I tend to go to bed early nowadays – like 9pm early – so I completely missed the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. Of course it didn’t take much time on facebook/twitter to figure out what had happened. Some people are cheering. George W and Obama both said something about justice being done, no matter how long it takes.
In one sense, some form of justice has been served. Albeit, a form of justice developed by a really cool guy named Hammurabi and undeniably denounced by Jesus Christ in the sermon on the mount (see Matthew 5:38-48).
I guess the question for Christians in the US is which citizenship we will now claim? Our US citizenship or our heavenly one? Of course there are times when it is easy to be a US citizen and a Christian (although it seems like those times are becoming few and far between), but this is not one of those times.
If you choose your US citizenship, then sure, party likes its 1999!!?!?!?! Osama is dead! USA! USA! USA! God bless America! Justice is served!! America – WINNING! etc etc.
However, if you choose your heavenly citizenship, I would submit that your reaction should probably be different. Jesus made it clear to Pilate in John 18: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight…” The kingdom we seek is described in Isaiah 2:4 as one where “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Again in Isaiah 11:6 & 9, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the goat, and the calf and the lion and that fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them….They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” What sort of king is Jesus? One who is “lowly riding on a donkey” who will “take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem” and break the battle bow and “proclaim peace to all the nations” (Zechariah 9:9-10). With this sort of King and this sort of Kingdom, I don’t see how killing can ever equal justice.
Is justice served by the killing of Osama bin Laden? Since I will choose to claim my citizenship to heaven, I have to say no.
A good friend of mine asked about my thoughts on Romans 13, specifically verses 1-5 which state
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For 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, 4for 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. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
So, I guess the question is: If governing authorities are “God’s servant for your good” and they “do not bear the sword in vain” and they are “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer”, was the US just exercising its God-given right to bear the sword against an obvious evil doer? Well, yes they were. I’ve already stated above that yes, a form of justice is served by bin Laden’s killing. Compared to the evil he was responsible for, I’d even say it was a fair punishment. So yes, government can be a servant of God to bring wrath on the wrongdoer. I don’t think this really changes my conclusion because being the servant of God does not make your actions equal to the justice of God. Governments are made up of people – sinful people. I am a servant of God too, and my actions and lifestyle are hardly in sync with God’s justice. I don’t think we can jump straight from Romans 13:4 to the latest actions of our government, whatever they may be, and say, “Look, they’re just doing their job.”
Do we live in a sinful world, full of evil? Sure. Do we need governments to use lethal force? Does God want governments to use lethal force? Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question. As one of my pastors say, Godly people disagree on these things.
For some more commentary on a Christian response to bin Laden’s death, you can check out these links from people who probably know more than me: