Osama bin Laden

“Got him!” The headlines fill our papers, newsrooms and social media. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9-11 is dead.

What should I do? Dance? Party? Shout “U-S-A” over and over?

What should I feel? Pride? Joy? Satisfaction? Patriotic? Gratitude?

I have mixed feelings. “Justice has been done,” says our President. Maybe so. One function of government is to execute jusice. God uses governments for that purpose though not everything nations do is necessarily just.

On the other hand, the celebration, joy and partying that litters our television screens from around the nation disturb me. I could understand if peace had arrived, if the war was over. That would be something to celebrate. But that is not what happened.

In Ezekiel, God spoke into the evil of the world with justice, but yet also said “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (33:11).

Joy is not what I feel. I feel sad that the cycle of violence continues, and it will continue as violence breeds violence. I don’t feel like celebrating.

I feel like praying….

  • praying for all combatants in this conflict, this nation’s military as well as others.
  • praying for the victims of 9-11 as they re-live their loss today
  • praying for the enemies of this nation
  • praying for the family of Osama
  • praying for this nation
  • praying for peace
  • praying

45 Responses to “Osama bin Laden”

  1.   Fajita Says:

    Great words. Should we celebrate violence? No. This should bring us to our knees. Thanks JMH.

  2.   jim burkhalter Says:

    Thank you Brother,
    That brought, I believe, a Godly perspective to the event. To rejoice over the killing of anyone, even when that killing is necessary, is inappropriate at any level.

  3.   Jr Says:

    I was not one filled with glee. There were many emotions in my heart and thoughts in my head. I honestly wondered if He had ever heard the Gospel.

    But is not the want and celebration of the destruction of the wicked justified as a genuine emotion in the Psalms? You taught me well, Dr. Hicks, that laments and crying out and even anger/questioning at God is justified for the people of God – and we see that in the Psalms and other places. But isn’t the imprecatory attitude also justified? At least for a season? Can we not imprecate with those who imprecate?

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Indeed, I did teach you well…too well. 🙂

      Seriously, I think it entirely appropriate to pray for justice, including imprecation. When God acts in justice, we can welcome God’s response and accept it with gratitude…even rejoice in God’s act. (Revelation 19; Psalm 58.) But I don’t equate American Special Forces with divine justice.

      Thanks for the probing….

      •   Jr Says:

        Dr. Hicks: I’m not one to attach nationalism to God; as in saying “God is on our side no matter what.” I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with those who take that position. But in response to the possibility of Special Forces being used in Divine justice? Sure and absolutely! And why not? Didn’t God use pagan nations to inflict His justice upon Israel’s unrighteousness and injustice?

        Again, I am not saying the American Special Forces are always acting in this way. But neither would I remove the possibility of God using them in this way.

        “Our God is in the Heavens. He does all that He pleases.” ~Psalm 115:3

        By the way, thank you for teaching me. 🙂

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        I would not remove the possibility of God using them either. As you know, if I taught you well enough :-), that I believe God is present and active in every event. So, God is doing something in this moment, and in that event. However, I don’t have the discernment to know exactly what it is. And I think it is presumptive to assume (as some do–not you specifically) that we are God’s righteous hand for divine justice in this moment. God has much more going on in this moment than our desire for vengenance. But I don’t rule out the possibility that God may have acted in this moment forthe sake of divine justice.

  4.   Barry W Says:

    Very well said. Additional scripture from Proverbs 24:

    17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
    18 or the LORD will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them.

  5.   brian Says:

    thanks for mentioning praying for his family. it’s bad enough to lose a family member, to not bury that member, also when it was a murderer. That’s gotta be super tough for them.

    I wonder what would happen if I put his family in our bulletin as a prayer request. I will let you know.

  6.   Chris Shrock Says:

    Does 1 Samuel 18 not have any bearing on this?

    “And it happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. And the women sang as they played, and said,
    ‘Saul has slain his thousands,
    And David his ten thousands.'”

    Can there be no happiness in military victory?

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I think it problematic to draw an analogy from Israel in the time of David to the United States in our own time. The discontinuites are too great (e.g., the United States is not biblical Israel).

