In the past few days, Christians have discussed and debated (mostly on Twitter and Facebook) our proper response to the death of Osama bin Laden. Should we rejoice that an evil man is dead or should we grieve the destruction of a fellow human being? Should we support the actions of our government in bringing about his destruction, or should we caution against vengeance and violence, even if that violence was provoked?

Just a few thoughts:

Wicked men and women deserve punishment, and God loves justice (Isaiah 61:8; Ps 73:18-20). You don’t have to read the Bible for long before you recognize a clear pattern — God will decisively judge the wicked. If they are not judged now, then they will be judged in eternity. It is appropriate to rejoice that justice has been done (Psalm 58:10-11). Justice ultimately means freedom from the effects of wickedness and sin — those who would deny the ultimate destruction of the wicked also unwittingly deny the final salvation of the righteous.

The death of bin Laden provides a limited but real sense of justice for the thousands of people who lost friends and family members, or who were permanently damaged physically or psychologically through his violence.

Governments are established, in part, as God’s (imperfect) agents of justice (Romans 13:3-4). At their best, human governments act as enforcers of God’s will to punish evil-doers and reward righteous people. However, governments are established and run by people, so they are always imperfect. As hard as it is to believe, it’s possible that my own government could make a mistake in its execution of justice. Just because God uses one nation to punish another does not mean that the avenging nation is more righteous — otherwise He never would have used Babylon to judge Judah!

However, the justice effected by human governments will never be enough. We await a final and decisive judgment (Revelation 19-22). The justice brought about through human means may temporarily appease our need for justice, but will not fully satisfy it. For that reason, human justice can even make us grieve because it reminds us of how much remains to be done. How many really believe that the death of bin Laden constitutes decisive judgment on all acts of terrorism and violence?

Finally, God does not delight in the death of the wicked, so neither should we (Ezekiel 33:11). Even as we rejoice in the accomplishment of limited justice, we recognize that a tragedy has occurred. A man made in God’s image found himself in a position worthy of severe and deadly judgment. It would have been better, much better, had he turned to Jesus and found eternal life. So yes, we grieve at the death of Osama bin Laden even as we rejoice that he will do no more harm. We grieve because apart from Jesus, millions more will spend eternity separated from God.

And we pray that we can be vessels of God’s mercy, to extend His grace to the next potential Osama bin Laden before justice has to be served.

[Image via http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/10/02/3027767.htm]

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