How Should Christians Respond to the Death of bin Laden?

May 2, 2011

Theology professor Christopher Morgan has written a thoughtful response to the death of Osama bin Laden in which he notes that Christians "can rightly grieve that Osama bin Laden opposed the true and living God and will be punished accordingly. But we also can rightly rejoice in the defeat and judgment upon people who are eviland he was clearly evil and deserving of every punishment earth can give."

This seems to hit about the right balance: bin Laden was made in the image and likeness of God, was loved by Him, and was a sinner for whom Christ died. Personal hatred of the man is not in keeping with Jesus' message of love. Yet that message was designed for His followers, not the secular state --- which, the Apostle Paul reminds us, "does not bear the sword in vain" (Romans 13:4). Bin Laden was, as Morgan notes, "clearly evil," a mass murderer who for many years pursued an agenda of indiscriminate killing. Grief at his eternal punishment and satisfaction that earthly justice has been done are rightful, and simultaneous, responses to the death of this author of so much human destruction.

Yet there are two additional dimensions to the demise of bin Laden that Christians should consider: The potential for retribution against believers in Jesus, and also the opportunity bin Laden's death brings to share the Gospel. In a story in today's Christian Post:

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention says it has more than 5,000 personnel members serving internationally, several of whom have been calling the Virginia headquarters today with a message for Americans. 'They have really pled that Christians here, instead of celebrating, would fall on their knees and pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel,' said Wendy Norvelle, IMB associate vice president and spokesperson.

Indeed. And with this prayer, let us also pray for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, perhaps most especially Pakistan. "There are fears that the death of Osama bin Laden could incite Islamic militants to carry out revenge attacks on Christians in Pakistan," writes Brian Hutt in Christian Today-India. Hutt notes that "Christians make up only three per cent of the population in Pakistan and are regularly the victims of killings and attacks ... Just last week, a church and missionary school were targeted by Muslim extremists in Gujranwala after Christians were accused of defiling the Koran. The attack has prompted hundreds of Christians to leave the city out of fear for their lives."

Thus, prayer seems the best recourse of all: For opportunities for the Gospel, and for protection of our own country, for those who serve her so faithfully in uniform and in our clandestine services (whose bravery and tenacity in killing one of America's greatest enemies we honor), and for those who profess Christian faith in regions where to do so is to risk one's life.