Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Christian's View of Osama's Death - Part 2 (Thankful)

As our dinner conversation continued I interjected, "As much as I'm sad that he was not a Christian before his death, I'm also thankful upon hearing this news".

"Why thankful Dad?"

I'm thankful because the Bible teaches that God has put governments and earthly powers in place to restrain evil and even punish evil, at least in an 'earth-bound' sense. God even uses governments and leaders who do not believe in him and do not submit to his law or believe his gospel.

Osama bin Laden was a man who ordered the murder of thousands of people. I believe it was right to order that he be hunted down and stopped. That is the role of the state, as fallible and imperfect as it is.

But I don't think that my thankfulness should turn to jubilation or celebration. That implies vengeance and that is not something that Christians are to take on (Rom 12:19). As thankful as I am for this event, the scenes of partying, flag waving, and raucous singing of songs like "We Are the Champions" seems grossly inappropriate for Christians because even God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 18:23).

These two feelings, sadness and thankfulness, remind me of the two Kingdoms of which I'm a part. First I'm a part of the heavenly Kingdom because of faith in Christ. My citizenship is ultimately in heaven. This is my most important citizenship (Phil 3:20) and my desire to see all men come to a saving knowledge of Jesus is the sentiment that brings sadness at Osama's death.

But I'm also a citizen of an earthly Kingdom; the United States. And I'm commanded by God to obey the authorities over me in this Kingdom as well, in as much as they don't force me to disobey God. So I'm glad when the government restrains and punishes evil as God has intended it to do. (Incidentally, I'm also a resident of the United Arab Emirates and I see it as my duty before God to obey their laws and be subject to their government as well, in as much as they don't command me to refrain from doing something that God has commanded me to do).

The goal of the people in the first Kingdom, local churches, is to spread the knowledge of God and his Gospel (see Matt 28 again). And a major goal of the second Kingdom, the State, is to uphold earthly justice, restrain and punish evil (1 Peter 2:14). It's the proper role of militaries to defend, protect, and restrain evil but the role of the church in the world is take the Gospel to the nations.

And so you and I live with a cross section of responsibilities and citizenships, both "in the world but not of the world". That's how I can be both sad and thankful for Osama's death.

Note: Some of you have commented on what it means to "love your neigbor" if your neighbor was Osama bin Laden. I would hope you would share the gospel with him (if possible). Or at least wouldn't you want the gospel shared with any jihadist? One popular account these days is of the conversion of son of a Hamas leader. What if no one had shared the gospel with him? And I would hope too that you would pray that any murderer would be caught and punished for his actions. Loving people doesn't mean we let them do whatever they want to do, but it doesn't include withholding the message of hope from them either.

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