As a Christian living in America, with a son presently serving a second military tour in Afghanistan, I have listened with interest to the conversations about the recent assassination in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden was a zealot, radically committed to his culture and his religion. I am sure that his prayers to Allah included requests that he be used to bring an end to all who would not “see the truth nor come to the light.” Many of the views that are being expressed by patriotic Americans and even in the name of Jesus sound very similar to what we heard from bin Laden. This attitude deserves attention.
I have no desire to dampen or discourage the freedom of speech which America's Bill of Rights guarantees. Neither is it my goal in this article to debate the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the assassination. However, I do urge thoughtful caution in how we speak. Words usually lead to action. The history of Western civilization is replete with examples of well-intentioned Christians who eventually devolved into the very thing they stood against. Attempting to defeat the enemy at his own game has often led from hateful speech to violent action, eventually culminating in an arrogant, “better than thou” bullying. I fear that an increasing number of Christians may be headed in this very direction.
Those of us who are Christian follow a Savior who is humble and gentle, the Prince of peace. He is able to make us firm without becoming vindictive or mean-spirited.
The God to Whom we belong often reminds us that
He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
I suspect that He says this with a desire for us to
grow into such a godly attitude, as well.
When we rejoice in and celebrate the destruction of an “enemy,” have we not become the very thing which that enemy was? The Scriptures remind us that we do indeed have a very real enemy whom we need to stand against on a daily basis, but he is not Osama bin Lade nor any other flesh and blood opponent. Our adversary, the devil, tempts us into prideful gloating and vindictiveness, desiring to perpetuate division and fighting, rather than the peaceful meekness, kindness and gentleness which Jesus came to bring.
Jesus' life is testimony that the enemy is defeated by love, not by hate. His words were followed by action that did not compromise love with hate. He promises that this truth, that love overcomes evil, is eternal (See Phil 2:1-18). History demonstrates that the words and actions of one loving person have more impact than thousands filled with hate. How will historians evaluate the attitude and resulting consequences of Christian action in this moment and this place? Will our words and the actions which follow prove the truth of Jesus' promises, or will we have slid into one more era of violence and destruction?