Osama Bin Laden’s Death, Americans’ Exultation, and Retribution: A Christian’s Response

Today we feature a “guest post” on our blog. It was written by my brother Adam, and the words are much-needed. The photo which provoked the following comments was one of the myriad cartoons that have been drawn depicting Osama Bin Laden entering Hell.

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I think there’s something off if we as people who have by grace been rescued from hell are excited that someone else, created in the Image of God, isn’t.  I’m not saying I’m some pious saint sitting here who naturally feels compassion and grace towards really difficult people.  I certainly had a feeling of relief to hear that Osama was killed, as it brought a certain sense of closure.  But something didn’t quite feel right about it all.  I had trouble expressing jubilation at his death, as it just felt odd to jump up and down and high-five the literal death of a real human, the same as I would if I eliminated the last enemy on a video game.  It just felt weird, because a man was shot in the face and there was an urge to laugh.  It felt quite macabre, actually.

And so this isn’t my commentary on American culture or some ivory-tower judgment, but rather just my personal experience through this whole thing.  I believe that when the Bible says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God,” that it makes it clear: there was One righteous Person, and everyone else is unrighteous.  It doesn’t categorize the unrighteous and rank them according to atrocity of sins, but it simply says that we all who are not Christ are simply unrighteous, and He died in order to bring us to God.  Some of us receive that and others don’t, but we’re no better for it, and no less deserving of their fate, for it was once ours, and we were rescued from it by Grace alone, not because there’s a single drop of righteousness in our blood.  So to rejoice that someone is left out of that, and met their end, and revel in the finality of their condemnation, feels like a mockery of the grace and compassion of Jesus, who gave Himself up for all of us.  Jesus gave Himself up for Osama bin Laden.  Jesus wanted bin Laden to repent and come to Him.  Jesus mourns over the death and condemnation of bin Laden the same way He mourned over Jerusalem before His death, and it grieves Him that Osama never allowed Him to come in and “gather him under His wings as a hen does her chicks.”  I want the things that grieve Jesus to grieve me as well, even if they don’t come naturally and even if they seem counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  My goal is not to be counter-cultural, but to simply follow Jesus, and then just observe whether or not that lines up with the culture around me.  I don’t condemn the people who are glad that Osama is dead and hope that he rots in hell for eternity.  I don’t blame them for feeling that way, because to the natural man vengeance feels right.  It feels like it will bring peace.  But we know more.  We know better.  We know that only grace and faith bring peace, and that God is is reaching out to every man and woman, beckoning them come and receive that grace by faith.

So in conclusion, allow me to say that I think, as President, Obama made the right decision.  He has an obligation to do really difficult things that we who are not in power don’t have to do.  I think that, given the circumstances of our country and the continued state of war we’ve been in for nearly 10 years now, he had no other choice.  But to say that a right decision is always worthy of ecstasy and celebration is a little misguided, I think.  I don’t rejoice when people go to jail, even if it’s the best thing for them and for society.  It’s still a tragedy that someone’s freedom is being stripped from them.  It doesn’t make it an injustice, but it doesn’t make it a cause for celebration, either.  In the same way, even if I agree that what happened Sunday/Monday with bin Laden was the right decision, I will maintain that it was a tragedy in its own, and we should wish that it was never necessary, and not exult in his death and condemnation to what I can only imagine is a very real Hell.

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4 Responses to Osama Bin Laden’s Death, Americans’ Exultation, and Retribution: A Christian’s Response

  1. johnny pronto says:

    Right on, Adam Bechtold!!! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Actually, couldn’t have said it at all. But you did! More guest appearances, please.

  2. Joy Robertson says:

    i love the insight, wisdom runs in the bechtold family, i see!

    seriously, nathan i still remember a blog/note (on facey) you wrote about cynicism so legit. such beautiful words, i read it to my teammates here in el salvador, thanks for the balanced view you present and have!

  3. Christina says:

    Well said, Mr. Bechtold!

  4. friendmouse says:

    Excellent…and I had / have precisely the same sentiments. You know, there is a concept called “justice,” and we also accept the fact that God will be the final judge and he will mete out justice appropriately. Without question, He often uses “man” as his instruments to accomplish his will…but that’s His choice…he really doesn’t need our “help.” War is not a pretty thing, nor something to be desired. But, in my opinion, we were (are) at war with bin Laden and his ilk. With that said, I believe (in my acknowledged limited understanding and wisdom) the “treatment” he received at the end of a soldier’s rifle was appropriate. While I, like you, do not believe it is “appropriate” to rejoice in any human’s involuntary/unnatural death, I’m not as sure that it is inappropriate to be glad about the result. Terminating human life is something which should always cause discomfort…even when it’s the death of an evil person. Sin continues to run amok…and it seems to be gaining momentum!

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