I got up early this morning, to knit for a while and consider Osama bin Laden’s death. My own elation at the news, first delivered to us last night by my daughter, was palpable, and that makes me a bit squeamish. Do I have the right to celebrate, albeit quietly, the death of another human being?
Osama Bin Laden was a mass murderer of thousands. My heart breaks whenever I hear of even one innocent whose life has been taken by another…even if the dead is a stranger to me. But for having killed fellow Americans on 9/11, Bin Laden is my own national enemy. I am glad he is gone. Is this a sin?
In the Old Testament, we see the Hebrews celebrate after a victorious battle which killed thousands of men. Probably much like the revelers on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., or those in Times Square, last night. Bin Laden was a man of war, just as were Israel’s enemies, except that Bin Laden’s crimes spanned the globe. Only his cohorts will decry his death.
Yet, Proverbs 24:17 also teaches that we ought not gloat over the downfall of our enemies. Jesus muddied the waters even more by teaching that we should love our enemies. Most assuredly, He is speaking about ‘personal enemies’ we may pass on the street each day. Not quite so clear is how this teaching fits in the national scene.
Don’t expect any answers here. I’ve struggled with this question for many years (without an ounce more clarity), and never so much as I have over the past 14 hours. This is probably one of those instances where we must hold two positions, juxtaposed, within us, and grit our teeth while maintaining some form of uncomfortable balance. But these four things I can say, with personal certainty:
• I’m glad Osama Bin Laden will not be ordering any more murders, and I hope his death is a fatal blow to his organization…and terrorists everywhere.
• I am extremely pleased that the Navy Seals and other Special Ops units were able to carry off a flawless mission without any undue casualties. This sweetens any sense of victory I allow myself.
• I am saddened deeply by the fate of Bin Laden’s soul, and the choices he made in life that brought him to his standing before God at this moment.
• Osama Bin Laden was somebody’s child. My heart truly weeps for his mother (no offense to his father, who is dead, I just think I know how a mother might feel over such a wayward son). She has lost a son, no matter how wretched a man he had become.