      •   Chris Shrock Says:

        The analogy holds so long as the salient features of each case are homogenous. The parallel is not between Israel and the United States. It’s between the goods that are accomplished through violence.

        When David killed his ten thousands, some great good was accomplished for Israel. It’s not clear to me what that good was—safety, freedom from oppression, advancement of God’s people, revenge against an enemy—but it was something. Osama bin Laden was a grotesquely evil man. I can’t help but think that his death constitutes a good as well. If celebration is not in order, then relief and contentment are surely appropriate.

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        It seems to me that the comparison of “goods” cannot be so abstract and entails a lifting David out of his context in order to provide a model for our own. My point is that even in Israel, Yahweh did took no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Even if it is a good, we do not kill another human being with a smile….if killing another human being is a good at all.

        I appreciate your input, Chris. It is good to have different views represented in the comments.

  7.   Richard Roland Says:

    John, I was wondering if I was alone in not sharing in the festive mood.

  8.   Holly Solomon Barrett Says:

    Please add praying for our military members and their families to your list. As a military mom, I’m intimately familiar with the sacrifices…and grateful every day for their service.

  9.   rich constant Says:

    first i heard he was dead…
    let me ask if i am a “Pilgrim and a sojourner”
    i let god handle this creation anyway he wants because it is all GOOD…
    I GOT MORE ISSUES THAN I CAN SHAKE a stick at…i am in some ways doing better ???????
    maybe i should take a little more advice heb:10,11,12,and of course 13…
    13:14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name. 13:16 And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

    blessing to all that call on the name of our LORD


  10.   Ray Hawk Says:

    Amen, John. I wish the man had been a believer. Of course, if he had, he would not have masterminded such an episode. Thank you for your article. We all need to pray.

  11.   Aaron Etheridge Says:

    Great post. Thank you for your words, and for the reminder to pray.

  12.   Angela Says:

    Thanks, JM. Yours is a voice of reason in a raging sea.

  13.   Kelly King Walden Says:

    I posted this on my facebook status last night:

    I started to rejoice at Osama bin Laden’s death, but God reminded me of Proverbs 24:17-18 “Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice,
    or the Lord will see and disapprove,
    and turn his wrath away from him.”
    Remember, God says He “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Ezekiel 33:11.
    It generated a lot of comments, of course. Wayne sent me the link to your blog (which I will subscribe to. I haven’t been a blog reader much until lately).

  14.   Lu Daoming Says:

    Gotta tell you, OBL looks a whole lot like someone in my life that I love very much. Hard to watch all the jubilation about killing him. A momentous achievement?

    One man’s death doesn’t cover the 3000 or so at 9-11, won’t bring them back. So what kind of “justice” has been done? Just asking …

    Doesn’t devastating two nations, killing untold tens of thousands of hostiles — not to mention an appalling number of innocent non-combatants — also call out for “justice”? Seems to me that Americans had better be very careful re what they call out for and boast in.

    What’s with the Muslim world, anyway? Don’t they know that we’re the good guys, and they’re supposed to become like us? Oh, wait … they watch TV too. Oh, wait … and most of the conflict is on their soil.

    The Romans cheered (for a short while) because Nero had pointed out the faceless cowards that he was sure had started the Great Fire of Rome — a far more dramatic disaster than even 9-11. Oh wait, … that was us!

    I agree, let’s pray. For a lot of things, and I appreciate your list, and including the families of the military people — not the least of which is the careful extrication of Christian hearts from a profoundly un-Christian culture, so that we can follow the Master into the new creation, the home of real justice.

  15.   John Purdy Says:

    thanks for your words they point me in a better direction.

