Late on May 1, 2011, President Barak Obama announced to the nation that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. As a Christian, as an American, as a human I rejoice. Yes, I rejoice. Many of you join with me in this sentiment. However several in the Christian community have taken to social network sites to reprimand this rejoicing.
I understand the motivation of these critics. On many, many things I would agree with them. On this I disagree. The rationale of these critics have made their argument based in part on Proverbs 24:7.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,(Proverbs 24:17 ESV)
If we stopped at this point, I would have to agree with the critics. However, the context adds some clarity.
Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them,
for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble.
By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth.
Whoever plans to do evil will be called a schemer.
The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?
My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, there will be a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous;
do no violence to his home;
for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from him.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
and be not envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
My son, fear the LORD and the king,
and do not join with those who do otherwise,
for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?
(Proverbs 24:1-22 ESV)
It seems to me that the full chapter presents a clearer picture of our response to men like Bin Laden than does lifting one verse out of it without regard for the context. Bin Laden did not stumble. He was killed.
How about this proverb?
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
(Proverbs 11:10 ESV)
I’m not sure what they do with this passage. Bin Laden was wicked. He perished (both physically and spiritually). The result is shouts of gladness.
Here are some of the other arguments sent my way via social media.
1. Gloating celebration of a soul you know is now in Hell is not ok for any believer. Being relieved justice is served is different.
See Proverbs 11:10 above.
2. There is a fine line between celebrating the awesome weight of justice and the terrible glee of a image of God eternally lost.
Well, “terrible glee” maybe. But glee and gladness are very similar words. If so, see Proverbs 11:10.
A note on the image of God statement. Yes, it is tragic that somebody created in the image of God has that image so marred that he is responsible for thousands of deaths of others created in the image of God. Of all of the death penalt y crimes in the Old Testament, the one that both supersedes Moses’ law and exists after Moses is that of murder. God first gave this penalty to Noah and Romans 13 reenforces it.
I am also glad that Adolph Hitler is dead. If I could change anything about his death, it would be that it would have occurred prior to 6 million Jews and many more had been slaughtered by him.
The same goes for Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and others like them.
3. Am I equating the United States with God’s nation?
No, I am not. However, it is possible to be both an enemy of the United States and be an enemy of God. Bin Laden clearly was an enemy of America. He declared war on our nation with the attacks of 9-11 or perhaps with attacks before that.
As a militant Islamic terrorist, Bin Laden was also an enemy of the gospel. He was also an enemy of a just society. Attacking non-combatants in the World Trade Center and in other places makes him an enemy.
No other method of bringing this man to justice has worked. He had to be taken out. Since our military did the honors, then we should rejoice. As it was said of David:
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
–1 Samuel 29:5 ESV
This was said of David in singing and dancing. It was a celebratory thing. Gladness. Rejoicing. So clearly there have been times when God’s people have rejoiced at that death of the wicked enemy.
To my friends who disagree, I understand that your disagreement arises from Christian charity. I will not belittle that. However, Romans 13 teaches us that God gives us government to execute God’s wrath on the men like Bin Laden.
For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
I hope this helps my critics see that my response is not just a red-blooded American with a holier-than-thou attitude. You are welcome to comment below whether you agree or disagree.