evening I heard the news that Osama bin Laden was killed by American military forces. As I scanned the internet I was shocked to see various Christian leaders, many whom I respect, offering praise to God for justice being served. Mark Driscoll tweeted "Thank you Jesus for being His JUDGE" and that this "justice is glorious". Russel Moore also tweeted that "The sword of justice, when exercised justly, is a minister of God's righteousness." Even Justin Taylor, a blogger with a reputation for graciousness, offered similar sentiments as his first reaction to this news. Jared Wilson, author of "The Gospel-centered Church", offered a gospel-less tweet by (wrongly) quoting 2 Chron 20:27, "The LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies" (remember what Jesus said about our enemies?). Ed Stetzer, in a tasteless comment, chose to focus on his 'rights' as an American by saying "Now that bin Laden is gone, can we have our civil liberties back, send home the #TSA and restore the 4th Amendment?" Abraham Piper (John Piper's son), thought it fitting to joke "Osama Bin Laden is dead? I want to see the long-form death certificate." Frankly I find these comments little different than the ones left by non-believers on cnn.com and foxnews.com. I have a sinking feeling that tomorrow will bring a host of similar comments, and a chorus of others justifying their own lack of grace and mercy.
Tonight I don't thank Jesus for being his judge. Instead, I thank Jesus for not judging me. I weep and mourn for those who die in their rebellion against God, even as I am humbled that Jesus saved me though I was also was in rebellion. And while I believe that the human sword of justice is a servant of God's righteousness (cf Rom 13), what utter foolishness would drive a Christian to rejoice in that truth on this terrible evening?
Does this mean we shouldn't be thankful for justice? Should we not praise God because, to some small degree, we are a little safer with Osama gone? Yes, we should show gratitude for those things. But God has told us that He takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezek 33:11). How dare we rejoice in the very thing that God refuses to find pleasure in?
I was encouraged to read a blog post from my dear friend Arthur Sido:
No rejoicing here
Waiting to hear the President speak on the killing of Osama bin Laden. The long pursued enemy of the United States is dead. Osama bin Laden, public enemy number one and seemingly untouchable bogeyman, the name that taunted the U.S. for the last decade has gone to face his Maker.
There was a time when I would have been overjoyed at this news. Justice is done!
Osama bin Laden is a murderer and has the blood of untold people on his hands even if he didn't fly planes into buildings or blow up bombs. He died, without much doubt, outside of Christ and will stand before the Judge with no excuse and be condemned. That is nothing to rejoice in.
There will be no chants of "USA, USA, USA!" in my home, no triumphal waving of the American flag. The eternal fate of Osama bin Laden is the same as that of anyone who dies outside of Christ: an eternal hell facing the righteous wrath of a just and holy God. The fate of Osama is something that we should take no pleasure in and is the same one that will be shared by your nice neighbor who waters his lawn and drinks ice tea on his porch but doesn't know Christ. If you are a Christian, bin Laden's fate is the same fate you would have suffered if not for the sovereign grace of God. You might not have plotted the 9/11 attacks but your justice would have been the same and being a tax-paying, flag-waving, patriotic American doesn't get you a different fate.
For Christians in America, this serves as a test of where our allegiance lies. Is it with the U.S. of A. or is it with the Prince of Peace, the Lamb who was slain? Instead of smiles, this event should make ever more clear the urgency of the Great Commission. We are called to take the Gospel to all people, not just Americans. As followers of Christ we are called to love our enemies, not to hasten their demise or applaud their death.