Monday, May 02, 2011

My thoughts on the death of Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden is dead. He was killed by American Special Forces in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad yesterday. Justice has been served. Romans 13:2-4 has been fulfilled,
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Bin Laden was a wicked man who, from all indications, died in his sin and contrary to his misguided hope, is now experiencing the torments of hell under the just wrath of the one, true, Trinitarian, holy God.

How should those who know the true God savingly through faith in Jesus Christ respond? My emotions are deeply mixed. On the one hand, I am grateful that justice has been served. "When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but terror to evildoers" (Proverbs 21:15). By his own admission Bin Laden was responsible for thousands of murders. He deserved to be executed by proper governmental authority as ordained by God. The longing for justice that lives within every image-bearer of the holy and just God is not wrong. It is inevitable and in many ways it is right.

Our problem is that sin has corrupted our longings as well as everything else within us. This is why we must be admonished not to take vengeance in our own hands. When justice is violated, that is our impulse. But God's Word warns us against acting personally on that impulse (Romans 12:19-21):
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is what forces me to resist harboring vendettas while encouraging governmental authorities to fulfill their calling to punish those who do evil.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Even Osama Bin Laden. I won't pretend that I have fulfilled that command. Nor can I say that my heart has been free from hatred toward him. But I must say where I have failed to love or harbored hate I have sinned against my Lord. Though it may be considered un-American to speak of loving someone as wicked as Bin Laden, it is the way of Christ.

That is why my emotions are mixed. I am very grateful that justice has been served. But I cannot rejoice that Bin Laden is now suffering under the wrath of God--the very same fate that I deserve but from which I have been rescued, not by my righteousness, but by the sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 24:17 says, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, & let not your heart be glad when he stumbles." That was my first thought last night when I heard the news. It's what I immediately tweeted and posted on facebook. I was encouraged by the response of many and saddened by the response of some.

Yes, we can celebrate the proper execution of God-ordained justice against evil in the world. But should Christians celebrate the death of the wicked? God doesn't. "As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways" (Ezekiel 33:11). That's why some of the euphoric displays of joy on the part of Christians--even Christian leaders--at the news of Bin Laden's death leave me cold. Their celebrations strike me as more American than Christian--which is precisely the problem with much Christianity in America in our day.

I confess to having a very personal interest in all of this. The church I serve, as well as my own personal family, has vested interests in what happened last night. We have prayed for people in that region for years. We have sent loved ones there. Those very dear to us have stayed in the town of Abbottabad and some live there still. I have spent time in that region, meeting people, sharing meals with them and praying for them. They need the gospel. All that has happened will impact the work--and the workers--in that town and region, as well as in other Islamic countries.

In our joy and in our sorrow, surely all who love the Lord Jesus can unite to pray for the advance of the gospel in that part of the world, and particularly for those who are there right now giving themselves to that cause.

32 comments:

jane said...

Amen Tom...totally agree and as a proud American I am flying my flag today !

e4unity said...

Thank you Tom for these honest comments. We are all torn w/ the same conflicting emotions as followers of the Christ of God. We are in a battle to participate w/Him in His mission on earth. And this requires a disciplined response in a time like this to "put off" the old man, repudiating once again our participation in man's rebellion.
"The Kingdom of God is not...but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (14:17).
John Paul Todd

Arthur Sido said...

Tom,

Thank your what will no doubt be an unpopular stance and one ridiculed by others. I especially appreciated this:

That's why some of the euphoric displays of joy on the part of Christians--even Christian leaders--at the news of Bin Laden's death leave me cold. Their celebrations strike me as more American than Christian--which is precisely the problem with much Christianity in America in our day.

You are exactly right there in substance and tone. I also think you are right that this makes the Gospel work in places like Pakistan harder. Our standard must always be to ask "does this advance the cause of Christ?" and I can't see how this does.

DavidWesterfield.net said...

Thanks so much for this ... really appreciate and echo your words.

Cindy said...

