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.


The Koran-burning Guy

Terry Jones, a “pastor” in Florida, is going to host International Burn a Koran Day this Saturday, September 11. You can read more on their Facebook page.

I don’t want to take up space writing about what I think. What I can say is what my wife said this morning: “It’s because of people like this that people hate Christians.”  This is true.  This guy is a fool.  Is that unloving? No. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus and mocks, belittles, and disrespects other people to the degree he is qualifies as such.

I believe that Islam is wrong and that it is a barrier to people seeing Jesus Christ for who he really is. But that doesn’t mean we burn their Korans. It doesn’t mean we hate them. No, we love them. We invite them to talk about their book, and we also ask them to talk about ours.

I want to point you to a great post by Abraham Piper about this.  In my opinion, this is Abraham’s most thoughtful post ever, and he’s had some good ones.  Thanks Abraham for your clear, thoughtful communication.


Prayer for World Vision

Here’s an email I got today from World Vision.  There was an attack on their offices in Pakistan and six staff members were killed.  Let’s pray for World Vision, the families involved, and that the universal Church would be strengthened through this suffering.

Dear Friend,

It is with a sad heart that I write to you about a terrible loss to the World Vision family. Six staff members were killed in a brutal and senseless attack on our offices in the Mansehra District of Pakistan. Additionally, eight employees are hospitalized with injuries after the unprovoked assault by gunmen. Four of the staff have been released from the hospital.

Our work in Pakistan is conducted by local citizens. We remember those staff who died as dedicated workers seeking to improve the lives of people affected by poverty and disasters. World Vision has temporarily suspended our operations in Pakistan, but we remain committed to helping children, families, and communities in this country.

As World Vision mourns our colleagues, we ask you to join us in praying for the families of our staff members and the people they serve in Pakistan, including those who respond to kindness with violence.

Rich Stearns
President, World Vision U.S.

You can stay up to date with this story at World Vision’s website.


A Muslim Wants to Come to My Church

Last night I hung out with six southern Africans at an apartment near where I live.  It was a motley crew, the kind Jesus would have shared a meal with.  If Pharisees would have been around, surely they would have said, “Why are you with those sinners?”

Everyone smoked constantly (not us, no emails please), we shared a few beers, one of the guys (MJ) quite inebriated, and for the most part, he talked about getting laid all night long.  Rylan and I were there because, I think, Jesus would have been there too.

So when we arrived and introduced ourselves, naturally there was the “Why are you in South Africa?” question.  They asked if we were studying at the University.  I said no.  So they asked again.  I looked at Rylan and then said, “Well, I’m kind of a campus pastor.  I work for a Christian group here in South Africa.”  Lucas, one of the guys, said, “Whoa.  You are drinking a beer.”

And so it started.

We talked about everything you can fit into a two and a half hour conversation.  We discussed the World Cup, politics, South African beer, sex, and of course, Jesus.  The Jesus conversation was riveting, but the best part of the night came when MJ asked Rylan what our thoughts were on sex before marriage.  In a sheer moment of brilliance, Rylan said, “Well, James, I think you can answer that better than I can.”

After a large gulp, I obviously told MJ that sex before marriage is a big no-no.  I told him about the wounds of sexual addiction before marriage.  I told him about the pain it can cause him and the women he sleeps with.  He told me that he has to sleep around to find the woman who “likes the same stuff I do.”  I told him that when a man and women love Jesus first, then fall in love with each other and capture each other’s heart and mind, then when they are married, they will have the best sex.  I said that married couples have total freedom, with no guilt, to experiment and learn with each other and together they will experience excitement, passion, and complete approval from God.

After I was finished, Nash (pronounced “nosh”), looked at me and said, “That makes so much sense.  That’s the way it should be.  I want to come to your church!”  Now, Nash is Muslim.  She openly admitted to sleeping with her boyfriend (who is Catholic).  She told me earlier that she would never leave the Islamic faith.  She quickly caught herself and said, “Well, obviously I can’t because I won’t stop being Muslim.”

I think that there was a small seed planted in Nash’s heart (as well as everyone else in the room).  I openly talked about Jesus and though Nash is very confused about who he is and what he has done for sinners, she heard a small, yet beautiful, truth.  She heard what kind of a change Jesus can make in a person’s life.

There is a different way to do marriage and sex.   It’s completely and wholly good.  It makes sense, but it only makes sense with Jesus, not Islam.  The cross needs to be made glorious to Nash and MJ and their friends so they can experience change.  Lord willing, as time goes on, Jesus will reveal himself to them and they will experience the change and abundant life that he alone gives.


Do You Believe in Djinn?

Here’s a post from earlier today on Desiring God from a missionary doctor working with Muslims.

The other day, I stopped by the house of one of my Muslim friends. He informed me that his 19-year-old nephew was in the hospital and he asked me to come and look him over.

No problem. I’m a Physician. I get this a lot.

The nephew had gotten pretty banged up when he fell from a three-story building, hitting a few things on the way down. Most of the injuries were not alarming and already taken care of—scrapes, cuts, bruises. He had also broken his heel, which will probably take a couple of months in a cast to heal up.

But the main thing was a broken jawbone. The x-ray was impressive, with several breaks. The answer seemed obvious to me: he needed an operation to get his jaw wired shut.

Enter the negotiations. 

Read the whole thing »