Osama bin Laden is dead! After almost ten years of hunting for the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Navy Seals killed bin Laden in a daring raid Sunday night. While some — on both the right and the left — may second-guess President Obama’s decision to order the attack on the terrorist’s compound near Islamabad, Pakistan, most Americans — of all political persuasions — were thankful that the Commander-in-Chief ultimately made the right call.
Just as in the days following the horrific attack on the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and the potential attack thwarted by the passengers of United Flight #93 on September 11, 2001, the overwhelming majority of Americans were united in common cause on the first day of May, 2011. However, what united us was not our sadness over the evil destruction of innocent life, but rather our rejoicing in the death of the evil one behind that destruction almost a decade ago.
While I must admit that part of me was uneasy viewing the cheering and “party-like” atmosphere outside the White House following the news of bin Laden’s death Sunday night, if I were still a student at George Washington University, I would have probably been a part of the celebration.
I remember a night in 1986 (April 15 to be exact) when several of my fraternity brothers (liberals and conservatives) from Phi Sigma Kappa at George Washington University walked three blocks to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to cheer President Reagan’s decision to bomb Libya in retaliation for that country’s role in the April 5 bombing of a West Berlin nightclub which killed 3 and injured 229. While Col. Muammar Gaddafi was not killed in that bombing mission (no thanks to France which refused to allow our planes to fly through their airspace), there were both innocent and not-so-innocent people who were killed by our bombs. Were we celebrating the death of people that night in 1986 or were we celebrating America’s resolve to see justice served?
I suppose the answer to that question depends on how one views the role of governments in the world, particularly our own American government. And, how one views that role may or may not depend on how one views God’s sovereignty and control in the world. In Romans 13:4, the Apostle Paul writes:
“For government is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, and avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.”
In both 1986 and 2011, the United States of America acted as God’s servant for good. To argue that Osama bin Laden — a man who has been in hiding for nearly ten years — was not guilty of committing wrongs (an understatement to be sure) against innocent Americans is to be delusional at best. If one believes in evil, one must surely believe that bin Laden personified (now past tense) evil.
On Sunday night, a sovereign and mighty God — Yahweh, who is the One and Only true God — may have used America as His avenger to bring wrath on the one who has done wrong. While Christians should not rejoice in the death of any person, we can rejoice in knowing that God will not be mocked. We can rejoice that we live in a country that has been blessed by God with tremendous freedoms and opportunities. We can rejoice that those freedoms have been and are continuing to be secured by the fine men and women who are serving in our Armed Forces.
Some will try to turn America’s celebrations on Sunday night into the moral equivalent of Muslims rejoicing in the streets following 9/11. There is a word for moral cowards who so argue, but it is best left unsaid. Do I rejoice that Osama bin Laden is dead? No. But, I rejoice in knowing that a sovereign and holy God can use America as His agent for good in the world. And, I rejoice in knowing that God meted out His justice Sunday night to one Osama bin Laden. Now comes the eternal punishment!