Well spoken, Tom. It is a dilemma we face especially in the world we live in where there is no unspoken or unpublished thought.

samanthamaxwellphoto said...

Agreed, thanks for posting! Good for my heart. :)

Rob Anderssen said...

Well said, Tom.

ClayBobbiLukePaytonDOGGG said...

Well said. Thank you for bringing the Christian perspective out of this. We need more honest and truthful counsel about these kinds of matters. Thank you again.

Clem said...

Tom -- Excellent Kingdom thoughts on this God-piloted event. You are a regular inspiration to me! Blessings - Clem Ferris

Simply Seth said...

That's why some of the euphoric displays of joy on the part of Christians--even Christian leaders--at the news of Bin Laden's death leave me cold. Their celebrations strike me as more American than Christian--which is precisely the problem with much Christianity in America in our day.

Agreed.

Angela said...

Thank you for this, Mr. Ascol. I was discussing these very scriptures with my husband this morning after listening to the news. He send me the link to your blog, and I appreciate all that you have said. Thank you for sharing truth...on both sides of the issue.

Gail said...

Proverbs 24:17 says, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, & let not your heart be glad when he stumbles."

My first thoughts too...thank you for so wonderfully articulating my heart in this matter...

Sandy said...

As Christians, we definitely should not be "dancing in the streets" over this outcome. We want to have opportunities to minister the gospel to people in all parts of the world, & this may make it more difficult for those living there. But do we want our part of the world to become as anti-Christian as it is there? It seems that we want peace & love, yet anything having to do with justice labels us as more American than Christian. I want my grandchildren to grow up with the freedom to witness to their neighbors & strangers. I don't think that's wrong. And if my son would have been in that part of the world, he might have been part of that team. So does that make him one of the bad guys? He loves the same Jesus we do, but he is part of the civil government of the USA, & would have carried out the duties given him. "He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Rom.13:4) I am thankful for him & all of Navy SEAL team 6!

Tammyvincent86 said...

Thank u Tom 4 clearing that up. I try 2 follow the Bible as best as I can. I don't know all I should about our Bible but I trying 2 learn and live by it. When u put the verses out there 4 me 2 read I have mixed feelings as well. All we go do now is 2 pray 4 everyone that this will have a impact on. Thank u once again. God bless u. Keep up the GREAT work.

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Tom:

Splendid, thorough, biblical assessments of the matter. I think I'll link your article in my FB account. I thank God for you, sir.

sdg,
dbh

Nate said...

I still believe there is an appropriate response of Joy when wicked men are brought to justice. We cannot cherry pick verses in supporting our position. What about Psalm 58:10 and Proverbs 11:10 among many others.

Dudley said...

Thank you, Tom...continue to hear & faithfully share what God would share through you.
Pace e bene, Dudley Graves

Rebecca Dupree said...

Amazing post. My feelings exactly.

Traci said...

I, took, have been disheartened by all the rejoicing in this death. It was deserved, no doubt. I already posted those same O.T. verses today. It shut up a few vigilante-type Christian friends. Justice serve, move on :)

Larry said...

I absolutely agree with Sandy. I pray for the Seals that had to cary out that mission. And for all Military that have had to take a human life for our country. Im sure they dont rejoice when they do it. National Defense against evil is backed by the bible. But yes we should not rejoice in the death of our enemies.

Tom said...

Thanks for your comments. John Piper has an excellent post on this that I recommend, as well. I want to reiterate the need to pray for people not only in that region of the world but also in other Islamic lands. Tensions are high but the need for gospel advance is undiminished.

Tom said...

Maytons,

You are welcome to comment here, but you are not welcome to spew out heresy. There are plenty of other blogs for that. That's why your comments didn't make it out of moderation.

jerri said...

Have hear lots of comments, this is the most balanced I have read/heard. Thank you for your clarity, compassion, and sense of justice.

will said...

1 Sam 18:6 "As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments"

While rejoicing at the death of the wicked is wrong, is rejoicing that evil has received justice wrong? For many dreadfully wounded after 9-11, this event represents a joyful time just as when Golitha was killed by David.

