It is tempting to cheer, and at first I did. Hands went in the air triumphantly at the news that one of America’s greatest foes had fallen. Justice was served. The innocent blood of thousands was avenged, and I rejoiced.
But in my heart something broke. Beneath the jubilation was a great sadness, a mourning of sorts. Yes an enemy was defeated. A murderer had his own blood shed. But the Spirit within me would not let me cheer with the others who chanted ‘U-S-A’ outside the gates of the White House. My heart was too heavy to share the jubilation of those who gathered in Times Square in the early morning hours of May 2, 2011.
Osama Bin Laden was dead. Terrorist. Murderer. Hate-filled propagator of evil. Image-bearer of God. It’s the last one I struggle with. How can one filled with so much hate, who has killed and wounded so many, bear the image of God? Yet, I cannot deny that this is what the Bible teaches, and my spirit wrestles with the fact that one made in God’s image appears to have died outside of His grace. So I attempt to answer two questions that many Christians are wrestling with today.
Is it Wrong for me to feel a certain amount of Joy at this News?
In short, no. Now before I get any ‘Amens’ from those who have rejoiced all day, and before my fellow believers who feel saddened that another soul has crossed the threshold of Hell cast any stones, let me explain. The Bible is full of examples of those who rejoiced when God’s justice fell. Ranging from Psalm 58 to Revelation 19 we see examples of the righteous rejoicing when God’s justice falls upon the unrighteous. We serve a God whose justice will not be denied. The Psalmist says that God is known by His justice (9:16), that He loves justice (11:7; 33:5) and that His justice is as deep as the oceans (36:6). We can rejoice that God is vindicated in this matter. We can rejoice that His justice has been meted out. We can rejoice that good has triumphed evil, that a murderer was brought to justice and that God can and will be glorified in this. We can rejoice that thousands of families will be brought closure by today’s news. We can rejoice that New York City has taken a giant step towards healing today. So yes, it is okay to feel a certain amount of joy at this news.
Should I feel Sorrow that Another Soul has Died Outside of Christ?
Yes, but no more than you should for any other soul that has perished outside of God’s grace. Why should Bin Laden deserve more grief than your neighbor? Should we not be sorrowed by every death of every unbeliever? If anything, this has reminded me that I do not grieve the lost enough. Many ‘good’ people die outside of Christ everyday. Why do I not mourn for them the same way so many are saying we should mourn for Bin Laden? It is to my shame that I do not shed tears for every soul in my community that perishes without a saving knowledge of Jesus. My heart should feel this weight every day, and I should feel more compelled than ever to share the good news as effectively as I can with as many as I can. I dare not mourn this man any more than any other lost soul, and I fear I do not mourn the lost as I ought. It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit makes me more aware than ever before of those who need the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in a real and tangible way.
I pray that this historical event does more than stir feelings of patriotism. I also pray that it does more than cause us to be saddened by the death of an evil man. I pray that it raises our awareness of two things, (1) God’s justice is sometimes slow, but it always comes and (2) Because of God’s justice, we need to share the Gospel with all who will listen.
I end by echoing the words of Paul in Romans 12:15, 21: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’