It is never a good thing for us to celebrate death, since it is the result of our sin against God. However this time, my emotion and desire has clearly overwhelmed my theology.
Osama bin-Laden is dead. The man who orchestrated massive terror attacks against the United States and other nations has been identified, killed, and disposed of by the American military. In New York City, people have been celebrating since last night as if the Yankees had just won another World Series. In Washington D.C., every twentysomething young adult poured out of the local gin mills and flash mobbed the White House gates. The crowd at the Phillies vs. Mets game started chanting “U-S-A” as people started checked the push notifications on their iPhones about our president’s coming announcement. There is a lot of energy in the USA today, especially in Yankee territory.
Last night on my Twitter feed I noticed the conflicted emotions of us religious types. High profile pastors like Steven Furtick and Mark Driscoll were elated at the news, while musician Derek Webb cautioned the twitterverse “don’t celebrate death, celebrate Justice”, and Michael Hyatt quoted Proverbs 24:17. Some pastors just started getting silly waiting for President Obama who ended up appearing on television almost an hour late. People were going back and forth on the issue, with some excited about the prospect of hell gaining citizens, and others horrified by the notion that Christians were celebrating the death of another human life. In summary, some were dancing in the streets because of Justice, and others were screaming that we should remember Mercy.
Why the conflict? Because we all want Justice, and we all want mercy for ourselves. We’re conflicted because we’re fallen, sinful, and ourselves completely unjust, unrighteous, and dead apart from Jesus.
In Christ, God gives both. No sin has or will go without Justice:
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, New International Version, ©2011)
Jesus “became sin” and the object of God’s wrath, so that we receive mercy. The Father sent the Son so that we would receive mercy, just as He would certainly dispense Justice. So celebrate Justice. And desperately seek mercy. It is never a good thing for us to celebrate death, since it is the result of our sin against God. However, this time, my emotions have clearly overwhelmed my theology.
To quote Steven Furtick again: “I DO mourn death=The widespread death that Bin Laden’s life created. Today we MUST celebrate the sacrifice & victory of our troops.”