Let us not dance on his grave

Osama Bin Laden is dead. After a decade of reining as the most well known face of terror and depravity, Bin Laden will no longer have the privilege of presiding over a culture of terror. As a result of his death, Americans have filled the streets of their respective cities, setting off fireworks and jubilant celebrations. As I think through the implications of Bin Laden’s death, particularly as I thought through how to explain it to my daughters this morning who never lived through 9/11, I wonder if this response is proper for the follower of Christ?

Make no mistake; Bin Laden received justice, which he deserved. The American government did exactly what they should have done and that is bring justice to the man responsible for leading a movement that has led to thousands of American deaths, not to mention a incredibly large number of deaths from many, many other countries around the world. One of the most significant purposes of a government is to exist for this very purpose. Romans 13:4 reminds us that this purpose is an extension of the justice of God. So when I wonder about the Christian response, I am not wondering if the American government’s response was appropriate – no, of that I am certain that it was both right and just.

Instead I am wondering how the Christian should respond to this act of justice? As I contemplate God’s word, I am convinced that our response should not, cannot, be one of jubilation. Proverbs 24:17 reminds us, Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,. This is a strong reminder that justice must be served in God’s economy, but that to rejoice in death – even the death of an enemy, is to celebrate the destruction of God’s intended plan for the world. Even in a belief system that celebrates life, there will be times when death is necessary – unfortunately – because of the presence of evil. However, as follower’s of Christ whose life’s calling is to lead people from death to life, it cannot be true of us that we celebrate the demise of any individual, no matter how heinous their crimes. Ezekiel 33:11 reminds us of the brevity of this situation, Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways” To celebrate Bin Laden’s demise is to somehow deny God’s word that reminds us that we are all equally guilty before God and that we all stand equally condemned as a result of our sin. Yes, Bin Laden’s sin was grievous. Yes, he deserved death. But make no mistake, so do you & I and every other person in the world. We cannot celebrate Bin Laden’s death because it represents another individual who died outside the grace of God and that is tragic.

When Christ came and offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity, He did so in an effort to craft a new humanity out of a fallen world. He is creating new hearts out of each follower of Christ, hearts that reflect His grace and hearts that honor His glory. When we celebrate the death of bin Laden with glad hearts we are celebrating that Bin Laden received punishment that he was due, which if we are not careful, means that we are embracing a spirit of revenge. God’s word is once again challenging to us at this point. Consider Matthew 5:43-48, 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. How do we respond to bin Laden in light of this passage? Is it ok to disregard it? Obscure it? Ignore it? Is it important to love our enemies, unless they are really, really bad, as in the case of bin Laden? Should we forgive them, unless they really, really hurt us, as in the case of bin Laden? Please no! If we cannot practice unexplainable forgiveness in the light of horrific tragedy, what kind of faith do we have?

This new humanity that God is creating must have a different response than the thousands that are dancing in jubilation today. We rejoice in justice, but we must do so with heavy hearts. We grieve the loss of life that Bin Laden caused. We grieve the sin that so saturated Bin Laden’s heart that led him down his descent to the grave. We grieve the eventual loss of even his life, as every life is precious in God’s eyes. There is no doubt that the death of Osama Bin Laden is just, but make no mistake it is equally a tragedy. As followers of Christ, particularly ones who live in America, let us be grateful that we live in a country where justice is served; let us be grateful that bin Laden cannot lead the killings of thousands around the world anymore. However, while we are grateful that justice is served, let us not joyfully dance on the grave of a man who is lost for eternity. Let us remember that vengeance is God’s, not ours.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

11 thoughts on “Let us not dance on his grave

  1. Micah, I suppose I am struggling a bit with this concept. I struggle when I am street preaching to have compassion on the lost. I pray that God gives me compassion often. for this man, I have no compassion. I have already praised God that he is dead. I am not dancing on a grave, but I suppose I do have a sense of celebration.
    I cannot come to the conclusion that his death is in any way an equal tragedy. no.
    I certainly deserve hell and God has been gracious to me. God did save a wicked, wicked man in me. and maybe it is that that remains in me that rejoices in the death of this monster.

    • Bob,

      Thanks for your transparency. To be fair, my emotional response is similar to yours. However, what does Scripture say? If our response is not governed by God’s word, are we really people of Scripture?

