While we were away on holidays, the news broke that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by covert US forces in northwestern Pakistan. Because of his acts of terrorism, Bin Laden has been the world’s most wanted man since 9/11.
Not surprisingly, his death quickly evoked a wide range of emotions from people in North America and around the world. The Washington Post has an entire gallery of photos of people celebrating. Meanwhile, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams told the media he felt “very uncomfortable” over the execution.
But I didn’t need to scour world newspapers to get a feel of what people thought of Bin Laden’s death: The opinions of my friends and acquaintances on the matter filled up my Facebook and Twitter feeds for a day. One comment in particular I found particularly arresting – it’s a quote, actually:
“I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Despite the evil done by Bin Laden, he nevertheless was an imagebearer of God, just like me. Celebrating the death of any imagebearer of God undermines the significance of this reality. What’s more, the sheer delight by Christians who wanted to see him dead makes me ponder how far we have to to go in learning to love our enemies, a practice Abraham Lincoln observed that destroys our enemies by making them our friends.
People will say Bin Laden deserved to die for the evil he committed; the Bible says the same thing about me.
Granted, the evil I commit does not have such far-reaching consequences as that done by Osama Bin Laden or others influenced by him in his al-Qaeda network. To my knowledge, any godless behaviour and actions on my part have not destroyed skyscrapers or left people grieving the death of loved ones. But I want to caution against making myself look good by comparing myself to someone “worse” than me.
Reflecting on all this, I humbly submit that followers of Jesus should not jump for joy that Bin Laden is dead; nevertheless, I think it is appropriate to sigh in relief that the world is a bit safer, especially if the reports about al-Qaeda’s decline (here and here, for example) are true. And I think it’s most very appropriate to celebrate the bigger reality to which Bin Laden’s death points: Ideologies and efforts that push violence and destruction ultimately fail while God’s merciful love endures forever.
I found Paul McClure article at Wandering Fair entitled “Love for Bin Laden?” helpful in my thinking on this subject.