I’m sure no one reading this needs to be told that two days ago, Osama bin Laden was reported dead, killed by the U.S. military. I don’t want to write in too much length about it, seeing as the wonders of Web 2.0 have brought us no end of happy, sad, preachy, jubilant, furious, defensive, and/or judgmental opinions regarding the matter.
However, I do want to briefly share what’s been on my heart since I heard the announcement.
It can hardly be argued but that bin Laden committed crimes deserving of death. Stopping Al Qaeda is important for national security — surely all Americans can affirm this. I’d strongly suspect that, if pushed, everyone quoting Proverbs 24:17-18 (“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls”) would nonetheless agree it is a good thing for bin Laden to be taken out of commission. Many would even say this is the judgment of God on the man. I myself would agree with all of those statements.
What concerns me, though, is the wave of national pride sweeping across the U.S. in response to his death. At one level, this is understandable. But on a much more serious level, bin Laden finally reaping the consequences of his wickedness does not make this country any more righteous. Even though our enemy was evil, it does not therefore follow that we are good. I love my nation, and pray for it often, but as we’re riotously celebrating the death of this terrorist, I can’t help but think of Romans 2:1:
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
We judge bin Laden for killing three thousand people in one day. We, as a nation, kill four thousand per day, innocent babies who die with the full sanction of our government. We judge bin Laden for stirring up Islamic youth to throw their lives away in violence. We think nothing of throwing away our own youth to fantasies of violence in video games, movies, and music (though we still manage to be surprised when they act on it). We may even judge bin Laden for his worship of demons. Strange, then, that our own country should be so obsessed with the occult and nearly completely uninvolved with the true God.
With the measure we judge, it will be measured back to us (Matt 7:2). I’m not saying we can’t rightly call bin Laden wicked, or truthfully say he got what he deserved in the end. What I am saying is that we don’t have the moral leverage to crow about it. Osama bin Laden got what all of us deserve apart from the grace of God. Before we rejoice in a sinful man getting his comeuppance, we need to tremble at the mercy of the God who has not yet given us ours.
We can be relieved the manhunt is over. We can thank God for removing bin Laden from power. But we don’t dare start gloating about how superior our nation is to him — because when push comes to shove, it isn’t. A nation whose hands are bloodstained cannot rightly judge a murderer. A nation who rebels against God cannot judge a terrorist who does the same.
As believers, we are not personally under God’s wrath. We can evaluate rightly and speak truth from a kingdom perspective. But that means we can’t be blind to the condition of our own nation. The cries coming from our lips should sound less like “USA! USA!” and more like “God, have mercy on us.” If God did not withhold His judgment from Al Qaeda forever, He will not withhold it from America forever, either. Pride — national or otherwise — is the exact opposite of what we need in this hour. We have all the more reason to ask God to send an awakening and turn the hearts of this country to Himself, to remember mercy in the time of wrath (Hab 3:2).
We need revival. We need deliverance. We need to be saved. And none of that changed with one less madman in the world. May we remain sober and watchful in this day, trusting in and glorifying God alone, earnestly interceding for the nation that we love.