Should we rejoice over Osama bin Laden’s death?

Osama bin Laden is dead.  Nearly ten years of searching is over. 

Perhaps the most startling aspect of Osama bin Laden’s death was the reaction it garnered from people around the States.  I found it interesting, first of all, that most people probably haven’t given a thought to bin Laden on a daily basis.  But now that he’s gone, people celebrate like Mardi Gras.

Secondly, it was bizarre to see college students celebrating in the streets of D.C.  Some of these students were eight years old when the search for bin Laden first began.  Eight. That’s a sobering thought. Finally, I was immediately torn when I saw the reaction of Christians online. Some couldn’t sleep because of the excitement.  Others were immediately critical of those same sleepless people around the country.  Which side should I be on?

I think as Christians, we need to walk a fine line here. During my personal time of worship this morning, I spent some time meditating on Scriptures that were challenging and helpful to me with this particular issue. I pray this helps you, too.

First of all, we cannot condemn a country or government for pursuing a violent man who harms and makes threats toward others. Romans 13:1-4 teaches us that the only government that exists is one that God has put in place.  Some are good, and some are bad. Still, one purpose of government is to punish evil. That is what happened last night when bin Laden was killed.

Therefore we rejoice that justice was done, and thus hope that this will bring relief to those who have suffered because of bin Laden’s leadership. We rejoice that God, in his divine wisdom, used human means as an instrument of wrath. 

Nevertheless, we mourn the fact that a life was wasted on desires to harm people and gain money, power, and control.  We mourn the fact that a man made in the image of God lived his life in opposition to Jesus and rejected him as the only hope of salvation.  Even Jesus wept over the lost people around him (Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:4123:34). 

God does not smile over the fact that Osama bin Laden has been killed and now faces judgment. God does not delight in the death of any wicked man (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11). However, God ordains everything, including death (Deut. 32:39), so does God ever delight that a wicked man is rightly punished? Deuteronomy 28:63 and Psalm 5:4-6 tell us plainly that God does delight in punishing wicked, unrepentant people. Is this a contradiction? No. As Denny Burk points out, Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 mean “that God prefers for sinners to repent rather than to perish.”  Furthermore, Burk writes, “If they refuse to repent, however, God delights in His own justice to punish them appropriately.” 

Therefore we rejoice, as God does, in his justice and glory, not in the fact that bin Laden ceases to live on earth.

This morning 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 was particularly helpful for me as I wrestled with this and I pray it is helpful for you as well.  The context is marriage, but in these few verses, Paul speaks to all of life. I won’t comment on these verses. I pray that the weight of Paul’s words crush your spirit and cause you to have a Christ-centered, eternal perspective on every circumstance in this world (my emphasis in italics):

This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Read this post by Christopher Morgan at The Gospel Coalition blog for more on this.


Good Things Need to Stay as Good Things

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Broken cisterns do not have to be things like the praise of man, sexual lust, hunger for power, greed for money, or other vices.  Broken cisterns can be good things.  In fact, most often, broken cisterns are good things.

Here’s the biblical logic.  In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul says, “But we have this treasure [of Christ in the gospel] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  Paul calls people jars of clay.  In other words, we are fragile beings that crack and leak spiritual water.  We were not meant to be self-sustaining.  We need divine grace.  We are finite.  In other words, people are broken cisterns.

And in Proverbs 18:22, Solomon writes, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.”  So this woman (a broken cistern!) is a good thing for her husband.  And we know that people aren’t the only broken cisterns in the world.  Working, knowledge, scheduling, planning, exercising, eating, sleep, recreation, travel, education, technology, making money, and so many others are very good things.  Nevertheless, these are broken cisterns as well because they are all finite, incomplete, and earthly things.

When these good things, whether a wife or eating or planning a schedule, become ultimate things, we have started to put all our hope and faith in them and not God.  In other words, good things become god things.  But God is the only ultimate thing.  Everything that he gives is a good thing.  O, how I long to regard him as ultimate and leave everything else in its rightful, lowly, good place.


Thanksgiving Meditation

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
     Serve the Lord with gladness!
     Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
     It is he who made us, and we are his;
     we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
     and his courts with praise!
     Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
     his steadfast love endures forever,
     and his faithfulness to all generations.

– Psalm 100

It is interesting to me that the holiday of Thanksgiving began in America and it continues strong today. Still, it seems to be more about turkey, pies, family, good shopping, and football than actual thankfulness. Americans, at least it appears to me, are the most unthankful people on the planet. Now, I haven’t been all over the world, but we have more than any nation in the world and we are, at large, a very ungrateful nation. How ironic is it then, that we make a great deal out of this holiday, yet there possibly may be a family today that sits down at the table this afternoon and doesn’t say a prayer of thanks to the God who gave them all they have.

Abraham Lincoln instituted Thanksgiving in 1863. He listed off so many blessings that the United States had enjoyed, despite a civil war. Then, after telling of the great blessings, he said:

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In the Psalm above, it says to come to the Lord with thanksgiving and praise and then in verse 5 says, “For the Lord is good.” Why do we thank the Lord? Because he is good. That is not just a description of God’s character. Goodness is God’s essence. God cannot cease to be good. Matthew 7:11 speaks about this, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Good things are so much more than a house, food, clothes, a TV, and a nice job. It’s being satisfied with who Jesus is. It’s glorying in God because he is, at his very core, good. It’s loving him more because he loved us first and loves us perfectly.

Today, on this Thanksgiving day, may we, like the psalmist and Abraham Lincoln, make a joyful noise to the Lord. May we enter his courts with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. He created us. He owns us. His steadfast love will never fade. His faithfulness will outlast the world. May we fall on our faces in repentance of our disobedience and thank God for his matchless mercy. May we pray for our nation to seek redemption from Almighty God. Let not this day go by without going before the Lord in deep thanksgiving and praise. For our God is good and he is worthy.

Longing to thank God with you,