Earlier today I sent an update to my Facebook and Twitter page asking this very question, and responding, “Yes, we can rejoice in the good effects of his death, but need to pray for the person.” When I heard of bin Laden’s death, I felt a great sense of relief and gratitude.
The laws of God require that we not hate anyone. “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” We can hate what they do, we can hate what they stand for, and we can actively oppose it, even to the point of taking their lives in self-defense or in the defense of others. At the same time, Christians need to take seriously the words of Christ, who taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:43-46).
But rejoice that he is dead? Yes. After all, Christians just observed Good Friday, rejoicing in the good effects of the death of Jesus Christ. Now of course it is absurd to compare the two as persons; I’m only raising the question as to whether we can rejoice in someone’s death. Unlike the case of bin Laden, the acts that killed Jesus were not justified, nor did he do anything wrong. Yet we call “Good” the day that he died, because it was in fact good for us.
While I leave it to the military experts to analyze the precise effects of bin Laden’s death, I can reasonably conclude that it, too, is good for us. The rejoicing is not in a spirit of vengeance, or “he got what he deserved,” because frankly, I would not want to get what I deserve for my sins. Moreover, I fear that by going too far down the “He got what he deserved” path, I may be drawn into the same destructive mindset that these warped fanatics embrace. But we can rejoice nevertheless, because the war on these radical terrorists is real, and it is a war we must win, period. Together, we must protect our nation, and removing bin Laden from the scene brings us closer to that goal.
And we are also called to acknowledge that those who do evil to us are not, in the ultimate sense, “the enemy.” They are captive to the enemy, in the sense that they are captive to false and dangerous ideologies and practices. But the person himself never loses his human dignity, even if by his actions he denies, degrades, and contradicts it. We pray for the redemption of all our brothers and sisters in the human family.
Frank Pavone | May 3, 2011 9:29 AM