There has been considerable reflection on the death of Osama Bin Laden and the impromptu celebrations that broke out in parts of America. NPR asked the question, Is it wrong to celebrate Bin Laden’s death. I have my own two-part response.
My first response revolves around the issue of justice. When evil has done harm to people, as a culture we seek justice. We punish those who have caused the harm with the hope of redeeming the loss. When a hit-and-run driver leaves the scene of an accident, we feel it is just to find the driver and have that driver pay for any/all damages. If there is a loss of life, the driver receives a punishment of prison and/or probation based on his or her responsibility for the crime. Cain was punished for the murder of his brother, Able, in Genesis 4. Punishment is a means for restricting further violence and sin. Lutherans call this the first use of God’s law, to curb our violent and selfish ways.
Bin Laden claimed responsibility for the tragedy of 9/11. We had a moral right to seek justice with him regarding this crime. I trust the statements that the SEAL strike team was seeking first to capture Bin Laden, but had to execute him as a combatant. I see partial justice in his death and I hope his death will stop further acts of violence. But we have no guarantee of that.
Now comes the second response regarding the celebration of his death. God created all human being with purpose and meaning. God loves all human beings, even when they turn away from God’s purposes and ways. God’s law shows us our sinful nature and our need for a savior. Lutherans describe this as the second use of the law: our profound need for Jesus’ mercy and grace. So what I celebrate today is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Roman Catholic Church responded to the news of bin Laden’s death with this statement: “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”
That is my prayer today. That peace and justice might reign, not more death and destruction.
Lord, have mercy.