Christian reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of American Special Forces wasn’t that different from other US citizens’ reactions. Most rejoiced in an outpouring of relief, closure, or patriotism. Some gloated.
On the other hand, some, maybe many, used Twitter and other social media to worry aloud whether the death of any human being could properly be the focus of anything other than sadness. In an effort to avoid what they considered an improper response they seemed almost to lament bin Laden’s demise. Or at least they lamented America’s hand in bringing it to pass. It’s these latter responses that caught me by surprise.
I admit that I am glad we finally got bin Laden. I don’t feel any special charge from this. But I am pleased and relieved on behalf of the American people, our ideals, the families who lost loved ones in 9/11, and the families who lost servicemen and women in the last nine years of war. I also remember clearly that Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, mastermind of 9/11, and a clear and present danger to the United States if not the entire West. So in view of this Christian angst about the circumstances of bin Laden’s demise caught me off guard.
I certainly agree with those who suggest Christians, or Americans in general for that matter, shouldn’t become cocky. I appreciated President Barack Obama’s announcement. He spoke solemnly and strongly, said he made the decision, and reminded us of the “why” of the avoidable but tragic suffering of 9/11. He said we were not at war with Islam but with this one man: “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims." The President avoided conveying an attitude of triumphalism, hubris, or bravado. Yet he warned the world’s bad guys that the US would protect its citizens. It was a well-crafted and well-presented statement.
It seems to me that Christians who’ve struggled with how to respond to OBL’s end confuse vengeance with justice. They quote Romans 12:19 asserting it’s God’s province to avenge. True enough, but bringing bin Laden to heel was not about vengeance. It could have been. It could have been about individuals acting independently and unlawfully to seek retribution. But it wasn’t. It was about an official government armed force, acting under direction of duly elected leaders to bring lawfully to account—to justice—a person deemed to be a mass murderer and threat to thousands or even millions of innocents.
Vengeance and justice are not to be confused. Vengeance aborts the law. Justice preserves the law. Vengeance disrupts order. Justice reestablishes order based on law.
Scripture says, “Rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” What American Special Forces did in bringing Osama bin Laden to account was an act of justice.
Looking upon OBL’s death as justice means we rejoice not in the destruction of a human being but in a victory of righteousness. Christians can support this, for God’s law is vindicated.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.