Osama bin Laden is dead. It was the sound of music to our ears. We have been waiting to hear these welcome words for ten long years. They were so well received that people were dancing in the streets.
On of President Obama’s favorite quips is, “Let me be clear…” Well, he was as clear as a church bell on Sunday morning when he spoke to the nation and with clarity and resolution declared, “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
The ‘seek and destroy’ mission was planned and executed by the best of the best, the Navy Seals. Though it seemed like forever and a day, many like myself were wondering if bin Laden was even alive.However, once his whereabouts was verified, justice came as swift as a sniper’s bullet in the time of war. The secret compound guarded by high walls and well armed defenders could not prevent Sunday, May 1, 2011 from becoming his Day of Judgment.
The whole episode which reads like a James Bond episode justifies every Americans confidence in the professionalism of the nation’s military expertise.
From a Christian perspective this assassination was justified under the demands of what is called a ‘Just War.’ Moral reasoning justifies this act of lethal force. He was a ‘clear and present danger’ to human safety on a massive scale.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously stated that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and at the final bar of justice Osama Bin Laden will finally get his. He was the one human being most responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, including the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States — attacks that left more than 3,000 civilians dead. He boasted about the same and pledged future attacks. The death of Osama bin Laden means that at least for awhile millions can now sleep more soundly in their beds, even as those who vowed to avenge his death should sleep less soundly in their own.
Bin Laden said he would never be taken alive. He was true to his words, and he died in the midst of a firefight. It was the best we could hope for under these circumstances, and there was more than adequate justification for his death.
As Christians we must not allow our emotion to run ahead of our sense of justice. Let us keep in mind the inherent limitations of justice in a fallen and sinful world. At our very best, we can achieve only a small proportion of adequate justice. We can convict the murderer and put him to death, but we cannot bring his victims back to life. We can put an end to Osama bin Laden, but in this life we are robbed of the satisfaction of seeing him fully answer for his crimes.
We did the best we could do, and that is often where we are left. We are left with a sense of sober satisfaction. However, this is no small comfort to all those who are still grieving the loved ones who lost their lives on September 11 and elsewhere around the world..
But, as is always the case, we are left with a sense that a higher court is still needed. Christians know that Osama bin Laden escaped the reach of full justice and a trial for his crimes, but he will not escape the judgment that is to come. He will not escape his trial before the court of God. Until then, sober satisfaction must be enough for those still in the land of the living.
Remember, wanting revenge is not a good thing. Revenge is personal thing, it is vigilante justice, it is a vendetta. Justice on the other hand is civil, performed through the rule of law. In Genesis chapter nine God gave man the moral authority to take the life of murderers. Genesis 9:6 reads, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By Man his blood shall be shed: For in the image of God He made man…”
Revenge can destroy you, it is self destructive. Like a sea of raging lava it can liquefy you. Like a flesh-eating bacteria it can eat the life out of you.
In the novel Moby Dick, Captain Ahab is obsessed with seeking revenge on the white whale, Moby Dick. His long struggle results in the death and destruction of the entire crew except for Ishmael the storyteller. Unfortunately the destruction described in this fictional account is often too accurate an account of revenge in the real world.
The atrocities of Nazi Germany in World War II are largely attributed to revenge for Germany’s humiliation after World War I.
We yearn for the end of history, when God will bring His creation to a perfect end; when God’s redemptive purposes will be known to all; when justice will flow like a mighty river. On that day justice will be perfect, and the righteous Judge will be none other than Jesus Christ, who paid the only adequate penalty for sin. On that day, God will judge both the living and the dead, and his judgment upon the sheep and the goats will be both holy and just.
True justice requires the restoration of the victim to the state before the injury, but no human court, however admirable, can bring a murder victim back to life, cleanse the rape victim of her memory, or restore the ability to talk to one injured by a drunk driver.
Humans are invested with a grave responsibility to seek and to serve justice. Made in God’s own image, our souls cry out for justice, but justice is never fully achieved by any human court, justice system, or judge.
True justice is achieved only by the only one who is truly just and all powerful, whose verdicts are perfect and whose judgments are eternal. Human justice points to the need for a greater justice. The very inadequacy of human courts points to our yearning for a heavenly court.
The best is yet to be!
Have a Blessed Day.