Rick Love Responds to Osama Bin Laden's Death
A young pastor texted me when he heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. "Rick, is it wrong to be happy that someone who has been behind so much pain and suffering around the world is no longer able to do so?" I went on to explain that I had mixed emotions.
On the one hand I was happy. Osama Bin Laden committed atrocious evil. As one of my Muslim friends wrote, "Osama is finally dead. Thank God this chapter of darkness is closed." As Solomon taught, "When the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy" (Proverbs 11:10).
But on the other hand I had mixed emotions, and still do, because other Scriptures came to me even as I was watching the breaking news: "Do not gloat when your enemies fall; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17) and “'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11). So I was both happy and sobered.
I have mixed emotions for other reasons. We are the good guys. Osama and terrorists are the bad guys. Simple as that. Right? Wrong. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn said, "The line between good and evil is never simply between “us” and “them.” The line between good and evil runs through each one of us."Solzhenitsyn agreed with Jesus on this one (Matthew 7:11 -- go ahead look it up)!
I agree that Osama Bin Laden was evil. Yet I know that evil lurks in my heart as well. I don't think Americans are always good and that our foreign policy is always good. In fact, there have been grievous things done by the U.S. Government in the name of the war on terror.
Finally, I have mixed emotions because I believe we need to understand Osama Bin Laden's death in light of Romans 12 and 13. The government "bears the sword" and "brings wrath on the one who practices evil" (Romans 13:4). Osama Bin Laden met the sword of the American government. This is one way evil is overcome according to Paul.
But the focus of Paul's teaching on evil has little to do with the sword. It has everything to do with good deeds. The church is commanded to "overcome evil with good" -- not with the sword. In other words, the contrast between how the church is to respond to evil versus how the government does is staggering (See my blog on Loving Muslims, Dealing with Terrorists). Here's how we are to respond to evil...
- Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good (Romans 12:9).
- Never pay back evil for evil to anyone (Romans 12:17).
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
- Love does no wrong to a neighbor (Romans 13:10).
We need to believe both Romans 12 about the role of the church and Romans 13 about the role of the government. I commend the U.S. Government's recent success in overcoming evil. What a great example of persistence and zeal in dealing with a mega terrorist. I am happy about this. May we as followers of Jesus be just as persistent and zealous in our pursuit of good! I am sobered by this.