Bin Laden is dead: how should we feel?

 

These are my immediate thoughts on hearing the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Maybe with some more processing time and your comments I will come to different conclusions:

Weep?

Memories of the horrors of 9/11 are resurrected with the news that the man that masterminded the atrocity has been killed. The destruction of the twin towers is the image that seem to summarize the beginning of the 21st century and give us a snapshot of a changing world order where a small band of extremists strike a blow that not only kills thousands but ignites fear and hatred in millions. Many of us can sympathise with the words of one 9/11 survivor who said:

“I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden.” http://j.mp/jRsbkv

The memories of the romantic fairytale of a royal wedding seem very distant now that bin Laden has been killed. The realities of a divided and broken world seem to have woken us up from a dream.

Bin Laden was of course someone’s son, brother, father and husband. I heard recently of how David Works, the father who lost two daughters Stephanie and Rachel Works (18 and 16 years old) in the shootings in a Colorado church was asked if he would be willing to meet with the parents of Matthew Murray the 24 year old gunman who had destroyed his family and who had been shot at the scene. The father agreed and the parents met together and fell into each others arms as grieving human beings whose lives had been torn apart by a tragedy. There will be grieving families in America and in Afghanistan this day and so celebration seems somehow out of place. The Bible is clear that we are to grieve with those who grieve so today we grieve with those who have lost loved ones in both sides of these terrible events.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited. Romans 12:14-16

Celebrate?

Jesus is very clear that we should love our enemies: he offered forgiveness to those who had beaten and abused him, to those who had nailed him to a cross and to those who eventually killed him. But does that apply to someone like Osama Bin Laden? Some would argue that it was wrong for the US to spend ten years pursuing a vendetta against one man, using military might that meant so many casualties to both combatants and civilians. But loving your enemies does not necessarily exclude the need to pursue justice. Jesus also told us to love our neighbors and this can mean protecting them from danger and a man who was willing to indiscriminately kill men, women and children is a threat to all. He was trying to ignite a clash of civilizations all at war between the Islamic world and the rest of the world and so for him to no longer be operative is a victory for peace. So maybe there can be a sense of relief that a step towards peace has been made. But celebration may ignite greater feelings of animosity and turn an iconic figure to some into a martyr with even greater power to inspire.

 

Pray?

These are difficult days and so we must of course pray for our leaders, our Muslim neighbors , the families of those who grieve that all would know the peace and grace and compassion of our God.

Work?

In Jesus’ most famous speech; the sermon on the mount, Jesus described the kind of people that know the blessing of God in their lives. Jesus said:

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will called the children of God” TNIV

God is a peacemaker, he sent Jesus into the world on a peace mission. When Jesus voluntarily offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, he was bringing the possibility of peace between humans and God. Jesus took the punishment for the sins of the world, so that God could pursue justice and punish sin, but also so that God could demonstrate love by dying in our place and offering us forgiveness we don’t deserve. Those that seek to follow Jesus will be peace makers. If we are those that actively work for peace the family likeness of God will be seen in us. In these difficult days its time for Christians to get busy doing the family business – seeking peace.

About the author: Krish Kandiah

Founding Director: Home for Good Executive Producer: Books for Life Vice President: Tearfund Tutor: Regents Park College, Oxford University

12 comments to “Bin Laden is dead: how should we feel?”

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  1. Chris Maynard - May 2, 2011 at 9:08 am Reply

    Thank you, Krish.
    While acknowledging how we DO feel, it is an important question to ask “How SHOULD we feel?”. Job was attested by God as a righteous man. In his final defence in Job 29 and 31 he gives what may be one of the best descriptions of “righteousness apart from the law” that we have.
    I think this comment from that speech is particularly relevant today.
    Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy,
    Or exulted when evil befell him?
    No, I have not allowed my mouth to sin
    By asking for his life in a curse.
    Job 31:29-30 NASB

  2. Christopher Collins - May 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm Reply

    Krish – thanks for the post. I agree with most of what you say except you seem to say that his killing is bringing “justice”. This is difficult because our idea of justice is different from whichever side you look at it and to say that this brings justice is implying that we think it is ok to kill one man to avenge the terror he caused. In my view, this is contrary to the rest of the post which talks about peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. We have taken away any chance of that with Bin Laden – is that ok?

  3. Kevin Morrow - May 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Thanks, Krish. Very moving and very wise. My heart groans to think that there are those with malicious intent who will capitalize on this event to further express their anger and hatred. Thanks for giving us a calm, wise and restrained alternative view.

  4. Samuel Chiu - May 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm Reply

    Expressing feelings on these events are important, but I guess there are more important questions which we should ask and ponder…

    Bin Laden’s death is indeed big news for many, particularly for those who see or have been seeing him as “the” root of extreme violence and the co-called “war on terror”, and for those demanding revenge over 9/11 or other attacks in America and in the west (yes it is a psychological relief & closure for many in the States)… But I am really wondering: he is important ONLY to the point that he is a symbol and an embodiment of a much larger angry, desperate, and powerless mass (yes, powerless indeed for even through thousands of lives have been lost in violence, the roots of their anger and desperation are not addressed and dealt with substantially and meaningfully, and they can do virtually nothing to change anything, thus powerless)… Who are these angry mass? And now the symbol is gone but the angry mass is still out there. And it seems that no body bother to deal with a more fundamental question: Why is that mass angry and desperate?

  5. Tony Price - May 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm Reply

    One of the things going through my mind is the folly and tragedy of a human life so wasted and corrupted. Here was a man who was blessed with privileges of wealth, family, education, who could have given so much to the human race. Did he use all of that to help his neighbour? To improve the lot of fellow-Muslims living in poverty while he had so much? To seek to reform unjust and oppressive political systems in the Arab world?