  16.   Nicholas Livingston Says:

    Dr. Hicks,

    I really appreciate your perspective it is well thought out and contemplative. I don’t believe America is celebrating the the death of a man, America is celebrating that the safety and security that a man, who was head of an organization, took away from them can no longer hurt them or their families. Every one is so quick to call Osama Bin Ladin there enemy and quote proverbs that we should not celebrate in the down fall of our enemies. i was a soldier for 8 years i spent 4 years in Iraq and 1 year in Afghanistan, Osama was never my enemy he was the enemy of my country that as a man i swore to defend. I have had to deal with the fact that i live in a broken world and watch innocent children and women being slaughtered while evil men flourish, when i serve a God of justice and mercy. I believe in defending the weak and those that are not able to defend themselves. I am proud to be an American even though my country is not perfect it’s better than most others i have seen. Today i celebrate in that maybe some families can now have some peace and closure, that fathers who haven’t seen their kids in 10 years of war can perhaps return to their families now and try to carve out some peace of their own. We will never have peace until Jesus returns, however until then i am willing to fight to try and create a better world for my children. Perhaps that makes me evil, one day i will stand in front of God and have to answer for my choices.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Nicholas, your service to the country gives you a perspective most of us do not have. Thanks for sharing it with us. Lu’s point above is a different perspective but one that should be heard alongside of yours. It seems to me that violence is the problem, not the solution. And where violence exists, it will perpetuate itself through revenge (perceived justice).

      I do appreciate your contribution to the dialogue. I happy your voice is part of the comments here.

  17.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Great post! Whether it’s right or wrong, when someone masterminds the murder of 3,000 plus people then they are going to be hunted down in a world where the power of the sword is king. But as a disciple of Jesus I find no cause for celebration and certainly not the rampant nationalism.

    Grace and Peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  18.   Randall Says:

    I am not celebrating out loud nor do I think God is an American nor that America is God’s chosen nation. On the other hand, I can’t help but think that that which a man sows he will also reap. At this particular moment I have no problem with those that sing “Ding dong the witch is dead.”

    Maybe my thoughts are not all they should be, but every person is entitled to their own feelings.

  19.   Ryan Says:

    I fear the verse from Ezekiel is being taken out of context here. Read all of chapter 33. We shouldn’t celebrate the death of an enemy if we’ve not appealed to his return to righteousness. God will hold us accountable for the death of an enemy if we did not first appeal to them to come to God. But if they don’t…if they remain in their wickedness, death is called for…even mandated…by God.

    Verse 11 is talking about God’s desire for ALL men to come to him. He would rather have their faith than their death…but he calls for their death if they refuse to come to faith.

    This doesn’t mean we SHOULD delight in bin Laden’s death…but it also doesn’t mean it is wrong to do so. He was given an opportunity to turn from wickedness. He rejected that.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      No doubt God desires all to come to him, and no doubt God brings justice to evil…presently and eventually. And yet that is the point. Even when God speaks justice in the midst of evil, he takes no pleasure (he does not delight) in the death of the wicked. God desires that all turn from evil but when they do not and he executes justice, he takes no pleasure in their death. Neither will I.

  20.   rich constant Says:

    ya know j.m. our American forces have a lot of real BAD DUDES, I happen mean by that he was a dead man walking, these people tore up two buildings, we have in response dang near tore up two countries.
    ya want to run with the big dogs,ya got to learn to pee in the tall grass.
    war is not good but thank god,in a lot of ways for the people that know how to pee in the tall grass!!!!!!!!
    it is sad in a lot of ways.

    i am so thankful that the world is getting smart phones computers etc. keep ringing the message out…

    blessings bro and if you talk with bob i hope i can see him…

    •   rich constant Says:

      my dad was called the fighting solderer welter champ of army. his story is to long
      my cousin was navy seal
      my aa sponsor was was a cia operative iq 189

      Languages fluently
      my first wife iq 168 1st grade
      i am related to the younger bro.
      thank the lord for my new name
      blessings all

  21.   David Johnson Says:

    If we were a people with a truly Biblically-informed perspective, we would know that God used the seriously sinister Assyrian butchers to bring judgment upon Israel—“the enemies of God” bringing judgment upon “the chosen people”. And then He brought judgment upon the Assyrians. Who knows the mind of God well enough to say that on 9/11 God did not use Osama bin Laden and the henchman of Al Qaeda to bring judgment upon the U.S.?

