(The following post was written in the hours after Osama Bin Laden was killed. It is a post that rings true today, as I add it to this updated blog website, as it did all those years back when I wrote it. This single blog post changed quite a bit for me … it led to many new readers and what would eventually become a legitimate “platform.” Ten years later, I’m grateful for all of those early readers of my work!)
When the news came in that Osama Bin Laden died, I didn’t know what to feel. To be honest, my initial reaction exuded a sense of triumph, but that soon faded. Then, a thought came to me: “I don’t know if today is one worthy of joy or mourning?” Certainly Bin Laden created chaos in the world. He definitely chose a path of evil rather than the common good. Hatred towards this terrorist is not only justifiable, but a way to counter the pain he caused the families of the 3,000 innocent victims of 9/11. He will forever live on in our history books in the company of Hitler, in infamy.
But, should we find joy in this? That is my question as I watch new reports of young adults waving flags and dancing in the street. That is my question for those who will go to the local club, pub, or bar tonight to get a drink on this epic day. Should we, specifically followers of the crucified Jesus, find joy in the death of this evil man? Consider this potent verse from the prophet:
Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Ezekiel 33.11
It seems that God takes “no pleasure” in the death of the wicked men and women of the world. This includes the worst of the worst, namely Osama Bin Laden. And if God feels this way about the death of the wicked, about those we consider the enemies of the common good in the world, Jesus takes this teaching to a new level.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5.43-45
Question: Should we pray for our enemies or rejoice in their death?
Here is what I feel after having a moment to reflect on my response to this historical moment.
I mourn for the families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This grieves the heart of God.
I mourn for the soldiers who gave their lives in the subsequent wars. This grieves the heart of God.
I mourn for the countless civilians who died because of misdirected military action. This grieves the heart of God.
I mourn the loss of Kaddafi’s family members who were attacked by NATO a couple days ago. This grieves the heart of God.
I mourn the death of every other person in human history believing that death does not have the final word. All death grieves the heart of God.
And, yes, I mourn the death of a terrible man. A man who deserved the title enemy. But this is the mystery of the Christian Gospel: God died for his enemies! “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5.10
I mourn the death of Osama Bin Laden, a man created in the image of God. A wretch whom God loved enough to die for. For the God of the Bible takes “no pleasure” in the death of evil people, even the death of a terrorist.
Author: Kurt Willems
Kurt Willems is a pastor, author, and spiritual director. His first book, Echoing Hope: How the Humanity of Jesus Redeems our Pain, releases in March 2021. Kurt is also the host of the Theology Curator podcast. He has a master of divinity degree from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and a master of arts in comparative religion from the University of Washington.
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