How Should Christians Think about the Death of Osama bin Laden?
Doubtless there will be much commentary in days ahead about the appropriate Christian response to the death of Osama bin Laden.
I think it’s appropriate for Christians to intermingle grieving and gratitude.
Grief for a life made in the image of God but so destructive of human life and so dishonoring to God.
And gratitude for justice being served as an instrument of God’s wrath.
If it’s true that “God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend,” it should be no surprise that his followers would reflect some of that complexity as well. After all, we are the people who are “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”
A couple of early pieces that point to this tension in the Christian life:
- Christopher Morgan, “Grieving, Rejoicing that Osama bin Laden Is Dead“
- Denny Burk, “Some Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden“
Update: Thanks to a commenter below for highlighting this 2002 quote by D. A. Carson on bin Laden:
He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man, and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone.
Do not offer the alternative, “Should we weep for Osama bin Laden or hold him to account for his genocide and prevent him from carrying out his violent intentions?”
The right answer is yes.
—Love in Hard Places (Crossway, 2002), 143.
Update 2: Kevin DeYoung looks at two questions: (1) Did Osama bin Laden deserve to die? and (2) Did those who killed him have authority to do so?
Update 3: Doug Wilson looks at an issue that Kevin touched on with respect to moral equivalency. An excerpt:
Osama was a violent and evil man, and so we should thank God he is dead. He was killed by men who, by all accounts, were not exactly cub scouts themselves. But any kind of flattening, any kind of moral equalizing, any attempt to witness to a co-worker by talking about the death of bin Laden, and then pivoting to a discussion of your aunt who sometimes gets into the cooking sherry too much, will the effect of representing the Christian faith as morally clownish.
Update 4: Mike Horton offers a helpful two-kingdom perspective, with three applications regarding our response: (1) we can rejoice that even in this present evil age, God’s common grace and common justice are being displayed through secular authorities; (2) we cannot rejoice in the death of the wicked any more than does God (Ezek. 18:23); (3) the mandate to believe and to proclaim the gospel to every person is all the more urgent.
Update 5: John Piper:
In response to Osama bin Laden’s death, quite a few tweets and blogs have cited the biblical truth that “God does not delight in the death of the wicked.” That is true.
It is also true that God does delight in the death of the wicked. There are things about every death that God approves in themselves and things about every death that God disapproves in themselves.
Piper goes on to explain the biblical way in which God can both approve and disapprove the death of Osama bin Laden, and why this is not double-talk.
Update 6: Albert Mohler urges “sober satisfaction,” arguing that “the death of bin Laden was fully justified as an act of war, but not as an act of justice.” In particular he critiques the celebrations in the streets and points to the fact that “true justice” is often elusive in this world. “It was the best we could hope for under these circumstances, and there was more than adequate justification for his death. But we still should feel the loss of the greater satisfaction of human justice.”