Please understand that as a citizen of the United States, I am glad that this man was brought to justice and had to pay for the 3000+ deaths he conspired to take. Knowing that his actions and plots cost even more innocent lives than this, I am relieved that he is no longer able to give direct input and inspiration to those in Al Qaeda who desire to do the same. But when I read the newspaper headline, “Rot in Hell” that ran in one of our largest cities, I knew that such a response was going to do much to hinder evangelism among those in the Middle East.
The Scriptures are clear about the role of civil government in punishing wrong doers in Romans 13:4. It is the responsibility of our governing officials to act in the best interests of our population and punish and even remove elements that are dangerous to the rest of society. I support the civil government’s use of the death penalty for murder and I also support our military hunting down those who do heinous things like what was done on 9-11. But with that being said, I would also like to offer some additional counsel from the Scriptures concerning our response to our enemies.
Proverbs 24:17-18 has some interesting counsel for us in light of the fact that our enemy has fallen. We are told the following: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him.” The reason we are told this is because God Himself has enemies – and He shows them mercy. You may not know this, but if you have sinned – you were His enemy. We read in Romans 5:10 that “. . . if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This refers to who we were before Jesus Christ saved us. We were enemies of God, yet God in His mercy saved us. Even more sobering is James 4:4 which tells us, “. . . whoever therefore is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” This is told to us as a warning against worldliness – after we are saved! Yet, God shows mercy, even to His enemies. The reason we are not to rejoice when our enemy falls is because God wants us to be those who can show mercy. Therefore dancing in the streets over the death of our enemy is not fitting for believers.
Having said this, I want to offer one more word to those of us who are believers. I pastor a congregation that has an active outreach into the Muslim community in our city and on a college campus that is nearby. As we have befriended these men and women from the Middle East, they often tell us that it seems as if Americans fundamentally distrust them – and are very unfriendly to them. How are we going to reach them for Christ if their only taste of American Christianity is a lack of hospitality and headlines like, “Rot in Hell” in our newspapers when a radical Muslim enemy of our state is brought to justice? Please do not see these comments as a lack of concern for the radical Muslim agenda in our nation – or as a call to just “turn the other cheek” when we are attacked like we were on 9-11. The civil government needs to hunt down terrorists and bring them to justice – even if justice means killing them so that they will not commit another atrocity in our land. But individually we are called to love the Muslims around us – and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. We are to show them the love of Jesus Christ in our actions – and by doing this help them grasp what Jesus Christ truly came to do for them. The Muslims that we love, hug, and even share meals with in our area are shocked at our kindness and the love that they are experiencing. It takes a long time for them to grasp the gospel – but the most effective weapon we have in our arsenal is the love of Christ flowing through us to them.
To sum up what has been said in this article, there are two responses that we embrace biblically in light of the events of recent days. We can be grateful to our military and civil government for acting in the best interests of our country. They did this by hunting down the terrorist mastermind of the 9-11 attacks. Osama bin Laden perpetrated a horrendous evil when he hatched such an evil plot against innocent citizens of our nation. It was right and it was even good that he was made to pay a price for what he did. Our other response is more individual – and is embraced for the purpose of advancing the gospel to those who are Muslims in our society, as well as to those Muslims around the world. That response is measured – and does not rejoice over this man’s death, especially not with dancing in the streets and with epithets dispatching him to hell with our blessing and cheering. A wicked man has fallen – and those terrorists who embrace his twisted ideology will continue to be hunted down and dealt with from a civil government standpoint. But our role is to take the gospel to them – not just across the street, but across the globe! Our responsibility is to love them individually – share with them individually – and hopefully win them to Christ individually. May God give us understanding, grace, and strength to apply ourselves to this monumental task!