A number of people have asked me what I think about the death of Osama Bin Laden and the verse that has been popping up on Facebook status lines all week, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.” – Proverbs 24:17
My first reaction when I saw that on Sunday night was disappointment that Christians were reducing the emotional reaction of people down to one that could be tritely condemned by pulling Proverbs 24:17 out of context and ignoring Proverbs 11:10 “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”
As I have learned more about this event and have watched our leaders reactions to it I have been impressed with the willingness of multiple presidential administrations to fulfill their God given responsibility to be a servant of God’s in exercising the kind of justice that is described in Romans 13:3-4 “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
I do not assume that our leaders were consciously trying to obey God in their actions, but I do believe that God used them in His exercise of justice. And while I believe that God’s love is so strong that it extended to Osama Bin Laden, I also believe that God’s love extended to the many he killed and to the ones he was planning to kill.
Osama Bin Laden had consistently and purposefully sought to undermine the authority of governments and their goals for peace and justice. He ignored the value of human life. He organized terrorist attacks on people around the world, not just in America. He called for jihad in the name of revenge and religious hatred. He targeted innocent civilians.
Even so, to attack him from a motive of vengeance or hatred would be wrong. However, governments are called to protect their people and seek justice, and when they do there is cause for celebration. While the joy felt by many at the news that Bin Laden was dead has many components to it I believe that for most people the reason they cheered was not gloating over someone’s death, rather, it was celebrating the fact that a terrorist’s murderous acts had come to an end and justice had been done.