Jesus and Osama Bin Laden

This is a sad day.  Not a day for rejoicing.  Sad because a child of God will have no further opportunities to come to know the love of Christ.

Even more, it is a sad day because the response of Christians to the death of Osama Bin Laden is again sadly mischaracterising God and thus repelling people from Christ and Christianity.

Here is a sample of statements from Christian leaders and other vocal Christians that I found in just 2 minutes of looking:

  • “We are praising Jesus that he guided the men and women who took out this horrible man.”
  • “Celebrate Justice.”
  • “The cheering crowds remind us that justice is glorious & comes ultimately through Jesus cross or hell. Justice wins.”
  • “The Government’s Sword as an Instrument of God’s Wrath.”
  • “America wins! FATALITY!”
  • “He gets exactly what he deserves, i.e. eternal death in hell forever. That is the truth taught in the Bible.
  • “How is the heat, Osama!?”

Contrast those statements with Jesus.  Jesus was confronted by a man whom Satan had entered (Luke 22:3).  A man more wicked than Bin Laden.  A man who was plotting against the Son of God, himself, to hand him over to his murderers.

How did Jesus act toward this man?

Did he “guide men and women to ‘take him out’?”  Did he torture him in fire and then cheer and call it justice?  Did Jesus turn to the secular, worldly, human governments to do his killing for him and then emit a patriotic outburst of how his tribe had beaten down his tribe’s opponents?  Did he say that this man would be tortured in hell for eternity and call it “justice”?

No.  Those attitudes represent the character of Satan, not that of Jesus.  Jesus, when he was given all power (John 13:3), did nothing of the sort.  How does Jesus exercise power, according to John 13?  Jesus demonstrated an attitude of perfect love and servitude by washing the feet of the man into whom Satan had entered and who was arguably the greatest sinner in human history.

This is how Jesus uses power.  Washing the feet of his enemies.  This is how he executes justice.  This is his method for making things right.

Jesus makes things right (biblical “justice” = to make things right) by inaugurating a kingdom on different principles than the kingdoms of this world.  Jesus’ kingdom is founded on the principle of others-centered love.  And it’s our privilege to take part in this kingdom and extend its influence.

But we have to first ask what kinds of principles govern our minds.  Do we really wish good upon our enemies?  Do we violate the biblical principle articulated in Proverbs 24:17, which says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls”?

A friend shared the following insight on his Facebook page: “I am troubled by the euphoria and wild jubilation over this announcement. God is not fist-pumping or chanting “USA! USA!” tonight. Rather, something like this: “I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

Are we portraying for the world a picture of God that really is love?  One could forgive outside observers for concluding something different today.  Until we’re most prominently known for loving our enemies like Jesus does, we’ve got some work to do as a church.

About Scott

God has given me a glimpse into his character of love, and it has changed me. My deep desire for every person is that they see Him as he truly is, forsake destructive habits of thought and living, and become a disciple of Jesus.
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13 Responses to Jesus and Osama Bin Laden

  1. Andrew says:

    Hey MR. Ritsema! Miss you.
    Sooo question: Was it unrighteous and wrong to praise the death of Hitler on the day he died?

  2. Scott says:

    Miss you too, buddy. What do you think? Is praising somebody’s death the loving thing to do?

  3. So was Mirriam wrong to dance and celebrate when Phaorah drowned in the Red Sea? Sure God would rather us turn from our evil ways and live, but if not and we keep torturing God’s children…..

    • Keith says:

      Had I been alive when Hitler took his own life, yes I would have rejoiced. Not at his death in and of itself, but at the consequences of his death: The opportunity for countless more to live.

      Scott, your logic stands up in principle. But it is difficult to reconcile in a complex world where an action does not stand by itself. In the Hitler example, you might say that you rejoiced in the saved lives and mourned Hitler’s lost opportunity at redemption. However, you can’t have it both ways because the two events are directly related. What if you HAD TO choose Hitler living and continuing to destroy or Hitler dying and there being an end to the destruction (assuming you are trying to base your decisions on a WWJD way of living your life)?

      If you hold the principle that evil acts cannot be used to prevent or put an end to ongoing evil, does that principle change if it is your loved ones who would be sacrificed? It shouldn’t by this logic, b/c your loved ones are no different than someone else’s loved ones in God’s eyes.

      In my view it comes down to the attitude of the one rejoicing at an act of evil. Is it out of a desire for revenge (wrong)? Or is it rejoicing the end of greater suffering and death (acceptable)? To me, the Hitler example is cut and dry……Osama is a far more plausible debate.

