Thoughts from the Field
“Osama bin Laden is dead. The news broke while I was in the largest Muslim country in the world, and while I was in an area that is 98+ % Muslim. After receiving this news, we proceeded with our plans to go to a restaurant for dinner. We did not fear for our lives.
I was not surprised that opinion varied among those interviewed on the local news in that country. Some viewed bin Laden as a victim, some as a criminal, some as a hero and some as an embarrassment. Most Muslims feel that bin Laden has besmirched the name of Islam, and is in fact, not even a true Muslim. What has interested me more are the range of comments that are coming from other places. I know that when speaking on a politicized event, one risks losing friends. However, I am of the view that it should in fact be with our friends that we are able to share our reflections on difficult issues, and so I proceed in that spirit.
My first observation is that among those who are calling this event a “murder” every single one of them, regardless of location or religion, lives in a country where their police carry guns, and periodically use them with lethal results. When a madman begins shooting schoolchildren, as happened right next door to my church some years ago, the question is never, “Should we let him keep on shooting children?” but rather is, “Where were the police? Why couldn’t they have gotten there faster?” Nor when such a maniac is killed as he is firing on children does anyone raise the word “revenge” or even “murder.” We are always grateful when a very troubled person is arrested before they can execute their plans for destruction. Bin Laden confessed to his crimes, was a repeat offender and was actively inciting and planning more acts of violence.
My second observation is that people often say that we live in a hopelessly corrupt world. Christians confess that humans are sinful. We therefore are often confronted with only bad options. Violence is one of them. However, I personally would prefer that the American government (or the English, or Mexican, or German, or French or Australian—simply insert your favorite “culprit” government) be choosing who will live and who will die rather than Osama bin Laden. It is not the exercise of power that is wrong, rather it is the unjust exercise of power. I want to go on record as being full of gratitude to all of those who have given themselves to protect those who are unable to protect themselves: police, firefighters, the military and others who go unnamed.
But is the world “hopelessly” corrupt? I do not believe so. We have in the Christian world just celebrated the greatest victory over corruption, tyranny, unjustness and indeed DEATH that history has ever witnessed: the Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! So while criminal activity cannot be tolerated, this is not the ultimate battle. Terrorism is a set of ideas. We are ultimately and over the long term in a struggle of ideas and God has revealed the Truth!!! For all of us who regret the death of anyone, and for all of us who want justice for all, recent events should be a searing reminder of the urgency of the task of calling all to be disciples of Jesus, the Risen One.
I am often asked, “Who will win this struggle?” I know who will over the long term, as I do read the Bible. But in the short term, I fear it will go to those who are most committed. Will that be us? What will be the response of those who follow Jesus?
I am recommitting myself to pray for my enemies. I am also strengthening my commitment to love my others in a way that will reach their hearts with the love of God in Jesus Christ. As you pray for me, I invite you to join me in these commitments.
Yours in the name of the Living One,