Should Christians Rejoice over the Death of Osama Bin Laden?
I suppose this is as good a photo of the day post as anything. I took this shot around 11:30pm ET last night with my iPhone and it about says it all. It's probably the biggest news to hit the "war on terror" in 10 years, but last night as we the country awaited a rare (and almost scary, unknown, speculative, bizarre) live news conference at 11:30pm on a Sunday night I did not share the overwhelming "joy" that Geraldo Rivera had or the giddy, almost tailgate-ish rejoicing, in the street in front of the white house and at ground zero. Yes, it was a victory for the United States, yes, it was necessary in the same way it was necessary to rid the world of Hitler or the like, but a time to a time to jump up and down like the U.S. just won an olympic event? No.
On a side note... this "War on Terror" is unlike previous wars where we can clearly define a victor, or a even when victory has occurred. That's because this war is not a war over territory, or resources, but ideologies and ultimately at it's base root, it's a holy war. Those who don't see the religious side can parse out the war to a way of life, or political freedom, but ask an Israeli and you might get a different answer than the average Joe Smith waving a flag in front of the White House. Because of this, the war on terror will not end until the second coming of Christ.
The Wisdom of the Psalms
So, from a Christian perspective, I just don't see anything that teaches us to be joyful in the death of an enemy. In fact, it says just the opposite in Proverbs 24:17-18. This section of Proverbs represents the "Thirty Sayings" of "the wise" as clearly indicated in Proverbs 22:20, which covers from Proverbs 22:17 to 24:22. Proverbs 24:17-18 is the twenty-eighth saying, and where 15-16 are aimed at the wicked over the righteous, 17-18 is talking about the righteous gloating over the downfall of the wicked. Maybe rejoicing in the street or on TV isn't gloating but to me that's just semantics.
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, 18 lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. (ESV)
On the practical side, verse 17 tells us not to rejoice when our enemy falls and verse 18 tells us why, because God may turn around and bless our enemy, making us even more miserable. If that isn't enough, God actually tells us that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), and if God takes no pleasure in the death of Osama Bin Laden, than neither should we. The bible clearly indicates that God will "punish sin and vindicate his holiness and justice... but God also feels sorrow over the punishment and death of creatures created in His image" (ESV notes on Ezekiel 33:11). God would rather the wicked repent of their sins and live than die in their own sins without forgiveness.
Although this must be an almost impossible task for those who had family members killed on 9-11 (or the USS Cole or any of the other terrorist acts) by the hand of Osama Bin Laden, I find it hard to rejoice over the death of a (seemingly) lost and unrepentant soul. Rather we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). As impossible as this may sound, Jesus gave us the example and did this very same thing as he went to the cross.