Heavy laden thoughts on Bin Laden

The news came... it lit up twitter like a fire storm. The people wanted to know but the mystery mixed with hope was palpable. CNN was so sure of themselves. And then Obama speaks; it's true.

I was overjoyed, but... This 'but,' this tension. Dig deeper. What is it? All my friends are excited. All my Christian friends are quick to throw the first stone.

I responded, "Let not death nor violence be glorified but may justice and peace be long lived."

This remains true. Death and Violence should never be glorified. When Jesus said, "...all who draw the sword will die by the sword" he wasn't just speaking about how his disciples weren't supposed to use violence or merely waxing eloquently, he was speaking a profound truth: when violence is used against violence, only violence wins, only violence is exalted. Will he be replaced? Will Al Qaeda retaliate? Will this make Al Qaeda stronger? Or does it dissolve it?

But what about Bin Laden? Surely if any deserved it, he did. This argument isn't without biblical support. Romans 13 says, "But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer" (v. 5). This passage clearly states that the state has the God-given right to used the sword, and may even be just when using it against evil. (sidenote: it is entirely unclear whether or not Christians are to be a part of the state and most of scripture would be against it). Even the saint Dietrich Bonhoeffer has to come to mind. A Jesus pacifist at heart, he felt it necessary to assassinate Hitler, or at least attempt to. The plan horribly failed and he was martyred for his faith.

So what about Bin Laden? What is the nagging tension we feel about this or at least should feel about this? A brother posted this verse:
"Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways" (Ezekiel 33).
What shall we say then? Who gets to smugly be pleased at the thought of hell or rejoice in death?

Bin Laden's death comes a week after our celebration of Holy Week in the Christian calendar. How quickly we forget. How quickly we forget that Jesus proclaims victory through dying a revolutionary's death on the cross. How quickly we forget the Last Supper dialogue:
When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so.’
 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
 Don't you see? Jesus calls Judas out as his betrayer, as the evil one. How does he do it? He says that it is the same one that is dipping in his bowl. The one who would've been sitting closest to Jesus was the betrayer. I like to believe that Jesus sat next Judas precisely because he was wicked.

More than that, Jesus doesn't ask him to leave or go outside and then lock the door, he serves him communion. Judas was likely the first person in history to drink from the wine that symbolized Jesus ' forgiveness of sins and eat the bread the symbolizes the body broken. Judas is the main catalyst for spilled blood and body broken and yet he, in all likelihood, receives the first grace of the New Covenant.

Jesus has to be producing fruit from an inner spring of love and a firm conviction that he meant what he said, "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." Do we believe it? Do we believe that evil isn't to be overcome by evil but be overcome by good?

The tension is present because we are wrong to take delight in vengeance. God specifically declares all vengeance his. We are wrong because we have failed to love our enemies and pray for them and bless them. I admit, I didn't pray for Bin Laden. The tension is trying to pull us in Christ's direction, the Kingdom direction instead of the Empire's direction.

May peace be sought, may violence damned and may we be drawn to Christ!



  1. What font is that?

  2. I prayed for him.

  3. Kevin Book-SatterleeMay 2, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    This was a fantastic and realistic piece Jaymes. Osama bin Laden, Pol Pot, Hitler, Idya Amin (sp?), Ted Kazinsky (sp?), or whoever; we must mourn the terror these people have pronounced upon humanity, a mourning for which we enter deeper into the broken heart of God. We are called to live justly not to justify. By accepting Christ we forfeit our lives to the one who reconciles the balance sheet as He sees fit. It is reconciliation that bears much tears and bore much blood. Only love can survive such a thing and only God's love. We have forfeited our lives as Christ-followers to be justly loving and, frankly, just loving - not hating. We can celebrate the end of terror led by one man because of the many who have been spared death by his hand or command. We shall not be naive to the fact that his legacy will be used by evil (both abroad and at home by pitted enemies) to pursue more death, destruction, pain and an illusionment to the justice of violence. Let the tension now remind us to be ever more vigilant in praying for our enemies and the enemies of our enemies. Vigilant not vengeful.

  4. Amen: I would also like to give thanks to our Lord for our President Barack Obama, whom at the end of his speech to the public, stated for all to hear "One Nation under God" and asked that God bless America, Let us rememeber that he needs protection from evil now more than ever. Pray for him as he continuses to do his best for us.

  5. Interesting thoughts on a complicated subject. Indeed, the guiding principles would seem to be that vengence belongs to God, we are called to love as Christ loved, and generally, God is in-control, acting as He will. Can we say categorically that killing by people of God is sin? No... or else God specifically ordered Israel to sin numerous times when He gave direction to take cities etc. and wipe out peoples, in some cases leaving nothing alive. Certainly God is omnipotent and can act independently of human agents to heal, kill, punish, bless, etc.; however, we find most often that He chooses to work though human individuals and agencies.

    As individuals, on one extreme, one might say that faith alone is paramount, in the extreme leading to a pacifist view with refusal to exert ourselves in any action for ourselves or others. On the other extreme, one might say that we are responsible to act with what we have been given and rely upon God for that which we can do nothing about, which in the extreme might lead potentially to faith in ourselves rather than in God. Personally, I have chosen to have faith in God while making use of that which He has provided, and am willing to take life if necessary to defend life. In making that choice, I must realize that at some point I could be the agent by which a lost person has their ultimate choice ratified in death.

    With respect to Bin Laden... vengence is God's, and can be rightfully executed by the state in this life. However, vengence refers to past actions, not future actions. Preventing future evil acts by killing is not vengence, and is a different topic. So was he killed because of what he did, what he was doing, or what he was going to do? Probably all three. Either way, his choice to submit or refuse to submit to God by the only way given among men by which to be saved has now been ratified in death. Only God knows the heart and He is the ultimate judge, but looking at Bin Laden's fruit, we can postulate that physical death likely will not be the only vengence that he will taste, by his own choice.

    Should we then celebrate his death, knowing that he likely is headed to judgement and the second death? Should we not celebrate his death, knowing that many other lost souls may now have a longer life in which to choose Christ? Again... not so simple.

  6. Hey all - good conversation so far:

    @Anonymous 1 - Josefin Sans...

    @Kevin - As always, love what you're saying. "By accepting Christ we forfeit our lives to the one who reconciles the balance sheet as He sees fit." Such a great reminder... I wish you were the one writing and I was the one reading :)

    @Anonymous 4 - I agree, we need to be continually be praying...

    @Anonymous 5 - If you are who you I think you are then we will continue to battle about this...

    The Old Testament becomes moot on this subject. You can't say that since violence was ok it still is, even in some regard. It used to be ok, in fact commanded from the mouth of the Lord, for all his followers to kill witches and false prophets, now... not so much. The couples with all the dietary laws and cleansing rituals, I would say that New Covenant is New which means both different and (usually) better. Christ is the new Torah. His teachings, though usually a getting at the heart of the OT, really do add and subtract a lot from our lives. Violence is one of them.

    The NT has no teaching or example of any saint taking a single persons life or even condoning it. Violence is strictly forbidden in all cases. There is not one instance of it being ok. Not one... Jesus, being the fullest expression of God, has thus decreed that violence shall never be apart of his followers lives excepting, of course, that we be on the victim's side... God reserves all violent justification. I am willing to change my mind, but I need some scripture. Reason has its place in our faith but only as a subservient role to scripture.

    I will agree that this context is messy. I am glad he is gone. I am glad to have our president... I am not even entirely sure how I feel about it, but I couldn't do it.


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