“No Man is an Island”: One Christian’s Response to Bin Laden’s Death

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. (www.chicagotribune.com)

So, Osama Bin Laden is dead. But what now? What is our response?

Students all over the US are flocking to the streets, throwing gargantuan parties, singing songs, celebrating. On the one hand, this event does mark some kind of progress that seems to warrant at least a bit of frivolity. However, it’s important not to let the zealous rush override the moral fiber of our wonderful nation—and, as Christians, the integrity of our faith. It’s one thing to rejoice over the triumph of peace, but another to take unhealthy pleasure in the loss of human life.

And there is a difference.

As Christians, we must remember the words of Scripture.

In Romans chapter 12, Paul says:

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus says:

7 Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

-and-

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The words in the verses above do not always sync with reality. For instance, sometimes sin seems the only way to defeat sin. (It is here one could easily turn to the tangent of “just war theory,” but we won’t open that can of worms here.) I believe this is just a function of our fallen world, and while we as Christians must try to transcend this cycle of violence-for-violence by remembering the words of Scripture, we also can’t place an unrealistic moral expectation upon it all—we cannot, no matter how hard we try, be “perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect,” for instance.

I know that posts like this one can so easily come across as pompous pontification, especially in light of such atrocities as 9/11 and a decade-long war. We want to feel a sense of victory that justifies the prior tragedy and dysfunction.

So, of course, the news of Bin Laden’s death brings with it a rush of relief, and I have to admit that even I gave an enthusiastic fist pump when I logged onto Facebook this morning and saw the news. Wrapped within his figure we find a terrific jumble of symbolism—the evil he represented, the brainwashing of young men, the anxiety and fear his actions have brought to the world—but we must keep separate the symbols and the man himself. I believe as Christians we walk a fine line on these matters.

In the verses I quoted above from Romans, Paul ends by exhorting us to “overcome evil with good.” So I challenge you: what kind of good can we make of this evil?

I leave you with this, the words of the poet John Donne:

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as a manor of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (-Meditation 17.)

 

(All Bible verses taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

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