As a citizen of the Empire that grants me all the creature comforts of electricity, indoor plumbing, on Demand HD Cable Television, 4G wireless networks, fast food, and freedom of speech, religion, etc. I must confess that I reacted to the news of Bin Laden’s death with mixed emotions. I can’t count the number of movies I’ve watched where I cheered when the bad guy gets served justice in the end. And again, I can’t count the number of homicides and vigilante killings I’ve witnessed on the countless crime shows I watch on television. My brain and my spirit are desensitized to violence. That in itself is something that should cause me to take pause…
Then I see the news on Sunday night — on the very same day that I preached on the hope that comes through the resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness that God has given us through him. I was stunned. On the one hand I felt like this was a great victory for the Empire. Perhaps it eases the pain of the billions of dollars we’ve spent feeding the military machine and the lives that have been lost both in the twin towers and on the sands of the Middle East. Yet, on the other hand, something seemed dasterdly in the way many appeared almost giddy about it. As the television flipped from scenes of clandestine execution to commercials selling “no ride” underwear and fake fingernails, I couldn’t help but think of scenes of the Capitol in the recent book trilogy called the Hunger Games.
As a follower of the prince of peace, how do we reconcile this kind of violence with Paul’s words to the church in Rome when he said,
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)
I like the way Brian McLaren put it in his post:
Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?
I’m asking the question, honestly. I know we live in a complex world full of hurting people who hurt people. We have the military to defend the defenseless and there is a time to fight. I just wonder if we should ever rejoice over it, that’s all.
I often feel very small in the shadow of these world events. I simply, quietly, voice my thoughts and pray to God for justice and peace, knowing that I don’t even begin to understand what that really means.