Last night, I like many others saw the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden flooding the news stations, friends blogs and facebook statuses, and the non-stop tweets coming into my phone. It was news that was being heard everywhere throughout the United States. However, I had just gone through an exhausting long day and had little energy to respond to this incoming news. However, this morning I woke up and as I had expected, the news was still covering and not only covering but gloating in American pride about the death of Osama Bin Laden. But something happened that I had not expected to any degree. Like many other Americans, I expected myself to maybe delight in what many have called “long time justice”, but this was far from what happened this morning. As I watched the many video clips of people around the States celebrating, I began to grieve as I thought about what exactly they were celebrating. I understand, and continue to understand that Osama had been the mastermind of horrific events and effected/wounded the lives of many, but what have we as a nation celebrated but the murder of a man. Is this truly what the kingdom of God would do? Are we taught to revel in the hate and death of our enemies, or are we taught by Jesus to love our enemies? Does the Gospel and Resurrection mean that we are to take justice into our own hands, or does Paul not tell the Christians in Rome not to overcome evil with good?
Romans 12:14-21: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Are these words just words that we say that we believe on Sunday morning, but then that evening revel in the death of our enemies? Have we really loved even our enemies as God has loved us? May it not be a good thing for us to remember that we are all sinners before God, and the punishment of that sin is death, and yet who are we to condemn another? This act of condemning is an interesting concept that I have been working on and throwing around quite a bit. I am reminded of the narrative in the Gospel of John when the people brought before Jesus the woman caught in adultery. They asked Jesus,” The Law says that this woman is deemed worthy of being condemned of death, but what do you say?” Jesus replied to them saying, “You who is without sin, cast the first stone.” We may remember that not one casted a stone. Now, what does condemnation mean? It does not mean that we are not able to hold one another accountable, and name within one another areas where we have wronged another. But what it does say, is that condemnation is the actions of responding to those accusations and taking into your own hands the life of another. Our Father in Heaven, although knows that our own sin deserves death, instead of giving us this death that we deserve, gave us life in Christ’s death and Resurrection. This grace, this love is the love that Christians claim that we love with. As I think about how we ourselves have been shown this divine grace, I am reminded of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:23-35
For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
How is it that we, who have received such great grace, rejoice in condemnation of our enemies?
As you may tell from this post, I am fairly disturbed by the rejoicing of a nation celebrating death. I am even more greatly disturbed by a nation who calls themselves a Christian Nation forgetting what Christ calls us to, even when it goes against the cultural norm, of loving our enemies. I am pretty sure that does not mean celebrating their demise and supporting the vengeance many have sought.
Honestly, many of these questions are the mere ponderings I have thought of throughout this last 24 hours, and have no concrete answers. I invite your own reflections on these scriptures and this event as we thoughtfully think through our Christian response to such news. I also invite prayer for our nation, for the Pakistanis, and for the friends and relatives of Osama Bin Laden. This I do know for sure, we are called to pray for our enemies and so I invite us all into a time of prayer for God’s grace, love, mercy and peace so shine forth the light of Christ into their lives.
“The world has called the death of Osama Bin Laden Good News, but I call the death AND resurrection of my God and LORD Jesus Christ the ONLY Gospel I need” ~ Rev. Joshua King