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Osama Bin Laden is Dead, so Should I Be Happy or Not?

May 5, 2011

A friend of mine recently made a comment on Facebook and quoted these verses from Ezekiel.

“Do I take any pleasure or delight in the death of a wicked man? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” – Ezekiel 18:23; “For I take no delight in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord.”- Ezekiel 18:32

He then went on to explain that these verses were in reference to the recent death of Osama Bin Laden, and then added…

I don’t think that as Christians we should delight in the death of any nonbeliever. It is very sad. Here is a man that is now going to spend ETERNITY in Hell. I know there are many people who will think something to the effect of “Well, he deserves it after what he’s done.” They are right. He does deserve it… but so do you.

He makes a very good point here. It is one we should really meditate on.  We are just as guilty in God’s eyes as Osama and just as deserving of hell.  However, does that mean we shouldn’t be glad he is dead?  Does this mean the proper biblical response is to mourn and not rejoice?

There are several reactions that a Christian could take to the news of Bin Laden’s demise. The interesting thing to me about it is that I think many of these responses are completely biblical and appropriate. I do not believe in this situation there is one “right” response.

It is certainly true that God does not want anyone to perish and that, as it says in Ez 18:23, that God does not take “pleasure in the death of the wicked”. These verses can produce in us sorrow and regret that a man died rejecting God. They can remind us that we are called to forgive our enemies and trust them to God’s judgment. This is very valid and biblical.

However, while we should not take pleasure in the fact Osama never repented, we certainly CAN biblically rejoice that justice has prevailed. We can certainly praise God for giving us just a small picture of the judgment and justice He will one day deal out on the whole earth. It is appropriate to rejoice at this. We see the angels and the saints in Rev 16:5-7 praising God for justice, judgment and wrath.

“And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you,  O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.  For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink.  It is what they deserve!” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” ~ Rev 16:5-7

There are countless imprecatory psalms (such as Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139, and 143) where God’s people cry out to God for the death and judgment of their enemies. In Rev 6:9-10 the martyred saints in heaven cry to God asking Him to avenge them.   Proverbs 11:10 says . . .

“When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.” ~ Prov 11:10

The Israelites certainly rejoiced greatly at the destruction of the Egyptian Army in the Red Sea. Their song of praise to God is recorded in Ex 15. It should be noted that they did not pause to ponder what their response should be or first hold a ceremony for the lost Egyptian souls. No, they (rightly) responded in immediate praise to God for their deliverance and His clear judgment. We need to consider whether we are trying to be more just than God, and as a result become unjust.

Paul tells us that God is glorified by both the expression of His wrath (to those destined for destruction) and the extension of His grace (to those vessels appointed for noble purposes). In fact, in Romans 9:22-23 Paul says that God prepared with much effort those who are to be destroyed precisely to make His glory known to those to whom He has extended mercy. So, we are bringing glory to God when we praise Him and rejoice for this. This is part of the plan.

It should be noted that many biblical passages about taking vengeance, forgiving enemies, not rejoicing when an enemy stumbles, etc. are specifically talking about personal vengeance, not divine vengeance. There is a difference. We are to forgive and not take personal action, but this does not mean we are not to rejoice when God does.

This is a complex issue (like many in life) where one emotional response does not capture the whole of the experience. It is certainly possible for God to be both grieved and rejoice at the same time. One example of this is how God can be grieved that some people never trust in Him (the Word says He desires that ALL people would), but at the same time not choose them as His own. Another example is His sorrow and disgust with the crucifixion of Jesus and His rejoicing in the victory of Christ over sin (simultaneously). In fact, the very cross that is the center of our faith is the ultimate example of how in one way something can be so terrible, ugly, and sad while simultaneously being beautiful, wonderful, and amazing! This is the world we live in because of sin. Even the good things are affected by grief.

We need to mediate on experiences like the death of Osama. It certainly will point out what we believe about God. However, in our mediating we should consider that proper responses are complicated things and we trivialize them when we try to argue one over the other.  Many well-meaning Christians recently seem to hold one view or the other and tell other believers that they are wrong.

These are my thoughts on this issue as I have been thinking on it this past week.

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