There are no right or wrong feelings about his death, as it seems we have several competing ideas and virtues in light of his death. As Americans, we recognize our country’s right to seek to eliminate those who threaten us. One of the chief functions of civil governments is the protection of its people and its way of life. Certainly, through both word and deed, bin Laden demonstrated that he was willing to destroy lives and our way of life to achieve his own goals and objectives. Most of his public pronouncement included threats of destruction, and he certainly had resources, both financial and followers, to be a credible threat. For that, he earned, I believe rightfully so, the right to be considered a public enemy of the United States of America.
Of course, you and I are also Christians, which means we are only sojourners in this land. This land, the United States, is not the heavenly kingdom promised us by our Father. True, it is infinitely preferred to some places in the world; nevertheless, it, too, pales by comparison with what is being prepared for us. As Christians, you and are all called to proclaim our Lord’s love and His offer of forgiveness and salvation. Thus, gloating over the death of a man such as bin Laden might, rightfully, make us feel uncomfortable. It ought to make us squirm. After all, before our acceptance of His offer, before our baptism in the water and Holy Spirit, you and I were God’s enemies. As His enemies, we were right to expect such an ending. And so, impelled by joyous thanksgiving, we reach out to the hungry, the beaten, the enslaved, the forgotten and remind them of that same offer, hopeful that each one that we meet will make the same wise decision to follow where He leads.
Plus, you and I are told to set our minds on godly things. What if bin Laden or his close friends had repented and turned to the Lord and come down out of the mountains to accept their punishment by secular authorities? Can you imagine the glory and honor to God? It is for that reason that we, as a community, always pray the prayer for our enemies. We know the world would take notice, were the leaders of Al-Queda, North Korea, and Iran to repent publicly and turn to Christ. We also know that our eternal futures, and the futures of all those around us, depend upon our and their answer to His gentle “follow Me.” His followers get an amazing reward; those who refuse Him get anything but. And, having been shaped by the Holy Spirit, we know that God laments the loss of even one of our fellow human beings. The price of their salvation has already been paid, and still so many reject Him. So, in a way, we also feel some sadness and guilt when we see those who have rejected Him perish.
I say guilt over the deaths of someone like bin Laden because of several conversations these first few hours after his reported death. It is easy for us to see someone such as him as an enemy of God and deserving of death. After all, he has killed or inspired others to kill thousands of human beings. And certainly, some of our spiritual forefathers and foremothers inspired some of that hatred in their treatment of his own ancestors. We know those actions to be wrong, with certainty, just as we can easily identify others whom we would classify as evil. But what of those in our midst who do not seem so evil? What of those in our own families, our places of work or relaxation, our neighborhoods, our favorite hang-outs who “don’t have time for God and that religious stuff,” as some have put it? What of those whom we know who reject His call to “follow Me,” but try their best not to harm others, you know, “just in case that stuff is true?” Are we willing to let them stand before the same God as bin Laden without His body and His blood interposed against His wrath? Are willing to say, “I told them once or twice; it’s their problem now”? Are we that willing to give up so easily on those whom we profess to know and to love in our midst? Or, should we not be impelled with all the more urgency to remind them and ourselves that our choices in this life have consequences, eternal consequences when it comes to accepting or rejecting His offer?