Surely by now most on planet Earth have heard about the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden’s death. Few would argue that the world is not a better place for his absence.
That being said, however, and whatever your stance on capital punishment is, it is still a strange and somewhat unsettling thing to be cheering the death of another human being. I think we should have a healthy respect for death - to acknowledge that it comes for everyone in time, and that we should in general take no more pleasure in someone else’s death than we would want someone to take in our own.
I’ve also seen several quotations making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook since the announcement last night of bin Laden’s death, though it’s been misattributed to Mark Twain and misquoted to boot: the real quotation, by famed lawyer Clarence Darrow, is (with the line before it that improves it) “All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike someone they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.”
That really sums it up nicely: You don’t have to think that someone deserved to die to be pleased at their passing. Truthfully, my first reactions were to “rejoice” for bin Laden’s death. Not because a human being is dead but because a man who in my mind was far more evil than good, and who was responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent people, will never be able to hurt anyone ever again. And that is surely a good thing.
Now, I also have no doubt that in this military killing the United States' government exercised its divinely ordained task, wielding the sword to administer justice and constrain evil. I believe this to be so largely because I am one of those Christians for whom the question of the proper task and character of government cannot be answered without reference to Romans 13:4 "if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Rom. 13:4)
Yet, I still think Bin Laden’s death serves as a challenge for us as Christians to evaluate our reactions, not only to his death, but to the reactions we have when those who have harmed us stumble or suffer. It should remind us that God takes no pleasure Himself in the death of the wicked. He would rather that they repent. (cf. Ezek. 18:32; 33:11)
Therefore I believe that God’s heart is grieved about Osama bin Laden – his life AND his death. We should honor God with our reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden.
So, instead of taking to the streets and rejoicing gleefully with the American flag, I’m think the better Christian response is to pray for the families who were impacted by the tragedy of September 11, 2001 – the families who lost loved ones, the First Responders who gave their all, our troops, and our leaders. Let us pray for our world and pray that this will mean that peace and security will come, and soon.
And, let us pray for those who desire to kill, to persecute, and to engage in these terrorist activities. Let us pray that they may see the errors in their ways, find forgiveness, seek the face of God, and be restored into the image of God through glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.