It seems that the purpose of the blogsphere today is for public processing of Osama Bin Laden’s death.
The Twitter feed has alerted me to numerous posts that are saying, in essence, what I’ll say here as well: the economy of the Kingdom of God should give us pause about jumping into unmitigated celebration of the death of our country’s enemy.
A couple of thoughts on this.
First, if we speak of Bin Laden as “our” enemy, it’s important to remember that the “our” of whom we are speaking is not the church, not Christians, not the people of God, but the United States of America. Being an American is one part of my identity, it is my people, so yes, he was “our” enemy. But this is not the same as saying that he is the church’s enemy, an agent of Satan as one standing against the agents of light.
Hear me! This is not to say that he is not an agent of evil, but a plea for us to recognized that good guys and bad guys in the wars of the world are not drawn in absolute colors of black and white, but rather in various shades of gray.
The second place from which, I believe, Christian exuberance should be mitigated is in the simple biblical warning not to celebrate the downfall of our enemy. Proverbs 24 is a curious chapter. On the one hand there is the typical Proverbial expectation that God is at work in the world to reward the pious and punish the wicked. But despite this connection between the hand of God and the downfalls of the bad guys we might see here on earth, the chapter warns, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble” (Prov 24:17).
And this brings us to the final point of it all.
At moments like this, where we might recognize some net good to the world through the death of this agent of death, we also need to remember that this economy of death, which is the economy of the world, is not the economy of the Kingdom of God.
The nations live by this economy of the world, and to a certain extent are compelled to. But we, the United States, have for the past 10 years exacerbated the economy of death, fed death, through our response to the death we endured on September 11, 2001. We used those deaths as legitimation for bringing far more death to Iraq and Afghanistan than we endured on our own dreadful day.
Death begets death. It was the case with the deaths that stain Osama bin Laden’s hands, and it is the case with the deaths that stain our own. And no doubt it will be the case in the aftermath of this, our country’s latest victory.
Death begets death, until…
… until a people are formed who truly rejoice when persecuted.
… until a people are created who turn the other cheek when struck.
… until a people bless those who persecute them–bless and do not curse.
… until death is confronted with life.
… until death is conquered by resurrection.
… until the Kingdom of God comes, and God’s will truly is done on earth.