As an American, I went to bed happy last night after learning of the death of Osama Bin Laden, a man capable of great evil, and one who had brought much suffering into the world. Yet I felt a tinge of guilt at the jubilation I and others were feeling, and have spent much of the past 18 hours wondering about what an appropriate Christian response to Bin Laden’s death should be. How should those of us who attempt to follow the man from Galilee, who teaches us to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors, handle the death of an enemy who has been responsible for so much evil in the world? Should we rally and jump for joy, or should we be more subdued and ponder the deeper mysteries of life and death? I think the latter is more appropriate.
In the Book of Proverbs, we’re advised not to gloat over the demise of our enemies. Such behavior is not pleasing to our God (Proverbs 24:17-18). King David had an opportunity to gloat over the death of his enemy, King Saul, whose death opened the way for David to assume the throne. But David grieved for Saul and his sons (2 Samuel 1). Death should always remind us of our humanity. Although God has created us with remarkable abilities, we are not God, and once life is gone we cannot restore it. At the time of death, we should be humbled. Bin Laden was obviously endowed by his Creator with great talents which could have been used in ways to have alleviated suffering in the world. Instead of using his talents in such a manner, Bin Laden used his talents to build a network of hate and evil. We should grieve over a life wasted and which caused such much pain. But we should also remember that Bin Laden, although an evil man, is not the author of evil. Just because he is dead doesn’t mean that the world is going to all of a sudden become a harmonious place. Evil is still present. We all will still face temptations and, until this age ends, we will still have to deal with evil people. And although few of us are capable of the evil of a man like Bin Laden, none of us are completely sinless.
At a time such as this, we should humble ourselves before God and one another, confessing our own sins and the sins of the human race. We should thank God for those who were brave enough to carry out this mission, but we should not celebrate over their accomplishment. Instead, we should continue to pray, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer, for God’s will to be done and God’s kingdom to come. And finally, we should challenge evil, not just with the sword, but with acts of charity and kindness, demonstrating grace.