Tucked away somewhere beside the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and the 2001 attack on New York, the death of Osama Bin Laden will make the history books. Perhaps that chapter in the book will be titled, “The fall of modern terrorism,” or perhaps not.
But today, streets are lined with celebrators, and the red, white and blue hangs proudly, punctuating the revelry. Thousands have supposedly gathered at Ground Zero to put a nail in the coffin of their suffering. People across America, across the world really, are cheering out, praising Justice for the blow it has delivered against Evil. Many Muslim countries and leagues have lauded the efforts of America in bringing down Bin Laden, and Saudi Arabia refused to repatriate his body. They had to bury him at sea, apparently because no one wanted him on their soil.
It is already being hailed as the end of an age. Alongside the recent rioting and political upsets occurring across the Middle East, people are saying there is a new age rising, an age that sees a brighter future for global relations. US-friendly democratic states in the Middle East may develop and now we have seen the death of the most wanted man in the world. Is the battle finally over?
In short, the answer is no.
Amidst the swirling emotions of this news, I admit a struggle to grasp the real gravity of what has taken place. Candidly, satisfaction is an emotion I feel today, knowing that a mass murderer of such magnitude has been brought low. I realize that thousands of families who have been asking, “Why?” for the last decade now get some closure, and I celebrate with them. I find happiness in the fact that this man will no longer lead men, women, and children to their death through a blind allegiance to his cause, one he had wrapped in religious idealism.
On the other hand, is it right to ever rejoice the death of another man?
It is certain; death was the only true justice that could come to this man. I find it hard to imagine anyone, save those amongst his own ranks, who would say the death of Osama Bin Laden was undeserved. But are our actions in the wake of such a death appropriate? Do you cheer over someone’s demise as though it was a sporting event? Is that ever appropriate?
Furthermore, if we speak not just as nameless citizens of the world, but as Christians, certainly there is an appropriate response. However, knowing that response is another thing altogether.
The Vatican has publically stated about the matter that Christians “do not rejoice” over a death. On the other hand, there are self-professing Christian groups that think it appropriate to burn a Quran as a symbol. (A symbol of what exactly I still do not understand.) In all of this varied response, where do evangelicals rightly fit? Better yet, how does the Bible say we should approach such issues? Truly, that is the question we must find ourselves asking at the end of the day.
In the Psalms, we see David frequently praise God for the destruction of his enemies and Proverbs gives us this warning,
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
If one is burdened with the blood of another,
he will be a fugitive until death;
let no one help him.
Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.
I do believe there is cause to celebrate on such occasions as this, but we must be careful what we are celebrating. In David’s instance, he thanked God for his protection and praised him for affecting justice in the world. Are you celebrating the death of a man, or are you celebrating God’s mighty hand at work in history as a bringer of justice.
For days and months ahead, the media will be dissecting the strategies and plans of the US government and their success against Bin Laden. If we are not careful, as has happened so often in the course of world history, we will see this as our victory. We will pat ourselves on the back and simply use it as yet another reason to be proud of who we are, either as Westerners, or Americans, or possibly even as Christians. It will lull us into that false sense that the battle is over.
Yet, the battle is not over.
One evil man is dead, but evil is not. Osama Bin Laden will never orchestrate an attack of terrorism again, but someone will surely take his place. It may be someone from his own ranks, or a completely new threat could rise up that we had never anticipated. It could be something so far removed from the Middle East as to have no connection to the fears of our past. That is the nature of man. Murders will continue and man will still inflict evil on other men. The problem is not solved by military might or political prowess. Truly God uses these institutions to do his bidding in his history of his planet, but they are not the authors of the story. They are merely players in God’s strategy, and it is a strategy where much more is at stake than the political interests of the world. Today, God dealt a final blow to an evil man, but he will not stop there. God will one day deal a final blow to evil.
So in the meantime, let us praise God for dealing justice this day. Let us thank God for the protection he has given us this day. But let us not lose sight of the real battle for eternity.