Like the rest of the world I was surprised last night by the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. military personnel in Pakistan. Though it is probably naive to believe that this is the end of Islamic terrorism, it is still a remarkable milestone. A lot has happened in the nearly ten years since the 9/11 attack.
As I saw footage of the crowds that were spontaneously gathering in American communities and celebrating bin Laden's demise, I wondered how happy God is about bin Laden's death. I remembered Ezekiel 33:11, which says, "As surely as I live, declares the sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but prefer that the wicked change his behavior and live." I also remembered a provocative Christianity Today (online) interview with Brother Andrew in 2007, in which he asked, " 'Have you prayed for bin Laden today?' That question should shock a lot of Christians. Of course we haven't!" (I haven't.) "That is why he is what he is. We have an evangelical black list of people we don't want to see in heaven and put bin Laden on top."
I do believe that there is justice in bin Laden's violent death. He was a criminal and a murderer; he shed human blood and by humans his blood was shed (Gen. 9:5-6). And therefore I believe that there is an appropriate, justified satisfaction at his death, even for God. But it is not really worth celebrating for Christians. There is far more celebration among the angels of God in heaven over the child who said he was sorry for his sins and trusted in Jesus this morning than there is for bin Laden's death.