Celebrate or Mourn over Bin Laden?

So, what was your reaction when the news broke that Bin Laden had been killed.

If I’m honest, mine was pretty flat. I was amused that it broke in on Trumps show. I was (am) incredibly cynical when I hear people talk about the end of the war on terror and a new age. I scoffed when reporters spoke of this as ‘the biggest news story since 9/11’. Really. I didn’t think too much about how I should react – till this morning at least (this post was started on 5/2).

My Google Reader was filled with thoughts about Bin Ladens death, my Facebook page was equally loaded with peoples comments – some expressing jubilation, others chastising those who would rejoice in the death of a man, evil though he was. How should we respond?

By rejecting either-or ways of thinking (or feeling).

I am confident we should be both rejoicing and mourning. As many have pointed out, God himself does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. God, through the prophet Ezekiel asks, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23).

Likewise, Peter reminds us “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So, God does not delight in the death of the wicked…Or does he? I am entirely convinced that nothing happens apart from God’s sovereignty. The casting of the lot, the flashing of lightning, the growing of the grass, the feeding of young animals, the affairs of nations, the decisions of a king, and all aspects of our life are in God’s sovereign control. Nothing happens apart from God’s will – not even the death of his Son, a heinously wicked act. Moreover, the psalmist declares that God does what pleases him. Psalm 115:3 – “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Psalm 135:6 – “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”

So, did the death of Bin Laden please God? Should it please us? Or is God grieved? Should we grieve? Yes, and yes. Yes and yes. God does delight in justice. He does not want the wicked to go unpunished. In fact, He commands that judgment be executed and the wicked punished (see Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:16; Deut. 25:2; Ezra 7:25-26; Prov. 17:15). God himself executes justice (Ps. 9:16, and many more), and God does place the responsibility of executing judgment into the hands of men to whom he has granted this authority (Jer. 21:12; Ezra 7:26; Rom. 13:1-4). Moreover, we are given examples of rejoicing when God executes judgment (Deut. 32:39-43; Ps. 58:10-11; Rev. 18:20; Rev 19:1-5). [Sidebar: I am in no way meaning to say that enemies of the US are God’s enemies. We are not God’s chosen nation, not even a Christian nation. The point is, God executes judgment against evil and God’s people do celebrate that]. 

Let me say it bluntly. It is good Bin Laden has been killed. Justice has been served by those whom are charged with executing it – not private individuals but agents of the government in whom God has placed the sword to execute judgment. We should celebrate that justice long delayed has finally been meted out. We should celebrate, and grieve. I have seen many comparisons between celebrations here in the US after the news of Bin Laden’s death and celebrations in other parts of the world when the Twin Towers fell. Stop it. It is an awful comparison.

Those who celebrated the death of the more than 3000 on 9/11 were celebrating the death of noncombatant men, women and children. Those who celebrate the death of Bin Laden celebrate justice being served in the death of an wicked man who murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children. I honestly wish there was more sobriety in our celebrations, more gravitas, but I won’t begrudge those who take a deep sigh of relief and let out a whoop. I know this post is weighted towards the ‘rejoice’ side over against the ‘weep’ side. I want us to feel both profoundly, but the buzz I have been reading from Christians seemed to almost wholly neglect this side of it. So, in typical fashion, I’m sure I’ve over-corrected.