  4. Scott says:

    Good question! I won’t condemn her. Different time, different circumstances, different historical context, different amount and quality of light of truth about God. I see Jesus weeping over the oppressors who were “sons of hell” and about to kill him, so I think Jesus should be our model when in doubt, not Miriam, and we should weep over the destruction of our enemies. What do you think? I do think that an entire enslaved and oppressed nation being freed from bondage is different than Osama being killed; I’d say the American Empire inflicts more oppression than it receives, so this is quite different.

  5. Mark says:

    Scott, ask Brad about all the flack we got for that poster of Jesus washing the feet of a group that included Osama. A lot of Christians are seemingly very uncomfortable with the reality of how Jesus treated people. Maybe it would mean that we, as his followers, are called to do the same? Not easy stuff to hear!

  6. Scott says:

    Keith, I like what you said about how it comes down to the motive. God reads the heart. I find it acceptable for somebody to be relieved that positive (or rather fewer negative) consequences will result after the death of Hitler.

    The moral dilemma you raise is a valid one. Should we adopt methods that Christ opposed in word and deed in order to prevent a greater evil? Does the end justify the means? Tough questions.

    Mark, you guys had serious guts to put those posters up. The Good News Tour was amazing. One of the high points in the history of the Church. Seriously. It lives on!!

  7. Scott says:

    I should add that the Bible doesn’t prohibit, but rather permits (Rom 13), human governments to adopt un-Christ-like methods to keep some semblance of order in this fallen age. So I don’t mean to say that governments should love and serve each other; it’s the Christian church that is called to practice those methods exclusively. To ask a government to wash the feet of enemies and criminals would be against the very nature of a government, which exists as an entity of coercive force to punish the wrong-doer. Government is force, after all. Anyway…just to clarify that I’m not asking governments to let a dangerous person like Hitler or Charles Manson carry out oppression. But, I think, as Christians we’re called to take part in a different kingdom than the human governments of this world. Authority and worldly power are of the “gentiles” not the followers of Jesus. Matthew 20:25-28… “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”

    • Don says:

      Hi Scott,

      But our govt is of the people and for the people, we as the church can’t sit on the sidelines and love everybody and expect the govt to do all the necessary dirty work.

  8. Scott says:

    I respect that view, but “our” government, as Christians, is not of this world. Our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20). Our government doesn’t reside in Washington D.C. In my view, the government in Washington does not reflect our values, and is not of, by or for us at all. I appreciate and respect them to the extent that they protect life, liberty and property and remain within the sphere God has assigned them. Yes, government is a necessary evil in this fallen age, but I don’t personally feel called to practice an evil even if good may result. In Romans 3:8 Paul strongly opposes the idea of “Let us do evil that good may result”? Refusing to pick up the sword of government coercion while insisting on spreading the gospel of the Kingdom of which we take part is not “sitting on the sidelines,” but rather, obeying the Great Commission. I don’t see anywhere in the New Testament that Christians should try to become the government in order to do the dirty, messy work of using violence to restrain evil. Violence isn’t in our tool bag. “Not so with you,” Jesus commanded about us in contrast with how the rulers of this world operate (Matthew 20:25-28).

  9. Rob says:

    I also just wanted to add this insight, recently gleaned from re-reading David Flusser’s seminal work, “The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius.” The one main teaching that set Jesus apart from other Jewish sages was his teaching of “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” This set Jesus apart from other sages, who had held to the teaching in Leviticus 19:18 to love your neighbor. Jesus was the first to take this command further and teach “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Flusser also makes the case that this teaching was so identified with Jesus’ identity that he is the only person in the New Testament who teaches this.

  10. rachel says:

    Hi Scott! Really enjoyed your seminars at Michigan Campmeeting!
    However, here is my simpe question on this topic: What about “eye for eye” in the Bible?

  11. Scott says:

    38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel. Good to hear from you. I wonder what Jesus would say if we asked Him why He ever commanded “eye for an eye” if his ideal and goal all along was to progress beyond this. Maybe it’s similar to God commanding Israel how to divorce their wives. Regarding this concession, which was short of God’s ideal. Matthew 19: 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
    4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning…”

    God had to command eye for an eye because of human sin, because our hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. Let’s move toward the ideal.

    Another angle at this is that even though eye for an eye seems so barbaric, it was astoundingly progressive for the times the law was written. In ancient cultures the death penalty was issued for everything. So to just lose an eye instead of your life was quite humane at the time.

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