All week weíve seen people cheering and high-fiving and celebrating the fact a U.S. sailor shot a 60-ish unarmed man to death. Which is not to defend who that man was or what he has done, but to point out America should, ideally, not be in the revenge business. Christians, most assuredly, should not be in the revenge business. True followers of Christ, therefore, have likely spent much of the week awash in mixed emotions: relief at an at least symbolic national closure. But, to truly know Christ, you have to be conflicted about the lesson, reinforced yet again, of conflict resolution by an act of violence. Would Jesus cheer the death of Osama bin Laden?
I donít believe Jesus Christ would celebrate the murder
of Osama bin Laden. I donít believe Jesus was all that much
concerned about justice. Justice was not His mission. Crime and
punishment were not the measure of His ministry on earth. Jesus
was wholly unconcerned about the Roman state or the actions of
the government. He taught us to obey the law, to pay our taxes,
to submit to those in authority over us. But He demonstrated
absolutely no nationalism, no flag-waving, fist-pumping pride.
It is likely that, while all of that was going on, Jesus would
more likely have been in a quiet corner somewhere, engaging some
stranger about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The president, a confessed born-again Christian, has made repeated statements about how justice had been done. This is a tough lesson to reconcile with our children, as we routinely teach them justice occurs in courtrooms. This is difficult for pastors to reconcile with congregants as the bible teaches us that justice is Godís business, not ours. I am quite sure pastors, black and white, across the nation struggled with the issue of the bin Laden killing and how we, as followers of Christ, should respond. My experience here in Ourtown leads me to suspect, if it was mentioned at all, black pastors here likely used it for a cheer line and did not bother grappling with the morality of the event or using it as a teaching opportunity. I sincerely hope and pray your pastor did and that Iím just being obnoxious, but more then a decade of experience here has aptly demonstrated most of our leaders here are simply not thoughtful beyond whatever Noahís Ark homily they throw together on a napkin ten minutes before entering the pulpit.
The qualities of God include a tough one: mercy. Mercy is, for us, terribly difficult because mercy requires a denial of self. With mercy, we have to mash on the brakes just as our bloodlust is at its zenith. Just as people who have hurt us, who have wounded us, done us wrong, cheated us, lied on us, are about to get their just deserts, God requires us to forego the ecstasy and release of
the death blow. Jesus asks us to show mercy that
mercy might be shown to us [Matthew 5:7]. I know of almost no
Church Folk who have ever, in my lifetime, shown mercy to me or
anyone else. Not saying it doesnít happen, Iím saying I myself
have not personally experienced this. Mercy is one of those
qualities of Jesus Christ that are best demonstrated in private.
Church Folk tend to embody few if any of the qualities of Christ
or the fruit of the Spirit, and, to my experience, most of these
folk simply live for revenge. They sacrifice for it. Expend
massive amounts of time, energy and resources to achieve it.
Will sit their fat butts on committees just to spite someone
else. Revenge. Itís so sweet. Itís like a drug. The
Schadenfreudeóreveling in the suffering of others.
Jesus, of course, was not in the revenge business. Now, I have to believe revenge was a tempting solution even to Him, Christís humanity making itself known at inconvenient intervals. But He never gave into it. Evil ultimately destroys itself. This isnít to suggest we should have left bin Laden be. My own flawed humanity wrestles with the conclusion that the presidentís decision to kill and not capture was, regrettably, the right one. A living bin Laden, imprisoned perhaps here in Coloradoís Ultra Max, would represent a rallying call for extremists and present a wide variety of global economic, political and security consequences, many of which could not possibly be accurately predicted or anticipated. In that light, I conclude killing bin Laden solves more problems than it creates. But it is ultimately a failure of the American esthete, a difficult choice to explain to our children, a violation of the divine example of Jesus Christ, Whom the right-wing extremists claim to follow even as they routinely and without hesitation crucify Him afresh by violating virtually everything He taught us. CONTINUED