One of my favorite professors during my Bible College days offered this response to the death of Osama Bin Laden. What do you think?
By now, we think that most readers of this blog could write the thing pretty well themselves. But given the momentousness of the occasion and the directness with which some have requested our wisdom, we offer some theologizing on the faithful Christian’s response to the death of Osama bin Laden.
We urge our sisters and brothers to a decided, definitive, and utterly mixed response.
On the one hand, a man who has bowdlerized the notion of the Creator’s justice as a pretext for mass murder, not to mention the ideological enslavement of his followers in the dehumanizing practice of evil, has been executed. This is a triumph of justice over the perversion of justice. Granted, it is provisional, imperfect justice, as justice rendered in this present, evil age always is. But the bad man has been killed by agents of the government whose innocent people he had attacked. That is a form of justice, and so the people of the just God have a responsibility to rejoice.
Indeed, they can rejoice loudly. Read The Apocalypse, gentle readers, and you’ll find lots of gloating and taunting as God and his Christ defeat the forces of Satan and death. And as you read that capstone to the canon, remember that it largely remixes the familiar phraseology of Israel’s prophets, who also taught God’s people to celebrate the triumph of justice when it comes.
But our celebratory response is still a mixed response. The image of God, marred as it was by his wicked ideology, still was present in OBL. The God of justice is also the God of mercy, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The best possible outcome was not the outcome here, as is too often the case. There was no Damascus Road for Osama; had there been, he would have treated it with contempt. Since the Exodus we have known of the proud and powerful whose hearts are further hardened by the mighty overtures of God’s mercy.
But what did God tell the Israelites to do as he brought a bitter judgment on Egypt? To feast in celebration and remember forever how he had delivered them from their slavemasters, defeating the slavemasters’ false gods and liberating the Israelites despite their own unworthiness.
Meanwhile, events move forward. Protests in the Middle East are yielding change, perhaps democratic change that will better the lives of the oppressed people of that benighted region, perhaps change that can bring a measure of liberty that will allow the gospel to flourish again where it did centuries ago. Or perhaps not. Certainly, one knows what to pray for in these days.
So celebrate this moment of imperfect justice, mourn the fallen state of humanity, and pray for God’s victory to be realized more fully and widely. And if you can’t handle that paradox, become a Muslim.