A week ago this evening I was watching Geraldo at Large on Fox News, when word of a Presidential address was announced. After 20-30 minutes of speculation of what the address might be about — and most assumed it was something about Libya and Omar Quadaffe — Geraldo received word that Osama bin Laden was dead. He was absolutely giddy, giving 'high fives' to his guest. President Obama then came on the air and gave a short address announcing that Osama had been killed in a fire-fight, and that U.S. Navy S.E.A.L.s had retrieved the body. Onboard ship a DNA test confirmed that it was indeed bin Laden and he was buried at sea. Before the President was even finished with his address, crowds of U.S. citizens were gathering in front of the White House and in Times Square, chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A." People were giving each other 'high fives' and cheering and applauding. I must be honest that at the news of his death I thought of Proverbs 7:9 which says, "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting."
Like many of you, I'm sure, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that justice had finally caught up with this self-proclaimed hater of America who had pledged to kill as many of our citizens as he could. Should we feel relieved? Yes. Should we openly rejoice with 'high fives' and chanting and applause? I will confess that the desire to do so, is something I've struggled with this week. Not because I'm some namby-pamby, judge-not-lest-thou-be-judged, far-left liberal who loathes anything our military does. But because I am a Christian seeking to live out the ethic of Christ in me.
How should those who know the true God savingly through faith in Jesus Christ respond? It's an old dilemma for the Christian. We are born citizens of earthly kingdoms. As such we are shaped, in part, by that earthly kingdom-its mores, its values, and traditions. It is normal to feel pride for that earthly kingdom. We call it patriotism.
As Christians, however, we are distinctly told that 'our citizenship is in heaven, '(Phil. 3:20). When the Apostle wrote that, he was not referring to some future event, but a present reality. This does not mean that Christians are not also citizens of earthly countries. Indeed, believers should be obedient to the government in all matters not expressly forbidden by the Lord. We believers have responsibilities to earthly governments, but our first loyalty is to the Lord in heaven.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out a distinctly different ethic for Kingdom citizens. That Kingdom ethic frequently classes with the ethic of our earthly citizenship. The result can cause a real tension between national identity and kingdom identity. Can we be a 'good American' and a 'good Christian' at the same time? This dilemma hit home last Sunday evening with the announcement of Osama bin Landen's death at the hands of an American Seal Team.
As a citizen of the U.S.A, I have a real satisfaction that Osama is dead. Justice has been served. Proverbs 21:15 tells us, "When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." (Proverbs 21:15, NIV84). Around the world this week, many al-Qaeda leaders have moved and left no forwarding address! And, they listen more intently for the sound of helicopter rotors! By his own admission, bin Laden was the mastermind behind thousands of U.S. deaths (9-11, USS Cole, the embassies in Africa). He was also responsible for the death of thousands— if not tens-of-thousands — of fellow Muslims who didn't see through his prism of Koranic interpretation. He deserved to be executed by proper governmental authority as ordained by God. As an American I would have liked to see them do with his body what they use to do in the old West—prop him up on a board and take pictures. It was a reminder to the other "bad guys" that 'this could be you'. And then give him an ignominious burial in a shallow pit.
As a citizen of the Kingdom, my Savior tells me to love my enemies, and to pray for those who would use, or abuse or mistreat me. The bible reminds us that sin has corrupted our longings as well as everything else within us. This is why we are admonished not to take personal vengeance into our own hands. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:20-21, "On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:20-21, NIV84). It is this passage that forces me to resist harboring vendettas while encouraging governmental authorities to fulfill their calling to punish those who do evil. Jesus calls us to love our enemies—even Osama bin Laden. I won't pretend that I've even come close to obeying that command in Osama's case.
I am grateful that Osama bin Laden is dead. I believe his death was justified, and brings justice to tens of thousands of 9-11 survivors and their families. Those who choose to live by the sword, may very well die by the sword. This was certainly true of Osama. However, I cannot, and I have not rejoiced at Osama's death. Proverbs 24:17 tells us "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, " (Proverbs 24:17, NIV84).
As a Kingdom citizen, how should I respond to Osama's death?
In both the Song of Moses and Deborah's Song, the whole message is to glorify God; not the warriors. So, in the end, I think there is a sense in which we can celebrate the death of Bin Laden without the emotional excesses of some American's celebrations.
He is an evil man who is not my personal enemy, but is an enemy of our culture and of our faith. I think there is a religious aspect to this and I think there is a struggle between good and evil. I think there is justice in his death.