Disclosure: I do not personally know anyone who died during the September 11 attacks and if I did, I might have different emotions flowing through me, even as I write this.
There has been an onslaught of online chit-chat concerning the death of America’s Public Enemy #1, Osama bin Laden. On Monday night, I received an email from a concerned/bewildered youth (a 12th grade male). He wrote me:
today alot of ppl at school were cheering Osama bin Laden’s death. Some carrying american flags, some yelling “Go America”, and today’s pledge of allegiance was much more spirited and enthusiastic. How should christians react to Osama bin Laden’s death?
To be certain, not all Americans are celebrating. Professional athletes have chimed in with their 2 cents. People have even misquoted Martin Luther King Jr.!! But how should Christians respond to this significant event? Many, many Christians have tweeted or shared Ezekiel 33:11, seeking to temper or in some cases outright condemn the celebrations that took place after the news was announced.
To assist me in my own understanding of the situation, especially as a follower of Christ, I have turned to the ancients for wisdom. In particular, I have gained some encouragement from the writings of St. Augustine (c. 354-430 A.D.) one of the truly great Christian thinkers of antiquity. St. Augustine was one of the most prolific writers in Christian history. I am currently reading one of his lesser-known works, Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love. This relatively short book (by Augustinian standards) is essentially a handbook outlining the basics of the Christian faith. On the distinction between Faith and Hope, Augustine writes:
Again, can anything be hoped for which is
not an object of faith? It is true that a thing
which is not an object of hope may be believed.
What true Christian, for example, does not believe
in the punishment of the wicked? And yet
such an one does not hope for it.
Did you catch his reasoning? Just because we believe something to be true – God’s righteous judgment upon the wicked – does not mean we should necessarily hope for it. To a certain extent, I believe this ancient wisdom speaks into our current situation; namely, how do we respond to the death of such an evil man? We believe in the judgment of the wicked. We believe that God’s Justice will prevail.
But we do not operate out of justice. Justice (and judgment) belong to the Lord. We, however, are motivated by love and it is God’s love that compels us to go out into a hostile world to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Does the death of one man make a difference? YES!
Christ followers understand that the killing of one evil man (Stalin, Hitler, bin Laden) will not wipe out the problem of evil in this world; instead, the death of the One Righteous and Perfect Man, Jesus of Nazareth, has wiped out evil once and for all. His was the sufficient Sacrifice and Propitiation (the act that quenched God’s wrath against sin).
One last source of inspiration/hope:
I also draw much encouragement from hymns. Take note of verse 3 of This is My Father’s World:
This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
Have a blessed day, all!