Categories
Life

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.

Categories
Life

How do born again people love?

In 1 John 3:11-18, John gives us two ways that born again people love.

  1. Humbly rejoice at the greatness of others.
  2. Humbly sacrifice to meet the needs of others.

In verses 11-15, John tells us to rejoice at the greatness of others (especially Christians).  He also tells us how not to love.  He writes, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (vv. 12). Cain was jealous and was completely unable to rejoice with his brother Abel for his sacrifice offered to God.  John continues in verse 15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” When others succeed, the born again don’t murder them. They rejoice for them. I especially need grace in this. Lord, help me to celebrate the greatness of others instead of envying them!

In verses 16-18, John adds that a born again person loves others (especially Christians) by sacrificing to meet their needs.  He writes, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (vv. 16-17). The question is rhetorical. John says, “If you ignore the needs of people you don’t really have God’s love in you!” Lord, help me give sacrificially to others who are in need!

John ends with this tender, yet firm, command: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (v. 18). This doesn’t mean that we only love through actions. It doesn’t mean you are excused from saying to a Christian brother or sister, “I love you” (in a non-romantic sense!).  It also does not mean that people get saved because we give them food or drink.  Don’t mistake John: gospel people speak loving words, and the gospel message still needs to be spoken to non-Christians. Without loving, sacrificial actions (like rejoicing for people and providing for their basic needs), the gospel will not be taken seriously.

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Update: To clarify, when I say “greatness of others,” this may refer to whatever reflection of our Creator you see in others. No one has inherent greatness (see Rom. 3:10-12), but God bestows upon his people a taste of his glory in our character, personality, talents, abilities, etc. As for non-Christians, they are also made in the image of God and still have amazing talents, abilities, and creative capacities.  We should celebrate these things in them as well and help point them to their Creator who gave them these gifts.