The announcement this week of the killing of Osama bin Laden has elicited a variety of reactions. When I first heard, I mused that I felt a certain appreciation for
people who have trouble accepting the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus. He’s dead, is he? How about some evidence! I’m not really a conspiracy theorist, but part of me really didn’t want to believe this was anything but a cover-up for the inability of US intelligence to find the world’s most noted terrorism instigator.
I suppose that the difference between my scepticism about Osama bin Laden and people who struggle to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead without some sort of evidence, beyond the witness of Scripture and the faith of countless saints over the course of two thousand years, is the matter of faith. My eternal destiny does not
rest on whether bin Laden is alive or dead. It does rest, however, on whether or not Jesus rose from the dead.
In the end, I have decided to trust the US government in its announcement that the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks is dead. Many years ago, I decided to trust that God’s Word is true, that Jesus is alive. The difference? It takes a heaping measure of God’s sovereign grace to be able to believe in the resurrection. It stands to reason that if Osama bin Laden were still alive, his disciples would have held a press conference by now to tell us so.
What has seemed particularly troublesome, though, about this whole affair is the reaction of certain people to the announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden. While a measure of patriotic emotional outburst is understandable, the fact that some were rejoicing in the death of this man is disturbing. When the 9/11 attacks
occurred, Americans wondered why Palestinian children were dancing in the streets at the news. Those children, some now into adulthood, would today wonder why Americans would cheer at the death of one of radical Islam’s heroes.
Of course, we reason, this is different: what happened on September 11, 2001 took many innocent lives; what was announced on May 1, 2011 was the killing of one man
who, by his own admission, had the blood of those innocent lives on his hands. An eye for an eye, right?
Jesus’ radical response to that was to say, “do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also” (Matthew 5.39, NLT). The apostle Paul followed after his Lord in the same manner: “never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12.19, NLT).
I am not thus saying that justice ought not to have been served; few would argue that the world is not a better place for the death of Osama bin Laden. It is one thing to mete justice; it is another to jump on top of a man’s grave, metaphorically speaking, in sheer delight.
This applies to our own lives, too. Do we allow God to be the One who takes revenge, or do we seek it in our way and in our time? It can take enormous spiritual discipline to ‘turn the other cheek’. But God calls us to do so…and to avoid celebrating, even when our worst enemies meet their demise.
P.S.: Just after I wrote this, Al Qaeda confirmed the death of their leader.