Pastor's Blog
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May 2, 2011, 10:55 AM

Responding to Bin Laden

   Sitting in chapel at First Baptist Church in Waco during my first semester of seminary. That’s where I was 9 years 7 months and 20 days ago when I first heard the news about the twin towers. At that point only one plane had hit, and as we got on our knees and prayed, the second plane hit. The rest of the day I alternated between feeling completely numb and crying as my heart broke over the scenes of my countrymen and women dying bravely. I will never forget those feelings or that day for the rest of my life.

   Sitting in my living room on a Sunday night about to turn off the TV and go to bed. That’s where I was when word came out that Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind those cowardly attacks on 911, was pronounced dead at the hands of some Navy SEALS. He had been shot in the head and was going to be buried at sea. And when I heard the news, I didn’t know how to feel.

   Part of my soul screamed in primal joy at this scene. Finally, justice has been done to the mass murder, this psychotic lunatic whose actions have led to thousands of American deaths over the last decade. Part of me rejoiced in the fact that he got what he had coming and that we would never again have to be concerned with his schemes and plans. I was proud that our president had authorized this action and that our troops had done a superb job going in and accomplishing the mission, finally holding Bin Laden responsible for the punishment he had run from for the last decade.  I watched as people gathered at ground zero and held up American flags and chanted “USA, USA” like we had just won a gold medal at the Olympics…and part of me screamed in sorrow.

   Part of me wept over the fact that we were celebrating the death of a man like we celebrate the Super Bowl. That we were so full of rage and anger that it seemed not only right but proper to celebrate and rejoice in the killing of a man. That there was a difference between being satisfied that justice had been done, and a hunger and thirst for vengeance that could only be satisfied in this death. Part of me cried when I got on facebook and saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding Bin Laden’s head instead of the torch of liberty. As I read status updates the rejoicing was palpable, and a friend from high school wrote, “The wicked witch of the middle east is dead!!! Just imagine his judgment with our Lord. Wish I was there to see it.” It made my heart hurt, and I couldn’t help but reflect on what I had preached only hours before…

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:17-21

   It makes me stop and wonder, what is the response of believers to the death of this man? What is correct and right in God’s sight to think and feel about this? Let me share with you another status update from another friend, “Though Osama hated us and killed those that are like us, our Father loves him and hurts deeply over the eternal separation between them. Let us be quick to thank God for His available forgiveness and grace toward our souls, while not rejoicing over the death of a lost one. Our God is of justice AND mercy.”

   The reality is Bin Laden was a guilty man, and his death was justified, but I do not believe we rejoice in his death, but we mourn. We mourn the fact that he never realized how broken he was, and the desperate need he had of a loving God to forgive and save him. We mourn the fact that he ended up glorifying God by his destruction instead of glorifying God by receiving God’s grace. We mourn that he never tasted repentance, never knew forgiveness, never met the Father who can change hearts that have been corrupted by sin. We mourn that he died forever separated from God…and it is not appropriate for us to rejoice in that.

   If you are going to rejoice, do it in the fact that you too were broken and separated from God, marred by sin and just as guilty in God’s sight, yet were showered with grace at the cross. That you have gone from a rebel against God to His child, and that your life is no longer yours, but is lived for Him and according to His desires. And God’s desires? Love our enemies. That may not taste good or feel like you want it to feel especially in regards to Bin Laden, but it really isn’t about what we like or want. Either God is our Lord and we obey, or we have some serious issues in our understanding of what it means to be a disciple.

   So think before you respond to Bin Laden’s death. Yes justice was served, but we never rejoice in the death of one lost from God instead we mourn that soul. We rejoice that evil was stopped, but we do not take glee in the death of one made in God’s image. We breathe easier because terror has taken a hit, but we rest in the fact that our God is bigger than terror and that through Him we love even those who try to bring us harm. Vengeance is the Lord’s, we are commanded to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”



05-04-2011 at 9:40 AM
Kevin Cornelius
Matt, thanks so much for your interaction. I agree that the evil in Bin Laden was a horrible thing and that it is good that it is stopped. I would notice however that there is a huge difference between pigs and people in God's eyes. In the passage you noted, the demons were in man but God did not cast that man into to the sea. Instead He set him free from the evil that was in him. Indeed the message of that story is the fact that Jesus has authority over evil and can save even those who have been consumed by evil.
05-04-2011 at 2:43 AM
Matt Gotthardt
Kevin , I feel honored to a member of your congregation. I may not agree with you but I am not a this is not a denomination that says that our minister inteprets God's will or meaning in the actions that take place in our lives. I read the gospels and I know what Jesus spoke about in the passages that you quoted. This is the same Lord that directed demons to a herd of hogs and they ran off the side of a cliff into the sea. The evil that possessed this person does not impress me as any different. He ended up in the sea as did the swine. Some people are no different than serpents or animals consumed by rabies and need to be disposed of for the good of civilised society. God bless you and our church as we consider the choice of hiring a youth minister. I breathe easier for the safety of my family now that this evil man is confronting our father in heaven.
05-03-2011 at 9:37 PM
"We rejoice that evil was stopped, but we do not take glee in the death of one made in Godís image. We breathe easier because terror has taken a hit, but we rest in the fact that our God is bigger than terror and that through Him we love even those who try to bring us harm." THANK YOU for verbalizing and explaining what I was feeling. Now I understand.
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