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How Should We Think About the Death of Osama bin Laden?


How Should We Think About the Death of Osama bin Laden?

Justin Taylor

The Christian life is a paradox.  There are things that are true about us that may at first seem in tension or mysterious.

We are adopted by God (Rom. 8:15), and yet we await the full revealing of adoption on the Last Day (Rom. 8:23).

We are crucified, yet we live (Gal. 2:20).

We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15); in fact, we are to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10).

The Christian life is simple—but it’s never simplistic. And the reason is that we live before and worship a God who is gloriously diverse in his revealed but mysterious paradoxes.  After all, he is “the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy,” who “dwells in the high and holy place”—but who is “also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isa. 57:15).

In all of this, we must endeavor to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

The following is not intended to be comprehensive, but a few pointers as we think together about how to apply God’s revealed Word to the situation of Osama bin Laden’s recent execution.

1. We are all sinners, and any sin deserves condemnation from God.

Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.” James 2:10: “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

2. Because God created man in his own image, God has ordained that intentionally killing an innocent life deserves the just punishment of death at the hand of fellow human beings.

Genesis 9:6: Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

3. One of the God-ordained roles of government is to be an instrument of God’s righteous wrath in punishing wrongdoers.

Romans 13:4: “[The governing authority] 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.”

4. It is appropriate to feel an intermingling of gratitude and grief when a mass murderer like bin Laden is killed.

Osama bin Laden was created in the image of God, designed to reflect God’s glory. Instead, he used his God-given gifts to destroy God’s work. We should grieve whenever a life is so dishonoring and destructive. We should grieve that he apparently never repented, never knew the freedom of the gospel, and will never have another chance.

At the same time, we should feel some level of gratitude that this destructive work has been stopped. If it’s true that government is an instrument of God’s wrath, we can thank God for avenging this wrong. Al Qaeda may go on, but bin Laden will never plot or plan another attack. An evil man has been stopped in accordance with the way God has set up the world.

5. We must guard against inappropriate expressions of gloating and triumphalism.

If we feel joy, it should be a sober, chastened sense of relief. But no Christian with an imagination can contemplate Hebrews 10:31—“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God”—and be giddy or glib.

6. Our gratitude and our grieving, though appropriate, remain frustratingly incomplete.

“Justice” in this world only offers a faint echo of True Justice, which can only be delivered by the King of Kings, the Judge of All the Earth who will surely do what is right (Gen. 18:25). Osama bin Laden is dead—but evil continues unabated. There is coming a day when all that is wrong will be made right, when every tear will be wiped away, when everything sad will come untrue, and every twist and turn of God’s providence (Eph. 1:11) will be clearly seen as working all things for our good (Rom. 8:28) and God’s glory (Rom. 11:36).

7. Let us press on in the hope of the gospel for the glory of God.

Everything in our lives—even routine things like eating and drinking—should be done “to the glory of God.” And our response to this death should be no different. Let us be on guard what our actions and attitudes convey to a watching world.

Do they see in our lives a living paradox—that our ultimate citizenship is not in America but in heaven, and that we are simply sojourners and exiles on earth (Phil. 3:20; 1 Pet. 2:11)?

Do they see that while we are “in” the world with them, there is something about us that is fundamentally “not of” the world (John 17:14-15)?

Do they see that we are being “transformed” by God’s word instead of being “conformed” to the ways of the world (Rom. 12:2)?

Do we truly count Christ’s great appearing as our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), or do we hope Christ delays just a bit longer so that we fulfill a few more of our earthly goals?

Let us renew our efforts to tell a lost and sinful world the great and glorious news that there is a place of mercy and grace, and that there is a place of justice—and that in fact they meet together in the cross and the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Maranatha. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!