Originally posted May 2, 2011, at Country Preacher’s Corner. Republished with permission of the author.
Editor’s note: For another post with a different perspective on the death of Osama bin Laden, please see Joelle Colville-Hanson’s post: “On celebrating the death of our enemy.”
This morning I logged onto the Internet and found the headlines blaring “Osama bin Laden is dead.”
Below the headline was a picture of a crowd gathered in front of the White House in jubilant celebration waving flags and smiling from ear to ear. Within me, something died a little.
“How could that be?” you might ask.
After all, I am an American citizen. The mastermind behind the attack that killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11 was now brought to justice with a bullet in his head.
The person who caused suffering for thousands of families was now dead, killed by a Navy SEAL bullet.
The person whose cunning drastically altered the landscape of the U.S. when it comes to safety and human rights now lies buried at the bottom of the sea where no shrine can be built up around his grave.
Shouldn’t my heart have given a leap? Shouldn’t my immediate response have been one of rejoicing?
I remember that day those many years ago when the planes flew into the World Trade Center towers. I remember bodies falling from those towers and seeing the towers collapse upon first responders and others who were trying to rescue the wounded and dying.
And I remember scenes from countries around the world of people who hated us. I remember seeing their celebrations.
I remember seeing them waving their flags and grinning ear to ear as the U.S. had been dealt a significant blow. I remember seeing them celebrating our pain. And I didn’t like it. One bit.
Yet, now many Americans are doing the exact same thing. They are rejoicing in death. Even if that death was justified in the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” sense. And I ask, “Are we no better than those who struck us in the first place?”
I ask that in light of my deeply held faith and convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus had a word or two for us who follow Him in regard to the whole eye for an eye thing (see Matthew 5:38-46) and turning the other cheek (Luke 6: 27-32).
Jesus urges his followers to respond differently to those who dole out hatred.
Jesus urges his followers to break out of the vicious cycle of retribution and revenge.
Jesus urges his followers to love our enemies and do good to those who hurt us.
It is neither easy nor popular. It’s much easier to celebrate and become joyful when our enemies get what we feel they deserve.
But that’s not the way of Christ.
“What credit is it to you if you do this?” Jesus asks. “Don’t sinners do the same?” In other words: Don’t sinners love those who love them and hate those who hate them? Don’t sinners practice and eye for an eye or a gift for a gift?
Jesus calls us toward a different kind of life, a different kind of reality. It is a reality where doing good to someone is not based upon what that person has or hasn’t done to or for us. It is a reality where doing good is done for the sake of God. Why?
Because I believe Jesus is trying to teach us a very important lesson. I believe Jesus is trying to get us to step out of our limited perspective and see things from God’s perspective. And what might that be?
Just this: Even our enemies are made in the image of God. God created them too. God loves them too — even if we don’t.
This day, I cannot celebrate the death of bin Laden. It reminds me too much of our fallen condition. It reminds me too much of the cycle of pain and hatred.
Knowing al-Qaida, it’s just a matter of time before they strike again. Then we will go after another “mastermind.” The cycle won’t end.
But I will live in hope. I will pray for my country’s enemies. I will pray for my country. I will pray that the cycle of violence and hatred will cease. It will probably not happen in my lifetime, but I will do what I can in my own, small way to make it stop.
Find a link to Kevin Haug’s blog Country Preacher’s Corner at Lutheran Blogs.