    We do not deal with a God that does everything as we would do. He is not in our back pocket, so that we can take Him out to execute our purposes at our leisure.

    This has been a seriously disturbing week.

  22.   Randall Says:

    John Piper made a few comments on the death of bin Laden. You may find them here:

  23.   Beth Says:

    I am an Australian, and am glad to see your perspective on this situation. Many of us Antipodeans believe that Americans reflect the movie images so familiar to us – that of the cavalry riding in to save the day, of white-hatted cowboys winning the fight against the sinister black hats! The media’s coverage of the killing of Bin Laden and the resulting celebrations and chest-beating patriotism did nothing to dispel this belief. There has to be a certain amount of trust in government intelligence and policy for a nation to remain stable, but I sometimes wonder how much responsibility one man (Bin Laden)actually had for the attacks in 2001? Can all the blame rest on his shoulders alone? Clearly not. He was part of a belief system that feeds off martyrdom and many others will rise to exact more vengeance. That isn’t to say that his death was a tragic mistake. But I think Christians the world over would be a powerful voice if we cultivated what Jesus asked us to – the fruit of His indwelling Spirit, ie LOVE, joy, peace, MEEKNESS, etc. Your own Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “If I make my enemy my friend, have I not destroyed my enemy?”
    Of course, meekness is very unpopular in this day and age with society’s emphasis on individuality, rights, independence, arrogance and autonomy. But do we Christ-ones believe our God is love, and do we have the faith to be His light and salt to a wicked and dying world?

  24.   Terrell Lee Says:

    I’ve felt a need to address OBL’s death in some kind of sermonic approach, which would be in agreement with what you’ve written here. Yet, knowing whether it is a wise thing to do this is my dilemma. Contemporary American Christians somewhat see themselves as parallels with Israel and nationalism is the growing sentiment. More and more I’m sensing that in our world many believe that to be Christian means you must be Republican, Democrat, et al. Are our people even capable of objectively thinking about this matter? I’m curious about your thoughts regarding what might be a wise approach to tackling this subject in our churches?

  25.   Bobby Valentine Says:

    I have mixed reactions to bin Laden myself. I have no doubt the men involved thought they were doing their duty … probably to both “God” and “country.” But i am not sure that “justice” was done but …

    BTW I ran into Johnny at Pepperdine and he was asking about you.

  26.   Randall Says:

    This is a little late but the subjects of bin Laden, as well as war in general have been on my mind lately. (You may thank Tim Archer’s blog for that.) Also, I served with a government agency in Afghanistan and Iraq; and much of the last 12 years of my career with the government was focused on al-Qaida (AQ) in general and bin Laden in particular.

    I said all that to say this. Do y’all remember Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or AMZ as many of us knew him? He originally came from Zerka, Jordan. He was a thug who had served time in Jordanian prison for a number of crimes one might associate with the type of thug that he was.

    He was notorious when he became the chief AQ representative in Iraq and was seen on TV (here in America and all over the world) quite literally cutting off the heads (with a knife not a sword) of several individuals over a period of months to a year. As a human being, he was about as close to a monster as I can imagine. Eventually he was killed as a result of a targeted US air strike. I don’t recall if it was from a Predator drone and missile or a more conventional aircraft.

    I was happy to hear the news that this butcher had been killed. I suspect I would have been willing “press the button” myself; and I have been conflicted for decades over whether I am a pacifist or not. Perhaps I have just been kidding myself, but these things are not always such black and white decisions in my mind.

    And then there is Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (bin Laden’s Chief of Ops) who has acknowledged (according to the newspapers) he cut off the head of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl “with my blessed right hand.” I think he might have done this right after Pearl acknowledged “I am a Jew, the son of a Jew.” What do we as Christians do; how do we respond to this type of depravity?

    If I was certain of the answer I would not have asked the question.

  27.   Randall Says:

    So the silence is more than a little disconcerting. Is there nothing to be said about the deliberate targeting of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by the US government? Was is okay to target him, but a little less so to target bin Laden? Should we rejoice in this “justice” or was it not justice at all?