  2. Micah, I commend you on your carefully-considered Biblical response. It is not easy to navigate through an issue that has touched us all deeply–especially those who’ve lost love ones to terrorism and military service to their country. But then, the Christian life itself isn’t easy; it is, rather, impossible apart from the grace from and work of God in us. There’s my natural reaction, quick to hand, emotional, visceral, seemingly logical. And then there’s the Word of God, which by the Spirit of God must subdue, guide, and superintend not just my emotions but my mind and will, and is logical in the only logic that counts: His. I’m glad that you are attempting to speak God’s Truth with clarity and immediacy in the face of this event. I’m glad you’re attempting to do so uncompromisingly, yet with a compassion for and sensitivity to the many who’ve been hurt by the evil perpetrated by this man…speaking the Truth, in love. Continue to be Scriptural and pastoral as you’re trying to be. We need the Word spoken faithfully, forcefully, but with a pastor’s caring heart. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for sharing Micah. I haven’t felt that it was right to actually celebrate this event. The Scriptures you share convince me that we are not to do so as Christians.

    Blessings to you.

  4. I agree completely with everything you have said. Yet I believe there to be a missing piece to this complicated issue. (Please do not read this as argumentative, or opposition, but as one trying to fully understand God in His Word). Was Bin Laden’s death just? Yes. Should we rejoice in his death? No. Should we dismiss God’s deliverance of His people form the hands of an evil tyrant? No. That is my issue. People seem to blend these threes thoughts and the aspect of rejoicing and praise seem to be lost. There are three separate aspects of the same event. Again, I agree with you, but I think we are forgetting a very important part.

    I would never say God rejoices in Bin Ladin’s death. And many of us who are rejoicing, are not rejoicing in Bin Ladin’s death. When God said He “takes no pleasure in the the death of the wicked,” that is a a true statement. When David rejoices over the destruction of his enemies (2nd Samuel), that is a true statement. God would rather all turn to him and not parish. David would rather not have enemies. However, God is just, and rightly pronounces judgement on his enemies. As a result, when an oppressor is removed, the people of God rejoice. When Jesus crushed satan, the ultimate enemy, do we not have reason to rejoice? God would rather that satan would have repented. However, in perfect judgement, God finally destroyed him, giving us great reason to rejoice. This is not so different when it comes to any enemy of God and his people. God, and we too, would rather they repent, but there comes a time when Judgment must be dealt. I am not rejoicing that Bin Ladin is dead. Not in the least. To the contrary, I am very heart broken over his unrepentant heart. However, he can no longer do harm to God’s people, and in this I have great reason to rejoice!

    Lets say we are having Christmas dinner, everyone is there. Then a man breaks in, grabs little susie by the throat and pulls a knife out and begins to cut her. Susie is screaming for her life. His attempts to kill her are relentless. But before he is able to take her life, Dad, Grandpa and Susie’s Brothers attempt to stop him. They pull him away from Susie only for him to turn and attack them. They finally manage to wrestle the knife away and kill this evil man.

    Now, would we rather this evil man turn to Jesus? Yes. Would we rather him not attack little Susie? Yes. Would Dad, Grandpa and Susie’s Brithers rather not have to kill him? Yes. But given the situation, hypothetical of course, and it went the way it did, would the family not have the right to rejoice that it was over and everyone is okay? Would we all not have reason to be jubilant? Of course we would.

    That is what I believe is missing in this huge conversation. We are not, as David did, rejoicing that God has delivered His people from evil – and we should be. Again I site 2nd Samuel:

    “I pursued my enemies and crushed them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them completely, and they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them— to the LORD, but he did not answer. I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth; I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.”

    “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me, who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.”

    That doesn’t sound very somber and sad to me. And David was the man after God’s own heart.

    Do you get where I’m coming from? Perhaps we are saying the same thing, only each emphasizing different aspects of it. You are correct we should not dance no his grave, but equally we should not silence the joy of deliverance. I am in no way glad Bin Laden was evil, that he is dead, and that he is bound for hell. But to me that is separate from the fact his oppression is over. I rejoice God has rescued His people from this violent man. Therefore I will praise The LORD among the nations; I will sing the praises of His name.

  5. We deserve to happy about this achievement in American history. Really, are we only allowed to stand in the street and grieve and with anger? No, I was so happy to see Americans happy to be American in the street and singing about America! OBL only stood for hate and he persecuted, segregated, beat, killed, and raped people who did not believe as he did. Lets remember who we are talking about people!!!

  6. for us to rejoice would make us on the same level as bin laden. pray for his soul if he had one, rejoice in the closure to all of us who lost fqamily and friends and vow to do all necessary to prevent this from happening again. FOR ONLY LOVE WILL CONQUER HATE…

  7. I appreciate this take and we should temper our rejoicing in someone’s death. On the other hand, if we’re going to go with scripture rather than emotion, Psalm 99:4, Psalm 33:5 and Isaiah 61:8 all speak of how much our God loves justice. I believe I can love seeing justice done in bin Laden’s case and be in line both with God’s Word and God’s heart. Therefore, in that light, I will rejoice.

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