One Christian’s Response to the Death of Osama Bin Laden

Osama-Bin-Laden I first heard of Osama Bin Laden's death literally an hour after I finished preaching. I felt then the way I feel now…

Surprised. Heavy-hearted. But, glad. Maybe "relieved" is a better word.

Some of you may think that makes me a Philistine or war-monger. I believe all Christians should choose peace at all times. Sometimes, however, that means defending the helpless from mass-murderers even by killing the mass-murderer if necessary. Yes, I've read Yoder. Yes, I know who Ghandi is. Yes, I'm aware of Jesus' comments to the sword-wielding Peter. And, yes, I've read Love Wins by Rob Bell 😉 However, I also read of how God dealt with Pharaoh through the plagues and Passover, destroyed the earth by Flood, burned Sodom and Gomorrah, commanded a long history of Israelite War, took Ananias and Sapphira, and willed Christ's death on the Cross. I also believe the Bible's picture of Jesus the next time we see Him is not a pacifist picture. All of this is just to say I'm not so sure God is as skittish about death as we like to make him seem these days.

This is not to say God is a war-monger or He wants His people to be. God is a justice-monger. He defends the innocent and oppressed. He often does so through human agency. Just one example would be the story of Naboth's Vineyard and the bloody judgment on Ahab and Jezebel. Sometimes, God even uses human agency outside His own people to exact His will (Romans 13).

Truth is, Osama Bin-Laden hated Jesus and used the life God gave him to murder thousands and to terrorize millions. He would never stop. I believe that if a Christian is in a position to prevent such murdering–they should do so—even if it means it must come to taking the mass-murderer's life in an exchange of fire. If they choose not to, they better have a good reason for why they chose to enable or allow those murders and terrors…especially if they put God's endorsement on it. I know some believe there is always a peaceful way to deal with the Bin Laden's of the world. Those should be tried, but I don't believe there is always a peaceful way to deal with people like Bin Laden. They have no regard for human life or peace. They do death. They do terror. They prey on the weak. They should be stopped.

Sunday night, I followed the tweets and Facebook posts of Christians and paid close attention to Christian leaders in particular. It wasn't the jubilation of Christians that shocked me–though I was admittedly rather shocked at some of the over-the-top stuff. I was surprised far more by a tone of self-righteousness coming from the pacifist camp–though I really don't think they intended to come across that way. Some equated those expressing jubilation at Bin Laden's death with Bin Laden himself. Others quoted passages on loving one's enemies…as though loving one's enemies precludes loving one's non-enemies. Others compared themselves to Bin Laden with a "flat view of sin"–saying essentially, "Bin Laden is no different than all us sinners."

Hmmm…

Everywhere, people scrambled to find proof-texts to support their position (this happened on both sides). So, I'll add my own from 1 Corinthians 13– "Love always protects." Jesus also said, "Greater love has no one than this…that he lay down his life for his friends." It seems to me there is something inherently protective about real love. This makes me wonder if sometimes pacifism is a really loving response to the existence of an Osama Bin-Laden. While I also believe pacifism usually makes for peace, it doesn't all the time. Sometimes, it enables abusers and terrorists at the expense of the weak. In such cases, peace-making may call us to make war against things that war against peace–if only for a season. I'm generally a pacifist. But, in this case, I think (with fear and trembling) we got it right.

I know that some of my best friends and most devoted Christian colleagues will disagree vehemently with me on this on this one. I still have great respect for them and honor their convictions. However, we live in a world that is desperately broken with those who would kill millions if they could. Tonight, while I'm thankful for the Christian tradition of pacifism, (gulp) I'm thankful that everyone isn't a pacifist. Millions may live with less oppression, and thousands may live, period, that wouldn''t have otherwise. I'm OK with that…and I believe God is too.

Go ahead and weigh in. I'd love to hear your thoughts–whatever side of the pacificm/just-war debate you're on.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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