Monday, May 2, 2011

A Murderer and a Blasphemer

I was very tired Sunday evening and went to bed early. I must have needed it because I fell asleep right away, even over the distant sound of the television my wife was watching in the next room. At around 11:00 pm. I was suddenly awakened by my wife’s excited voice:

“Osama bin Laden is dead. The Navy Seals captured him in Pakistan”

“Okay, cool," I muttered. "Will he still be dead in the morning?”

Yes, I admit. It was flippant. But I was sleepy.

With a good night’s sleep behind me and a clearer head, my attitude is a little more serious. However, it is altogether different from the reaction of the general public. You will not catch me jumping for jubilation, dancing in the street and chanting, “USA! USA!”or rejoicing that the sword of retribution has finally fallen.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that bin Laden has been brought to justice. My heartfelt gratitude and congratulations go to everyone involved in making this operation a success: from the president and his advisors to our intelligence personnel and armed forces, and especially the heroic Navy Seals who skillfully and bravely executed their mission perfectly.

But my feelings about bin Laden do not in any way resemble jubilation that he got what was coming to him. If I wanted to feel vengeful, I would have not wished him the death delivered to him by the Navy Seals. That might make him a hero or martyr in the twisted minds of some of his followers.  It would have been much better had he died an ignoble, quiet death, like that which was visited on King Jehoram, a wicked Old Testament King:

In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain … He passed away, to no one’s regret.  (2 Chronicles 21:19-20)
Though bin Laden’s actions deserved death, I am not rejoicing. I am actually sad, even though it was right and just that he die. Now death is the least of bin Laden’s problems. Assuming he actually believed the twisted Islamic theology he espoused while alive, in death he will not be enjoying the rivers of wine and the 72 virgins he was expecting, but rather the unspeakable horrors of falling into the hands of God’s justice.

Do you think it is a good thing that bin Laden is now receiving divine justice? After all, he was a mass murderer and worse than that, he was blaspheming God by murdering in His name. Be careful here. I know of another murderer and blasphemer who ended up with a completely different fate:

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 1:13)

Saul of Tarsus was a violent persecutor of Christians and was responsible for many of their deaths at the dawn of the church. What’s more, he was doing it all in the name of God. Does the comparison with bin Laden offend you? It would not have offended Saul, who called himself the "chief of sinners".  I see only three differences between the two men:

  1. Bin Laden had the advantages of modern technology that enabled him to kill more effectively and on a mass scale.
  2. Saul had an encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, causing him to repent of his sins and dedicate his life to Jesus.
  3. Though only God knows for sure, all indications are that bin Laden died in his sins. His last action while alive, using one of his many wives as a human shield, does not give much hope that he even took a second to consider his ways and ask for God’s mercy.
Do you think that Saul of Tarsus was more deserving of God’s grace than Osama bin Laden? If your answer is yes, then you don’t understand God’s grace, because the words “deserving” and “grace” are mutually exclusive. Neither Saul of Tarsus nor Osama bin Laden nor you or I are deserving of God’s grace. God extends grace freely to whom He chooses, not based on whether we deserve it, but based on His own will and purpose. He extended His grace to Saul of Tarsus and (I am persuaded) to me as well, but apparently not to Osama bin Laden. And that is why Osama bin Laden’s death makes me sad. On the other hand, I am unspeakably grateful to God for His mercy on me.


John Paradiso said...

My 10-year-old son looked very thoughtful when he told me, smiling, that Bin Laden's dead. He looked thoughtful and more than a little serious when I told him it was necessary, but no good came from this. I'll be explaining to him that God "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Mat 5:45) and reminding him that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" and that includes bad guys. But a quote from Ghandi came to mind first and I explained a little of it to him: "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary. The evil it does is permanent" I may have that on my mind because there are times I don't object to violence - I've been violent, hunted bad guys, herded them to their death. I used to say the best way to neutralize an enemy is to make him your friend; but I learned in the Gulf of Sidre that sometimes you have to bomb his city or hose him with automatic weapons fire. I still see there are times when leaders must employ violence to keep the majority of their people safe, but it's the saddest option, and no cause for jubilation, like you said Crab Man.

JD Curtis said...

It's a good question Leo and I don't know the answer.

I only wished they had encased him in a coffin stuffed with pig entrails and blood.

THAT would have been the cherry on the sundae.