It has become my standard practice to weigh in publicly on “controversial” issues only when multiple members of my own church, or other Jesus-followers whom I serve as pastor in some capacity, ask for my thoughts. (Case in point – the Rob Bell saga.) To be honest, my favorite blog response to Osama bin Laden’s death is this guy’s. (For those of you who won’t or don’t follow the link, he advocates saying nothing.)
I’m also tempted to include something to the effect of, “Blogs are not the place for this kind of thing to be addressed. At least from a Christian perspective, this question should be discussed over dinner tables and among members of local churches struggling to live with the gospel in a world of death.” The latter sentence is no doubt true, but the former is not. Blogs are one of the ways we communicate truth (and untruth, as it were) in our world today. It is not only how we think as individuals, it is how we think together. It is part of how we instruct and encourage one another.
Having said that, I hope I don’t disappoint you in sticking to my initial impulse to say nothing directly about how to respond. Obviously I’m not following it to a tee, but I do not intend to offer any thoughts, reflections, or responses to these events per se, at least not here on a blog. I only want to make one point, and then to direct you to some other places where things have been said that I’ve found at least moderately helpful in taking it all in.
My one point is that bin Laden’s death and the responses to it — again, speaking as a Christian — reveal the massive importance of sound teaching when we aren’t in the actual moment on how to respond to something like this. If we have not been taught beforehand the full meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection, how to define justice and when and how it should be sought, how to think about our enemies as Jesus-followers, how to think about our enemies as Americans, what it means for a nation to be used as an agent of God’s wrath, the various ways God himself responds to the death of wicked and evil persons as well as “collateral” innocents, then when an event as seemingly world-altering as the death of a chief terrorist actually occurs, we probably won’t think about it rightly. I am honestly not calling anyone out in the least — I’m not even sure if I’ve been taught these things in a way that forms me to respond rightly. But I am pointing out that if we have been malformed by falsehoods posing as Scriptural truth up to this point, we are not likely not even to recognize the truth when we see it in the heat or excitement of the moment, to say nothing being in a position where it can correct or rebuke us. Anyhow, there is my one thought: if we are to reason faithfully in response to highly charged events such as bin Laden’s death, it will only be because we have received prior education according to the truth that is in Jesus.
Now for the link roundup. The following are hardly even a sample of what has been said and is continuing to be said out there. Of course I don’t agree with all of what they say, but I find it helpful or insightful. If you would only be following the links below to find problems in what they say, please do not even bother following them. The last thing I want to do is increase the hostility already in the air.
J. Daniel Kirk reminds us, among other things, to mind our pronouns.
Eric Epperson shares some tempered thoughts on being glad but sad.
Michael Horton offers a Reformed “two kingdoms” perspective.
Kurt Willems mourns the loss of many lives, including bin Laden’s for its failure to reflect God’s image faithfully.
Joey Azterbaum turns to Gandalf for somewhat simplistic but nevertheless thought-provoking insight. (Yes, that Gandalf.)
The Resurgence folks offer poignant and artistic reflections rooted in a gospel according to which justice thankfully doesn’t get the last word.
[UPDATE: Just saw another article, this one from the world of sports. Here’s Jason Whitlock (one of the best sports writers alive) discussing Rashard Mendenhall’s tweets and the public reaction to them. And see Mendenhall’s clarification as well.]
Most everyone seems to be wrestling with the tension between positive thoughts/emotions about having one less terrorist killer in the world and negative thoughts/emotions about the death of someone for whom Christ died. If I could ask one thing, remember that last point: bin Laden was a person for whom Christ died. (I’m reminded of hearing as a teenager that if I were the only person on earth, Christ still would have died for me. In spite of the logical silliness of such a statement, the sentiment is true of me, and it is also to the same extent true of Osama.) Of course he was also a person at whose hands many other people died, which of course the problem. At any rate, let’s thank God for including us in a reconciling mission and entrusting us with a gospel message according to which fear and death do not have the last word.