Will Shores
Cedar Hill Tx

Bridgette said...

I think the concern with rejoicing is appropriate--in the OT passages that are referenced, the rejoicing was because God led the avengers. Did we seek and find Bin Laden to serve God or America? Was he killed to further the cause of Christ? I don't think that it is appropriate for us to rejoice as though righteousness has been served--this war is not fought in order to serve God, but man.

Lisa said...

I can't help by think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, arguably one of the greatest theologians of modernity, yet he participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler. It is always sad and a waste when a person goes into an eternity separated from God. However, evil exists in the world and some people give themselves to evil and are left to face the consequences of that choice. Bin Laden was no less evil than Hitler, Stalin or any other mass murderers whose names we associate with evil.

Wyman said...

Will,

I'm just wondering aloud whether the rejoicing in 1 Samuel 18 is necessarily descriptive or merely prescriptive? That passage does not seem to be teaching or advocating such a response as much as merely describing it.

Even so, I, for one, agree that some passages speak of a kind of joy over the fall of wickedness in the world, but I was immediately taken aback by some of the near euphoria I heard from some Christians without it being tempered by a sense of sadness, concern for Bin Laden's salvation, regret that he passed into eternity without Christ, etc.

At least it seemed that way to me.

Christ's weeping over Jerusalem and Paul's anguish over the lostness of his fellow Jews must inform our reaction here as well.

I appreciate the piece Tom. Thank you.

Wyman

Wyman said...

I just noticed that I said that backwards in my first sentence:

"I'm just wondering aloud whether the rejoicing in 1 Samuel 18 is necessarily descriptive or merely prescriptive?"

should read...

"I'm just wondering aloud whether the rejoicing in 1 Samuel 18 is necessarily prescriptive or merely descriptive?"

Mea culpa.

Wyman Richardson

George Lawson said...

Thank you for offering a clear and biblical perspective.

Jason Landless said...

Dear Mr Ascol,

After being harrangued and attacked on one prominent Reformed blog for stating that I do not delight in OBL's death even though I am glad to see justice done, your words are like balm.

Thank you so much for exemplifying the love and compassion, honesty and humility that our faith calls us to. I can honestly say you have been a tremendous encouragement.

Dirk said...

Good post ;-)

"Christ never intended that His gospel should be propagated by fire and sword or His righteousness wrought by the wrath of man. When the high praises of God are in our mouth with them we should have an olive-branch of peace in our hands. Christ’s victories are by the power of His gospel and grace over spiritual enemies, in which all believers are more than conquerors. The word of God is the two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).”

Matthew Henry (circa 1700)

See also Sarah Leslie’s important article on “Dominionism
and the Rise of Christian Imperialism” which should help us all to gain a deeper understanding why so many so called evangelicals react with this typical aggressive US militant patriotic mindset …

http://www.discernment-ministries.org/ChristianImperialism.htm

I lived in the US (I am from Europe) for almost four years (in the so called bible belt) and I was often ignored, threatened and even attacked while trying to point out similar things to other (so called) Christians.

So please don’t just believe everything Obama (Bush etc.), the media etc. says, since they do have their agenda (absolute world dominance) and they do not speak the truth about a lot of things!

Believe the bible, give up your live and serve faithful Christians and have your citizenship in heaven (Phil.3:20)!

Much love in Christ

Dr. Phil said...

The inherent contradiction in the article hasn't been answered. The assertion that the US government is appointed by God assumes a degree of supernatural intercession in human affairs which cannot be justified.

It implies God is an American who holds to American values. The false pride underlying this assumption is one reason why the USA stands high on the list of countries which still executes its own citizens.

Killing Osama Bin Laden was not a Christian act in pursuance of truth but a political act in pursuance of American foreign policy. There are some Christians who believe his death was justified by his crimes. They should remember that Bin Laden's crimes were motivated by claims of similar insight into the mind of God as those who rejoiced in his death.