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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.

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Life

How Should Christians Respond to Obama’s Education Speech?

Obama’s speech on education, which he will give today, has caused quite a stir among Christians, most notably on the Desiring God blog.  There, John Piper expressed his excitment over what the President said.  Basically, Obama challenges students to work hard, be responsible, and have a positive attitude with school.  He said that students need to turn off the TV and get off the Xbox.  I couldn’t agree more.

Some Christians try to find a devil behind everything Obama says.  Some Christians will not give “honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:7).  I think that’s wrong.  I don’t agree with most of Obama’s policies, but I can commend a man when he speaks truth.

With that in mind, I think if you are one of the Christians who believes you cannot applaud something that Obama says because of his other policies/ideas (which very well may be moral failures), then you are ignoring an important theme in Scripture:

  • Remember that King Cyrus was a pagan ruler of a pagan nation, yet he was the Lord’s “anointed,” who was used to redeem his people. God said, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me…I equip you, though you do not know me” (Isa. 45:1-13). It is clear that God can do good through people who don’t know him personally.
  • Remember that God has common grace on all of creation: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). This includes Obama and all the unsaved teachers who teach our children.
  • Remember that God loves justice wherever he finds it because God is just: “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight” (Pr. 11:1). And “A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work” (Pr. 16:11). This applies even to Obama and education in the United States.
  • Remember that Obama is a “servant for your good” if you are a believer (Rom. 13:4), whether you agree with him or not. Are some of his policies bad? Yes. Was there anything wrong with what he said in this speech? If there was, it was minimal.  Would you fault your non-Christian employer who demands his employees to work harder instead of showing up late, leaving early, and taking an extra long lunch because he didn’t mention Jesus? I doubt it.
  • Remember, finally, that Paul quoted pagan religions in evangelism and teaching (Acts 17:22-34; Titus 1:12). There are commonalities that we can share with non-believers in order to point them to Jesus. Obama can’t point people to Jesus if he’s not a believer, so we can’t expect him to do that. The job falls on us Christians to find common ground in order to tell him (and others), “Look there! That’s Jesus. He made hard work. He created math and science and English and history. And he gives us strength to learn and write papers and do science projects!  To know this Jesus, that is what our children need the most.”

So we pray for Obama and beg God to let light shine in his heart. But we also give honor to whom honor is due. We don’t encourage our children to be like Obama or a teacher or anyone else (not even John Piper!!!). We point them to the cross, teaching them to be conformed to and led by Jesus. As we do that, we tell them to rejoice in truth wherever it is found because all objective truth is God’s truth. Education is good. Hard work is good. Addiction to TV and Xbox or anything else is bad. We praise God for these truths. He is the author of them.

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Life

Why Can’t the World Live in Peace?

Yesterday, I posted on President Obama’s speech in Cairo.  I made the comment that “the people of the world cannot live in peace together.”  I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer can give some fiber to that statement.

The Church is One Man.  All who are baptized are “one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28; Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17).  The Church is “Man,” the “New Man.”  The Church is created as the new man through Christ’s death on the cross.  On the cross the enmity between Jew and Gentile was abolished, that enmity which rent the world in two, “that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:15).  The “new man” is one, not many.  Beyond confines of the Church, the new man, there is only the old humanity with all its divisions (The Cost of Discipleship, 241) (emphasis added).

There cannot be peace where there is no redemption and reconciliation.  That is only found in Jesus’ death on the cross.  In him “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

Christians don’t always practically live in peace with others — because we aren’t perfected yet!  But legally speaking before God, there is no division between him and his people.  Further, there is no division between Christians themselves because we are “all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).  We are a spiritual family.  (A dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless.)  For all who are outside of Christ however, as Bonhoeffer put it, there is only division.

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Life

Desiring God Senior Director Queries President Obama

Here is a great open letter to President Obama by John Knight, Senior Director for Development at Desiring God.  Knight asks Obama some very legitimate questions about abortion.  Here are his three main questions:

  • When do we get to talk about how the behavior of men on virtually every measurable level has gotten worse since abortion was made legal across the United States? Men are more likely to leave women today, more likely to be abusive, less likely to care for the children they father, and less likely to consider the consequences of their sexual behavior. Up to 75% of marriages that have a disabled child end in divorce, and most of the time it is the man who walks away from his family. When do we get to talk about men being encouraged to act like men rather than petulant, irresponsible, selfish little boys?
  • When do we get to talk about the cultural expectation that a mother is expected to abort her baby with an identified disability in the womb? Doctors, nurses, social workers assume a diagnosis of downs syndrome or spina bifida means a woman should terminate the pregnancy. What do you call a 90% abortion rate, Mr. President? If it were babies of any ethnicity, you would rightly call it genocide. What do you believe about families in this situation, Mr. President?
  • Finally, Mr. President, you said yourself that “the strong too often dominate the weak.” Please explain to me, Mr. President, who is more weak and thus more worthy of your protection as the leader of the free world than a baby in his or her mother’s womb?
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Life

John Piper Addresses President Obama on Abortion