I perceive a divided opinion among Christians over the killing of Osama bin Laden. Some Christians are thrilled at the news that bin Laden is dead at the hands of American special forces. Other Christians believe the proper response is almost mourning, as bin Laden has been sent, almost certainly, to a Christ-less eternity.
Perhaps I am foolish to try and express a balanced statement about this. In many ways, the historical, intellectual, philosophical, biblical and theological ground it's necessary to cover on this topic could be sufficient to write a series of volumes on war and Christianity, but I'd like to try and address it in this post.
I don't think it's wise to draw parallels between what America does and what Christians do. Our military's job, and the job of the government, is not neatly tied to Christianity or to Christian behavior. Americans error when they believe their actions are equivalent to those of Israel in the Old Testament.
What we would more rightly express is that God has entrusted the government of the US with authority. As the US acts through its armed forces, we conceive of their actions as reflecting divine authority, as we would the actions of other states around the world.
In terms of the killing of bin Laden, I see it as an expression of justice and an outcome of war. That's not to say that I believe all the actions of the US are just or good, but that in this case where thousands of people died as a result of bin Laden's plans, organization and funding, his death at the the hands of our military is an expression of justice.
Now, in terms of Christians and how they might process these events through the lens of their worldview, believers might be careful to distinguish between the actions of their country and their actions and attitudes as individual believers. As a Christian, I am charged by the Bible not to gloat over an enemy's demise (Proverbs 24:18-19). Additionally, I am encouraged by Jesus to love my enemies, pray for them that use me, to turn the other cheek.
As the American government acts, they do not act under the same terms as an individual Christian does, as they act in the protection of citizens or in the interests of justice for citizens who have become victims. Because of this, I can recognize that justice has been done on some scale, but I should never be pleased when anyone is killed, no matter how much they deserved it. God's grace in Christ means my own deliverance from punishment I justly deserve, after all.
I know this dichotomy between what the State does and what I do is not easy for some to stomach. I believe Christians can be great soldiers, that war can be just and should be supported by Christians in some instances. I also know that this blog, no matter how carefully I have tried to craft it, may lead to additional questions, but it is how I approach the issue.
Early in the history of Christianity, Christians did not engage in the military or in war. After time, Christians adopted and refined the just war doctrine, which you can Google to explore more. It's also interesting to me that the Assemblies of God had a pacifist stance until World War II.
May God bring an end to all wars one day through establishing the throne of his Son on earth. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Labels: Assemblies of God, Christianity, discipleship, early Christianity, Jesus Christ, Osama bin Laden, pacifism, Question and Answer, war, war on terror