    No. Instead he used his gifts to promote hatred and violence, to incite his followers to kill and maim, sowing yet more seeds of generations of repercussions.

    I agree one shouldn’t find it in one to be glad that anyone is dead. But I am glad that he can’t do any more to waste and mar the image of God that he, like all of us, was created in.

  6. Amy - May 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm Reply

    I’ve been wrestling with my discomfort at the ‘celebratory’ response to this news. Your article is very wise, thank you.

  7. Nick - May 3, 2011 at 9:32 am Reply

    Really good thoughts, echoing much of what I have been thinking.

    I just felt really uncomfortable watching the crowds in america celebrating and chanting ‘USA’ as though they had just won a major sporting event.

    I am also worried about the potential cycle of retaliation this may cause, but I not sure I have any answers…

    Thanks for you thoughts!

  8. Bill - May 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm Reply

    Lots of food for thought there. To reflect the verse from Job Chris Maynard quoted, I think that our reaction to such an event exposes our heart. If we are truly in Christ, then will should mourn the loss of a fellow human being; whilst he was behind so much hate and violence, he too was created in the image of a holy God. One thing that I have wondered since the news broke is the legality. I’m pretty confident that President Obama will not be called to an international court, but has anybody said that the relentless pursuit and then execution of Bin Laden was actually legal? There has been so much said about the legality of the Libyan ‘conflict’, with the USA, UK and UN being careful to play the game, but this came very much out of the blue, and outside of wartime. Has the US commited an equal crime in the name of justice?

  9. Sam Gibb - May 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm Reply

    Cheers Krish, a great blog. I posted afew thoughts on @mikegprint’s blog http://mikegprint.wordpress.com/ Which I will also post on here that I think are helpful when considering these things. Sorry, it is quite long, probably should have a blog of my own… 🙂

    A few thoughts on the Death of Bin Laden, the Christian reaction, and the resulting issues that undoubtedly follow:

    1) Get off your high-horse
    Often we think that because we haven’t killed anyone we are more holy and worthy of God’s love and grace than terrorists. This is rubbish. Romans 3:9 says ‘Are we any better? Not at all!’ We have all fallen short of God’s glory. Are we any better than Bin Laden? No, not at all.

    2) Love your enemies; even Osama Bin Laden
    We must love like God loved us. ‘While we were still sinners’, not only once we had repented (Romans 5:8). The difficulty is how we show this love, and can this ever be through war and killing. D.A Carson (Love in Hard Places) writes that ‘war can be a form of love’. We also need to bear in mind our duty to love those who might, through no fault of their own, be caught up in the devastation of war.

    3) It should be uncomfortable
    Jesus loved his enemies by giving his life; we shouldn’t expect it any easier. If loving terrorists merely gives us a horrible feeling in our stomach then we are getting off lightly.

    4) Desire that all might come to know Christ
    Simple as; and thus, be sad when someone dies who doesn’t (1 Timothy 2:4).

    5) Be practical peace-makers
    Matthew 5:9 – ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called Children of God’. We often talk about how we would like peace, but we are called to be peace-makers, not peace-lovers. If a pace-maker simply thought about controlling the heart-rate, merely sat back and willed the heart to keep on pumping it wouldn’t be doing its job, and would quite quickly lead to death. In the same way being a peacemaker is practical; we must do something in order to attain peace. Yes, we must pray and ask that God might bring peace (Phil 4:6-7) but we must also act (Phil 4:9) and put peace-making into practice. But act how? Do what?

    6) To fight or not to fight?
    Which ultimately leads to the question, is it ever right to fight? Ehud is a cracking chap to look at when thinking about being an ultimate peace-maker. We can find his brutal story hidden away in Judges Chapter 3. Ehud was a Judge of Israel but also, essentially, an assassin. Israel was under great oppression and was being persecuted by and evil ruler. Ehud takes him out, no war, one individual assassination and then (Judges 3:30) Israel had peace for 80 years. Perhaps Bonhoeffer, who was ready and willing to assassinate Hitler, saw his as a similar role? Should we?

    7) Jesus’ Kingdom is Upside-down
    I did a week of talks to some young people over the summer about Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom; how we need to be weak to be strong, poor to be rich, enslaved to be free and so on. It is important to see that when Jesus taught he shocked people, completely reversing the way the world appeared. We need, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to see the world through His eyes.

    Final Thoughts:
    Finally, remember that one day we will have to stand in front of our all powerful Creator (Elohim –Genesis 1:1-3) and provide an answer to our choices and decisions; why we stepped in, or why we stood back, what our intentions were and how we went about them. Remember, also, that you have been freed from the burden of your sin; we deserve death but have been given life (Romans 6:23). If we then turn and subject others to death then could we not be as guilty as the ‘unmerciful servant’ who is told ‘shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ (Matthew 18:21-35).

    For me, much of a Christian’s life is about balance, and I think this is echoed time and time again throughout the Bible. In terms of war and terrorism, we need the balance between loving peacefully and acting in order to bring peace and justice. Through all the haziness, I think one thing is absolutely clear; we can’t just stand back and watch.

    I trust that some of this was helpful,

    Sam

    Helpful verses:
    ‘Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise… do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is’. – Eph 5:15-17
    ‘They may curse but you will bless; when they attack they will be put to shame’. – Psalm 110:27-28

    Other passages:
    Romans 3:9-23, Psalm 35:12-14, Job 31:29-30

  10. Mike Print - May 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm Reply

    Thanks Kris, great post. I’ve been thinking this a bit recently and as Sam said above, we had a good discussion on this on my own blog. I’ve not yet come to a firm conclusion on the place of Christians in war, but feel that your post has helped. Its a very difficult issue and one I don’t think the Scriptures are clear on. Thanks for thoughts!

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