Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Killing Osama vs. Loving Your Enemies

Sunday night, May 1, 2011, I was elated when the news broke that the USA military forces had finally caught up with Osama bin Laden and stopped him. I believe I would've been equally elated had the news said that he had been captured and would spend the rest of his life behind bars - his death brought me no additional joy. But I thought how I had never before seen such glee over someone dying. Geraldo Rivera, the newsman who I was watching, was like a child on Christmas eve. And Monday morning, on the news and on facebook, etc., something inside of me was deeply disturbed with the way people were expressing such joy over death.
Afterward, I got sucked into a facebook discussion on "loving your enemy", and how in the world can killing Osama fit in with that very central, core Christian teaching - and, to my surprise, I found myself on the opposite side of the argument! I was arguing on the side that I didn't want to be on, yet was finding Biblical texts to support the killing.

I realized the truth of both sides.

Jesus truly loved everyone, and taught His people to "love your enemy, and do good to those who hate you", but yet he says in Matthew 18:6, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Now Jesus was saying this metaphorically, yet the teaching here is that children should not be harmed, and that death of one who would be a stumbling block is the preferred outcome over stumbled children. Obviously death by millstone drowning is not God's morality, yet in this situation, that is the better choice.
I hate the term "situational ethics", because it seems to imply that morals are not absolute and different things become ok in certain situations. I believe it's crucial that we realize that God's morals are absolute but the way God's absolutes are expressed do differ based on differing situations. For example, is God a God of love or of wrath? When I am talking to someone who says, "I am too bad of a sinner, I've fallen too far, and God can never forgive me," I would be quick to let them know of God's unconditional love and His grace and forgiveness that is available to them no matter what. But when I am talking to someone who says, "God is a God of unconditional love and grace, so He's not going to send me to Hell", I'm going to remind them of the danger of sin and their need to humble themselves and fall at the feet of a Holy and righteous God. God is a God of love AND of wrath.
In this situation, when Jesus or other Biblical writers were speaking to an audience struggling with hearts that were hateful, they reminded them of the fact that love overcomes evil and that to love the Lord your God (and your neighbor) were the greatest commandments!
Yet in situations when innocents were being harmed, protection of those innocents became the expression of that same love - even to the point of millstone drownings.
There is also a huge difference between showing love to someone who has been showing hatred toward you, and not intervening in situations where lives are at risk! Loving an enemy is expressing God's love, and protecting an innocent person is also expressing God's love.
AND YET, if an innocent is protected and one who were to harm them is "taken out", in no way are we to dance around and shout, "Yeah Us" because the bad guy is dead!
And there certainly is an enemy that God detests, and that is Satan, and one day Satan will be "taken out" - but our dancing in heaven will not be over the death of Satan, but over our love of our Savior. That love for our Savior needs to be happening now, every moment of every day, as we battle against satan.
And in the same way, support for our country and for those fighting for our country ought to be ongoing, even in times when it seems we are losing the war.
There's so much more that needs to be studied and expressed on these issues, but these are some of the thoughts God has given me today.