Sunday night after we had arrived back home from a longer than expected return trip from the Black Hills, I pretty much just wanted to veg out and then head to bed a little early perhaps. But that plan was interrupted by a text message from my sister that simply said:
R U watching the news?
It took a few seconds to switch on the TV and flip to Fox News, only to see Geraldo (who Rush jokingly refers to as “the grim reaper” for his ubiquitous presence in announcing celebrity deaths) and a crawl that announced that Bin Laden had been killed.
There are no words to convey what was going through my mind at that point. I couldn’t have said much or typed anything. In fact, I missed sending out a weekday devotional post completely on Monday from a complete inability to process or write anything useful (this blog has been on a slightly longer hiatus of the same sort). The next day, I ended up writing a devotion for the Tuesday edition that addressed some of these feelings. All of my friends on facebook seemed to have something to say about the matter and the opinions ran along a pretty varied continuum. Blog posts were written and things were shared from every corner, but all I could put down at first was this post for Tuesday’s devotional. While this could be a shameless plug for the devotional, I will just repost it here as well:
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness. – Proverbs 11:10
After the news broke about the death of Bin Laden Sunday night, I had kind of a conflicted feeling about the scenes of celebration that I was witnessing. I understand the sentiment to be sure; as this proverb indicates, this is a natural reaction to such an event. I also noticed many people quoting various Bible verses both “pro” celebration and “con” celebration, which might lead some to think the Bible is a bit contradictory about this type of thing. But that only comes from a failure to recognize the difference between commandments and observation. The Bible observes the truth, we tend to celebrate when we feel someone gets “what’s coming to them” in whatever way that manifests. That isn’t a commandment however. We are encouraged to mourn the demise of the wicked and to seek their repentance and warn them of judgment if given an opportunity to do so. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked either and we are to take our cues from His standards and His perspective. We shouldn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked and when we do it is another reminder of God’s perfect character juxtaposed against our own fleshly nature.
Take this time as a reminder of the fact that God loved each of us while we were still His enemy and wicked in His sight.
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
A few weeks back in Bible study at our church, we were talking about the passage in the book of James where he states that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” There has been a lot of talk about this lately in fact with Rob Bell’s book proclaiming that “Love Wins” and seeming to say that judgment will never come. But while we are commanded to love and forbidden to judge, God is perfect in love and in judgment and has the authority to administer both. He will judge, both the living and the dead. His judgment is sure, more sure than the CIA or the Navy Seals or a human court or any other judgment on this earth.
In that verse I mentioned from James, we are told that judgment is “without mercy to him who has shown no mercy” and Jesus taught this same principle in Matthew 18:23-35. Why do I share it here? As much as we are tempted to condemn Bin Laden or someone else that we feel “deserves it,” we should never imagine that we are any better or different. Yet, God’s rich mercy has flowed to each of us through His Son, Jesus Christ. If you have received mercy, you must give it as well. Leave judgment and all that falls short of mercy to the only One who is qualified to mete it out.