There was a lot of celebration over the death of Osama Bin Laden recently. I must admit I was also glad to see him go. I imagine the families of those murdered on 9/11 and those who have lost loved ones in subsequent related actions were also glad to have some closure. But there’s an uneasiness that comes to me when there is celebration over the death of a human being. Don’t get me wrong, I am no pacifist. I believe there is such a thing as a just war. But I’ve had a couple of people come to me and express remorse or sadness over Bin Laden’s death. They don’t sympathize at all with this terrorist’s evil works. They just have some unexplained and unexpected sadness with this situation. Why is that? What is the right response to the death of an enemy?
The Bible says of governments, “for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4). The Bible also says the LORD loves justice (Psalm 33:5; 37:28; 99:4; Isaiah 61:8). Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:4). He works to bring justice (Psalm 111:7; 146:7). If God loves justice so should we (Psalm 100:1). God’s justice can have a reviving impact on us (Psalm 119:149). He expects His people to act in just ways (Psalm 119:121). In His word God says, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3). Truly, “It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity” (Prov. 21:15). Bin Laden got justice and there is a solemn joy that should be a part of our response.
But Jesus also said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mat. 5:44; cf. also Luke 6:27-36). Why did Jesus say we should do that? A loving response to our enemies is diametrically opposed to our natural instincts. Jesus said the reason to love our enemies was, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. . .” (Mat. 5:45a). In other words, be different than the unsaved world in your perspective; even toward your enemies. Be a son of your Father in heaven and imitate Him. Be godly.
Jesus went on to explain, “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mat. 5:45-47). We are to be different than the unsaved. As sons of God we must factor God’s love into life’s circumstances. God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who indwells the genuinely saved person (Rom. 5:5). That love is different than the world’s “love.” And we need to show that God-brand of love; in all situations. By doing so we bring glory to God (Mat. 5:13-16).
There is evidence that to gloat and jump for joy when an enemy falls is rotten fruit of the sinful nature. Indeed, how many of us were appalled and enraged by the celebration of America’s enemies in the streets of Middle Eastern cities when they heard of what had happened on 9/11? Some of that celebration for 9/11 is reported to have taken place even on American soil. Disgusting! But really, think about it, how is our gleeful response to Bin Laden’s death any different than that of unbelievers to the death of their enemy? Jesus calls us to be different, to be a disciple and learn from Him.
God, through Ezekiel said, “’For I have no pleasure in the death of the one who dies’ says the LORD . . . . “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’” (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11). In Proverbs it states, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him” (Prov. 24:17-18). A godly response to the death of our enemy is one that doesn’t take pleasure in that death or rejoices over that death, but one which solemnly considers the eternal repercussions for that enemy.
We are duty bound and righteous to support in prayer and when God directs, by personal involvement in God’s justly prescribed avenues (e.g. military; police), to end the reign of those who are evil and unjust in this world. But we are to go about that business with the heart of the LORD. God takes no pleasure in those who through persistent sinful rebellion against Him and His just and true ways, stoke and fuel the fires of hell. Indeed God has a heart for the lost no matter how close to the bottom of the barrel they are. God loves the world (John 3:16). He desires that none perish (2 Pet. 3:9). I’m not advocating a prayer for the devil theology here; I’m simply saying we should prayerfully reflect on a godly response to the fall of our enemies.
God demonstrated His own love toward us in that He sent Jesus to atone for our sin on the cross while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Before we came to God through faith in Christ, we were HIS enemies! (Rom. 8:7; James 4:4). And yet He loved us. He pities and grieves over those who persist in their sin and enter hell. Is this your heart toward your enemy? We are called to, “be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2). We are Ambassadors of Christ and scripture tells us God’s mission for us is to serve as His representatives, “. . . as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). That is our mission, even to our enemies. And that commission is what helps us to have a godly response to the death of our enemies.