Everyone has commented about the death of Osama Bin Laden. So I seriously considered not writing anything about it. I’ve seen posts on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the news that have ranged from jubilation at his death to posts which seemed pretty close to scolding people for being relieved that the man is gone.
So how do we has Christians deal with the death of a man who clearly has done great evil in the world while at the same time not making it appear that we are celebrating the need to take another persons life to protect our own?
I remember, as many Americans do, exactly where I was and what I was doing on 9/11 when the first plane hit the tower. I was having breakfast with two other pastor friends in Rushville, Indiana. On hearing something about a plane crashing into a tower we all figured that someone in a small plane had gotten lost and had a tragic accident. Then upon hearing of the second crash we all immediately knew something much bigger and much worse was happening.
We all left as fast as we could pay our checks and each went back to our churches and listened or watched with horror. My daughter who was then just about ten was at school. The school had decided to not tell the children what had happened. So my wife and I both picked her up from school and tried to explain what was going on in our world and that, though we didn’t yet know who had attacked the twin towers, that our nation might be at war. My daughter wanted to know if we were safe. I said we where. But frankly I didn’t feel safe.
That is part of what our nation lost on that day, a feeling of safety. We had naively as Americans felt safe in the world. Even though the world has never been a safe place. We felt safe on our own shores and in our own houses.
As we entered the war first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq it became clear that we were not going to immediately catch the perpetrators of the crime commitment on 9/11. After ten years many of us figured that Bin Laden would never be captured or found.
When word hit the news media that Bin Laden had been killed I felt a whole mix of emotions. But probably the greatest emotion I felt was relief. I’ve been concerned that some have scolded others for what they have felt about Bin Laden’s death. But the emotions we feel are not something we create or control. We can’t help what we feel. What we do with our emotions and how we act on them is what is important.
During the days since May 1st I’ve also felt sadness as I am reminded of the events of 9/11 and the years of war and the lives of the young people in our nation that have been sacrificed in service to their country. I don’t think there is a single American who doesn’t know someone who has a child, a grandchild, a niece or a nephew who is serving in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It seems to me that as Christians what we ought to do is acknowledge how this event has made us feel but then allow ourselves to step back from our feelings, whatever they are, and pray. Pray for our nation, for those who are serving our country, pray for our leaders and the leaders of the nations of the world, and most of all pray for peace to come. Then when we get up off our knees we go back out into the world and tell the world about a man named Jesus who came to understand and experience our feelings, our pain, our loss, and our sorrows and bring us his grace and peace.
We are in a hurting world in need of the love of God. May we find ways to share that in these difficult and confusing times.