Monday, May 2, 2011


"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles." - Proverbs 23:17

Given my active Twitter feed and constant monitoring of world news for my job, I found out about Osama bin Laden's death as soon as the news hit the wires. I stayed up and watched Obama announce it to the nation. I was a bit surprised at my reaction. I didn't rejoice. I didn't even feel a sense of justice although I certainly believe Osama got what he deserved in human terms. I did feel a lingering sadness. A sadness over a life used by Satan to produce evil and heartache and chaos...a life that most likely ended in eternal torment. I think a few years ago I would have been much more jubilant as the memories from the day of 9/11 remain very much imprinted on my mind. However, my continued spiritual growth and desire to see things more through God's eyes have shifted how I see and process the world around me. This proved to be a reminder of how much God has changed me.

I have included some other Biblically solid sources here that will hopefully help Christians and non-Christians alike process Osama's death and that of others that we deem to be evil.


The Vatican’s statement will not jibe with many Americans, but I believe it is right. The Bible says: “As I live, says the Lord GOD, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live” (Ezekiel 33:11). We should be glad that, as a direct result of his death, global terrorism will be set back (how much no one knows for sure) and global peace will be advanced. But, in accordance with the teaching of Jesus Christ (“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” [Matt. 5:43-44]) we should not rejoice at his death per se. Nor can we assume that his soul is in hell (though that wouldn’t be surprising), since God alone is Judge.

The Vatican said the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a man who sowed division and hatred and who caused “innumerable” deaths, should prompt serious reflection about one’s responsibility before God.

A Christian “never rejoices” in the face of a man’s death, the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said in a brief statement this morning. Here is an English translation of his statement:

Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose.

In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.


"When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." Proverbs 21:15 - tweeted by Rick Warren

And yet, the Christian narrative is one in which we await and long for the complete restoration/reconciliation of all things to God. Any other “solution” to brokenness is second best and a form of brokenness itself.

Bin Laden’s death is one more death in a long chain of violence that began long before his birth and will continue long after his death. I hardly expect anyone in my social setting to sincerely lament his passing. I do not. But celebrating his death (or any death, really) is revealing of a profound misunderstanding of the nature of war, the nature of evil, the nature of violence, the nature of death and, I believe, the heart of God.

Nothing has been won. It is only another loss that can, for now, help some of us to feel better about the losses closer to us. But that’s not a victory. It’s a compromise.

Death ought always be greeted with a sense of sobriety. Because, though it may feel good (and that is fully understandable) death does not heal. Death does not solve. Death does not fix. Every death is a reminder of brokenness. As a Christian, I must hope for and celebrate something better than this.


Question: "How should Christians react to the death of evil people?"

Answer: With the recent death of Osama bin Laden, many Christians are wondering how they should feel about such an event. Are we to rejoice/celebrate when evil people die / are killed? Interestingly, the authors of the Bible seem to have struggled with this issue as well, with different perspectives being presented in different passages.

First, there is Ezekiel 18:23, “’As surely as I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’” Clearly, God does not take pleasure in the death of evil people. Why is this? Why wouldn’t a holy and righteous God take pleasure in evil people receiving the punishment they deserve? Ultimately, the answer would have to be that God knows the eternal destiny of evil people. God knows how horrible eternity in the lake of fire will be. Similar to Ezekiel 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9 states that God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” So, in terms of the eternal destiny of evil people, no, we should not rejoice at their eternal demise. Hell is so absolutely horrible that we should never rejoice when someone goes there.

Second, there is Proverbs 11:10, “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” This seems to be speaking of the death of evil people in an earthly/temporal sense. When there are fewer evil people in the world, the world is a better place. We can rejoice when justice is done, when evil is defeated. A mass murderer being removed from the world is a good thing. God has ordained governments (and the military) as instruments of judgment against evil. When evil people are killed, whether in the judicial system via the death penalty, or whether through military means, it is God’s justice being accomplished (Romans 13:1-7). For justice being done, and for evil people being removed from this world, yes, we can rejoice.

There are many other scriptures that could be discussed (Deuteronomy 32:43; Job 31:29; Psalm 58:10; Proverbs 17:5, 24:17-18; Jeremiah 11:20; Ezekiel 33:11), but Ezekiel 18:23 and Proverbs 11:10 are likely sufficient to help us achieve this difficult biblical balance. Yes, we can rejoice when evil is defeated, even if that includes the death of evil people. Ridding the world of evil people is a good thing. At the same time, we are not to rejoice at the eternal condemnation of evil people. God does not desire that evil people spend eternity in the lake of fire, and He definitely does not rejoice when they go there. Neither should we.