Monday, May 02, 2011

Christians Should Not "Celebrate" the Death of Osama Bin Laden

The joyous celebrations that have broken out among Americans over the death of Osama Bin Laden are understandable, but also regrettable. Granted, there are differences between the celebrations of Muslims on September 11, 2001 and the spontaneous expressions of joy that broke out among Americans late in the evening of May 1, 2011, but there are far too many similarities to be ignored by Christians.

Below are five reasons why any expressions of joy over the death of Osama Bin Ladin ought to be muted:

(1). God Himself takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

God says "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 18:32). It would seem that the Judge of all men, the one who passes judgment upon individual sinners, is the One from whom we should receive our example of conduct when a sinner dies. Rather than dancing and chanting "USA," we possibly ought to take a moment of silence and solemnly reflect on the awful condemnation Osama Bin Ladin is receiving from a holy and righteous God for his rebellion against God's laws and his murderous actions on earth. If the judge is not celebrating the punishment He is meting out, we who love the Judge ought not either.

(2). What should be applauded is the redemption of the sinner, not the sinner's death.

Osama's death rings the bell that marks the passing of our own lives, for the "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Anytime we hear of the death of a fellow human, it should remind each of us that we are nearer our own death. The prospects of giving an account of our lives on earth to the One who created us should cause fear in each of us; a fear that drives us to the Deliverer. Those, however, who have mocked the Son in this life should be pitied, not celebrated. It is the unredeemed sinner that gives an account of his actions to God for judgment purposes--an accounting that is necessary, but not celebrated. God's judgment is like the cutting of a surgeon's scalpel before the surgeon heals; nobody is ever seen clapping the scalpel's work, but the cut is necessary for the healing. Only the healing is applauded.

So too, the wicked and their judgment are necessary, but not celebrated. The wicked and their judgment are only part of God's plan for the gathering of His redeemed. We don't clap at the judgment of the wicked, only the redemption of the sinner.

Nature also teaches us that we ought not clap at death and judgment. Herman Hoeksema point out: "When a farmer sows seed in his field, he sows much more than he needs. When the seed falls into the earth and dies, there appear not only the kernels of wheat, for which the seed was planted, but also the stem, the straw, and even the chaff. Without the stem and the chaff the grain could never have germinated and ripened. The stem and the chaff serve the grain, the seed. Yet both will presently be burned by fire in order that the grain may be gathered into the barn. Here also we find election and reprobation, and in such a way that the latter serves the former, and is necessary to it." I would add, necessary, but not celebrated.

(3). Vengeance on earth for the crimes of the wicked is foreign to Christianity.

The book of Romans tells us that "government bears the sword of vengeance," (Romans 13:4) but not individual Christians. In other words, on this earth there will always be a separation of God's kingdom from human kingdoms. The Christian is personally told by God that "It is mine to avenge, I will repay," (Romans 12:19) and that we are to forgive and love our enemies. However, when a Christian finds himself by God's ordination in a position of civic or governmental power (i.e. President, judge, congressman, etc...), there are decisions that must be made for the sake of justice on earth that the individual Christian would never make outside of his position of earthly power. God ordains governmental leaders as "His ministers" to bring about justice on earth through vengeance, but no individual Christian is called upon to exercise such revenge.

But some might object by quoting "...when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness" (Proverbs 11:10). This verse is a statement of fact, not a commandment. God's commandment to His people comes from the same book: ""Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble" (Proverbs 24:17)

The United States government and military can, and should, avenge the death of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001 for the sake of justice on earth. However, any celebration by individual Christians over Osama Bin Laden's death should be muted -- silent satisfaction rather than joyous jubilation.

(4). When we celebrate the death of Osama, we look much to similar to the Muslims who celebrated 9/11.

I know there are differences. Too many to articulate here, but my point is how we look to the Muslims. When we dance in the streets at the death of their hero, we look to them like they looked to us when they danced in the streets on 9/11. The death of Osama Bin Laden was necessary; the celebrations are not. This fourth reason for muted celebrations is only pragmatic, and I have found that many Americans, and sadly even Christians, are more moved by the pragmatic than the theological or philosophical reasons for right behavior. So be it. Don't dance at the death of Osama because you inflame the hearts of Muslims.

(5). The only death that ever should be celebrated is the death of Jesus Christ.

Why celebrate His death? Because in the death of Jesus the Anointed One there is power over death. In short, there is the death of death in the death of Christ. Jesus conquered death, taking upon Himself the punishment of the Creator for sins, rising from the dead, and delivering all those sinners who will trust Him. If you wish to celebrate someone's death, celebrate His death and resurrection, for in it, you will find the righteous and holy punishment of God for your sins satiated.

Someone might object and say, "But the world is safer because Osama is dead!" Yes, it is. But the principles above override any thought of future personal safety, for the truth of the matter is, you are not even guaranteed your next breath. Personal safety on earth is a far inferior motivation for celebration than the understanding of God's infinite and holy justice that should bring a muted and solemn silence from Christians upon hearing of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson