One of most terrifying men of this century was reported killed yesterday by our U.S. military forces. Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 that killed thousands.
He is also responsible for leading other terrorist activities that hurt, maimed and killed many more. Most of the world is celebrating his death.
The question that has been posed to me today is how should those of us Christ followers respond. That is a difficult question to be sure. We are encouraged by Christ to love our enemies and do good to those who hurt us.
On the other hand, we are also told to confront evil and to defend the defenseless. How should we react in the face of this evil man’s death? I wish I could give a definitive answer but I am caught in the quandary. I have to be honest. I am thankful that his evil designs have been thwarted.
Many innocent people have been saved due to his death. I also would prefer that people like bin Laden would repent from their sin, turn to God and receive his love and forgiveness, no matter how unlikely that might have been.
In an interesting side note, I learned that the announcement of his death occurred on the exact same day, May 1, when the world learned of the death of Adolph Hitler in 1945, 66 years ago. Hitler had died mysteriously, probably by suicide the day before on April 30.
Christ followers during the time of Nazi Germany faced some of the same dilemma. Hitler was systematically killing millions of innocents during his reign of terror. People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian had difficult decisions to make. What should they do about Hitler, passively resist his evil or actively confront him and try to take him out?
Eventually and I am sure painfully, Bonhoeffer determined to join in the effort to assassinate him. In a note to his fellow conspirators on New Year’s Eve 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote: “The ultimate question for a responsible person to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live.”
Does that help us today? I think he is pointing out that we have to enter the complexity of these kinds of questions. We would prefer someone to give us a quick and dirty answer but that is not always possible in real life. We have to wrestle through these kinds of ethical and emotional debates.
But, regardless of how we make these decisions, we can never be completely happy when someone dies since God created that person. But, as Bonhoeffer discovered at times we have to make a difficult decision that will never make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
I think it is the kind of way I feel when I consider what I would do if a mad man was trying to kill by wife or kids. Would I stand by and let it happen or would I defend them and possibly try to kill the person trying to kill them?
I see myself as a pacifist but when faced with this decision, I think I would do everything in my power to destroy the destroyer of everything I love. But, I wouldn’t celebrate the death of the person. I would simply do what needed to be done… I think!
Whew! Not easy, really. I don’t even feel a peace as I write these words. I sense the tension in my spirit. I think that is a good thing. I think it means that I am trying to follow Jesus through the messiness of life. I don’t like it but I think that is how it is supposed to be.