How to think about Osama Bin Laden’s Death

I’ve been asked for my thoughts on this many, many times since the news Sunday night.  There are plenty of differing opinions out there on the topic whether at your water cooler or in the world of Twitter/Facebook/Blogs.  Similarly, among pastors there is hardly one unifying stream of thought.

There is a lot of dumb stuff that gets said and written.  And a lot of smart stuff.  And a few things I thought were dumb when I first read them, but I later decided were smart.  And a few things that I thought were smart….  You get the point.  So…I want to focus on few principles for processing this while including some of my reflections..

1.  Take a learning posture.  Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).  If we decided we already knew everything about how we should react when you heard the announcement, I think we missed out on a great chance to learn something new.

2.  Acknowledge our shortage of perspective.  I’ve been affected by Osama Bin Laden, but not anything like others.  How would I feel if it was my dad who died on 9/11?  How would I feel if my cousin in the army was killed in fighting against Bin Laden’s terror cause?  Or, conversely, how would I feel if I were Bin Laden’s son?

3.  Genuinely consider how God viewed Osama Bin Laden?  I’m confident God loved him deeply and hoped Bin Laden would return to Him.  And, as someone who is full of unrepentant evil, actively, aggressively, arrogantly doing the work of Satan on this earth…one already responsible for death of thousands and using his time left on earth to be responsible for more.

4.  Respect Context when applying Scriptures.  If I disregard context, I can find a Bible verse to support any position I desire.  It’s not because the Bible is inconsistent.  It is because the way it gets used is shallow.  I’ve seen a lot of Bible verses thrown around.  I’m THRILLED if people are looking there for guidance.  I’m MAD if people are looking until they find a verse that seems to support what they already decided they wanted to say.  This isn’t just for pastors…anyone can think through an example like this:  In a teaching on how you personally relate to an individual who hits you, Jesus said turn the other cheek (Matthew 5).  Does that mean that in a government/war/justice situation we should let evil prevail?  No…read Romans 13.  But don’t stop with Romans 13 either.  Wrestle through the tensions of the whole story of God.

5. Pay attention to motives and self-righteousness.  I think this is my gut check.  Am I about revenge?  Am I happy that a human being met his Creator unprepared for that moment?   No, I take no pleasure in the idea that a man died without experiencing God’s grace, no matter how evil. The whole message and life of Jesus is an invitation to all (seriously…ALL) people to receive grace we don’t deserve.   When I align my heart with God, it wishes and hurts for a much different outcome for Osama Bin Laden.  I will not celebrate, joke about, or make light of his death and eternity.  You will never hear me say “I’m glad he got what he deserves.” Why?  Because I don’t want to get what I deserve…and I’m very thankful that because of the cross I will  not.

Where does that leave me?   I have peace about what played out on Sunday through our President’s decision and our armed forces doing their duty.  This does not come out of revenge, but a high regard for protecting innocents and a sense of justice.  It acknowledges that sometimes death is the regrettable, but right application of justice to a person like Osama Bin Laden…who is undeniably guilty of mass murder and actively working to bring further death and destruction to innocent people.  God gives no individual the authority to carry out such justice, but makes provision for governments to do so.

There are lots of verses, but I’m essentially reconciling these two as I sort out my reaction:

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice. (Proverbs 24:17)

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15)

Perhaps you have comments…agreeing or disagreeing.  Feel free to share.  I’m still learning…

~ by Greg Lee on May 5, 2011.

9 Responses to “How to think about Osama Bin Laden’s Death”

  1. This is very insightful Greg and I’m really glad you posted on this. This circumstance has really made me think about war, peace, and justice and what God says about it.
    What has affected me the most was not what happened, hut how America has reacted to it. There were thousands of people celebrating in the streets and all over the news. Is that right? Yes Osama was an evil man. God is justice. But God is also mercy and love. I do believe justice was done, but it tore me up when I saw people dancing in the streets like it was a celebration. He was an efficient leader, Osama. We can’t deny that and he used his skills for evil purposes. What could he have done for the kingdom of God? I believe that’s why we need to mourn. Because a person lost his way, his chances are now gone. It was a tragedy, both what he did and the way he chose to live his life apart from God.

    • Good thoughts, Les. I was not a fan of the celebration in the streets myself for a variety of reasons. I did try to put myself in some people’s shoes who may have been among them, especially those much more personally affected by 9/11 than me that might celebrate it as justice that had been delayed for an agonizingly long time. Still, the sense is many were just celebrating the death of a man, perhaps out of revenge. If we fall to that, it leads us to very dark places.

  2. Thank you for sharing Greg… your insight is well accepted and appreciated. This perspective has definitely helped guide my thoughts more toward finding peace and away from the chaos a vengeful heart can bring to this life. As always, your leadership has once again directed me more toward where I need to be…

  3. Greg, this is beautifully written, but more importantly, it carried a wise message. The celebrations bothered me for all the reasons you mention. I can certainly understand people rejoicing if someone who murdered a loved one is killed. And many of the of revelers I saw on the news were young people who maybe ought to have known better but who probably don’t have mature judgement yet, so it was hard not to feel sorrow for them as well. Many will feel ashamed of their reaction one day, I’m sure. I am also at peace with what our military did and what President Obama ordered, because Osama bin Laden didn’t really leave the American government any other choice. What touched me most were those relatives of people killed in 9/11 who expressed both a sense of justice realized and sorrow that it ended this way.

    What I love most about what you’ve written is the encouragement to enter into the tensions of the Bible. Sometimes I wish the Bible was really a list of instructions, but it is so much more. Scripture forms us, and formation is hard, messy, confusing work. It’s helpful to me personally to be reminded of that. Thanks.

  4. Greg: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I had many of the same. This post was beautifully written. Linda Barnett

  5. Greg,
    Kristi read this piece to me & I think your perspective is a great one. I’m glad you wrote it & I’m glad she brought it to my attention. As an Iraqi War & Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) vet I’d like to share my personal thoughts on this subject. On 9/11 I was in the Sinai Desert on a peace-keeping mission so it was about 5:00 pm (my time) when the planes hit. My 12 X 12 barrack’s room was jam packed w/my fellow soldiers watching the news unfold & I knew immediately that I personally would be going to war. I felt vulnerable & hurt on top of guilt for not being in the U.S when we were attacked; as if me being in the states would have made ANY sort of difference. I suffer from P.T.S.D. & 9/11 is as much a part of it as my combat in Iraq. I did not celebrate Bin Laden’s death, but I must admit I felt a certain satisfaction that my brothers & sisters-in-arms have not fought and/or died w/out the ultimate mission finally being accomplished. Going back to the P.T.S.D., when Kristi told me the news of Bin Laden, I felt a sudden change in my being & I knew peace was coming. 9/11 has haunted me in a unique way. I did not lose any family members or friends on that day. As an American soldier & extreme patriot, I lost Americans on my home soil & THAT is not acceptable. I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, both foreign & domestic. That oath just doesn’t “go away” because I’m no longer active. As a Christian, yes, I am sad that a man had to take another man’s life but as a soldier I am satisfied that the men who carried out this mission has made our great country & citizens a safer place. This is all I could think about during this morning’s sermon on sacrifice & always brings me back to JOHN 15:13. Thank you for your wise perspective… Jason Seitz

    • Thanks for the comment Jason. I really appreciate you, your insight on this, and most of all the way you have served our country.


  6. love the wisdom.

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