Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden’s Death & My Spirit

You’d think it would be so simple.

You’d think that I would be able to look at a simple formula like “Osama bin Laden killed thousands of Americans + Now American forces have killed Osama bin Laden = Justice has been done” and feel good about it.

I don’t feel good.

In saying that I’m not saying that I believe that bin Laden should not have been brought to justice. He caused vast amounts of destruction and death through his terroristic activities and it is hard if not impossible to argue that he got other than what he deserved.

If a family member or a friend of mine had been killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 I imagine that I would feel a very justifiable sense of relief or satisfaction over the death of bin Laden even as I would wrestle with the realization that no amount of retribution can bring back my loved one.

For the sake of the families that were devastated by bin Laden’s attacks I am grateful that justice has been done.

For the sake of our country that was so viciously attacked by bin Laden’s minions I am grateful that justice has been done.

As a Christian who tries with God’s help to take seriously not only the witness and words of Jesus Christ but also the very life of Christ that I believe lives in me, I want in my own life to resist and to combat evil in the way of Jesus, a way that he most clearly taught in the Sermon on the Mount and that he most clearly lived out in his death on the cross.

“Offer them the other cheek,” he said.

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.

That is the way of Jesus. That is the way of the kingdom of heaven. That is the way of the Church. Or at least it is supposed to be.

But it is is not the way of the geo-political reality with which nation states deal; it is naïve and impractical to expect a nation, be it the United States or any other nation, to accept a blow like the one received on 9/11 without striking back. Perhaps we could expect a nation to respond in such a radically gracious way if a nation could actually be “Christian” but, as I have written elsewhere, I do not believe that is possible.

It is a great mystery to me how Almighty God set in motion the ultimate and for all time defeat of all evil and sin through the death of God’s Son on the cross—through the ultimate act of passive resistance—but how the only effective response to evil on the international stage seems to be to respond to violence with violence, to pain with pain, and to death with death—but that appears to be a mystery with which I will just have to live.

It is nonetheless one of the reasons that I don’t feel good even though I know that justice has been done.

America has done what America had to do; I have no doubts about that. My uneasiness comes from my realization of—even my acceptance of—the way the world is and of the way that nations must behave if they are to survive in this world.

I don’t want to rest in such a realization or in such an acceptance, though; I want to pray toward, to love toward, to work toward and to vote toward a world in which retaliatory responses become less and less necessary because the kinds of actions that produce such responses are less and less carried out which means also that I want to pray toward, to love toward, to work toward and to vote toward a world in which we become more and more willing to talk about and to try to do something about the very real problems, differences, and injustices that come between us even as we become more and more willing to accept and to build on the common humanity that binds us.

My uneasiness is compounded considerably by my awareness of the ease with which I could—and all too often do— fall into an acceptance of the ways of the world in my own life and of the intense effort I continually have to make to keep myself from accepting such ways as normative for me in the ways that I deal with those who hurt me for their sake or in the ways that I am willing to hurt others for my sake.

Again, America has done what America had to do. We owe a great debt of thanks to those who work day in and day out to protect us and particularly to those who carried out this act of justice.

But please God, help me; please help me lest I forget that in my life I, who am a follower of Jesus Christ, must think more highly of others than I do myself, that I must seek to serve rather than to be served, that I must care about trying to help the poor more than I care about building wealth, that I must be more interested in being loving than in being right, that I must turn the other cheek rather than retaliate, and that I must love and pray for my enemies.

I do not think that my gratefulness for justice being done to the mass murderer Osama bin Laden is misplaced.

I am also grateful, though, for the warning bell that I hear clanging very loudly in my spirit.


Rachel said...


Dr. James Willingham said...

Your agony over the situation with reference to the socio-political realities of international strife and ben Laden in particular strikes a chord in the heart of all who are concerned about how to deal with the evil of this world and the evil of our own hearts. Surely, the answer lies somewhere in the verses urged by Jonathan Edwards in his Humble Attempt which motivated Carey and Rice and Judson and others to pray and then to give themselves to the launching of what Latourette called the Great Century of Missions. There is the possibility of such a heavenly influence coming down as was experienced by Wesley and Whitefield and some of their adherents one night. That Presence was so great that they could not rise from the floor for at least three hours. Could it be possible that the pleading of those promises could lead to a like heavenly descent upon the earth which might divert men from the depravity of their own hearts by a transformation of them into a concern like yours? For 38 years I have been pleading for such a visitation. Whether it is possible lies with the One with whom all things are possible.

Bob Walker said...

Thanks for these words today Mike. I've been having the same struggle. Thankful but not jubilant.

GMarie said...

I am glad somebody else is not jubilant over Osama Bin Laden's death. I too have an uneasiness ab
out this in my spirit.
G.Marie Bryant