    Al-Zarqawi was more of a butcher, but bin Laden was responsible for the deaths or many more people through his Chief of Ops, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad who planned the 9/11 attacks. How should Christians feel about episodes like this? Surely we can’t just pretend it is okay to criticize the one and ignore the other.

    Seriously, I am a guy that has really struggled with the issue of Christians in war, in government ,etc for more than 40 years. Can’t anyone weigh in?

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      My silence has been due to my travels. I have been out of the country for most of the summer and even now am still traveling in the Northeast of the country.

      It seems to me that our decision will ultimately reflect whether Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is realistic and applies to the kingdom ethic of living as the people of God in the world, both individually and corporately.

      I would suggest that the kingdom ethic calls us to a different standard than how nations operate. Nations use violence for self-interests. But can citizens of the kingdom of God do so? I don’t think so. Instead we actively practice peacemaking.

      •   Randall Says:

        Thanks for the reply, especially when you’ve been away and busy. I think I might have been less conflicted if I had been a farmer. Glad I’m retired now and have the opportunity to reflect back and consider what I might have done differently.

  28.   Warren Baldwin Says:

    Beth raises a good issue about our trust in government intelligence … how much can/should we trust it? We can’t stop the government from acting on the intelligence they tell us they have. But, we don’t have to get caught up in the hoopla of it, too. Have we forgotten that later intelligence reports on Iraq nullified earlier ones? Saddam Hussein / Iraq was not involved in 911. Yet, we attacked them for it. How do we as Christians respond to this later intelligence? Apologize to the people of Iraq? Cry in sorrow? Cry out in repentance? I’m not justifying Saddam Hussein – I was opposed to supporting him in the 1990s, when we gave him the WMD to use against Iran. Back then I was supposed to support him b/c my government did. Then, ten years later I was supposed to oppose him b/c my government did. As Christians, I feel like we are obligated to a higher ethic than government intelligence. When it is wrong, innocent people (Iraqi citizens) can die by the thousands. What happens to our cheers then?

    BTW, this is not a criticism of young men and women who in love for their country want to protect it.


  29.   Warren Baldwin Says:

    John Mark,
    Some kind of wordpress mix up … my name links to a different Warren Baldwin than me.

  30.   Kirk M. Ruch Says:

    Not to be excessively simplistic … please forgive me if I seem so, for it is not in my heart to disparage people who are hurting over these issues in ways that for the moment, I’m not. Would Jesus kill Zarqawi, bin Laden, or Saddam if He had the button, the trigger, or whatever? If He would, then go for it. If He wouldn’t, then don’t do it, stop thinking about it, and let’s do something else more productive.

    I can’t help but think that Jesus lived in an era of everyday injustice on an order of blatancy that would stagger our imaginations – if only because we’re more accustomed to the veneer of integrity, and because we feel the moral suasion of dedicated young men and women who choose to make sacrifices for something we’re not so sure of. You’d think that the news since, oh, the Pentagon Papers, anyway, would have helped us sort that out.

    Why not kill the Zealots who bullied innocent people into revolts that slaughtered them? Why not kill the Roman brute-squads who raped and robbed the poor? Why not take out Tiberius Caesar — or Nero — and force a regime change? Jesus — and His earliest followers — made no effort to do so. His own death was the greatest injustice in earthly history!! But He didn’t kill anyone to prevent it — and stopped those who tried.

    Surely we can find better answers to our worthy ethical questions by looking at Him and at His earliest followers. What makes our situation different from theirs? “They had no power to effect change — we do.” Do we indeed?? Really?? Are we creating greater justice by responding with such overwhelming force?

    “We have the power to effect change.” Even if that’s true, what makes our situation different from His? He had the power to effect change, too. But He didn’t use His power to effect change in the manner of the Zealots — or Rome — or America.

    I grew up during the Vietnam conflict, and I remember the parents of my peers and their dogged “Christian patriotism.” I remember hearing Robert McNamara’s name on the news almost every night for awhile there. So a few years ago when his memoirs came out and he apologized to the American people for keeping them in Vietnam long after he knew they couldn’t win the war … well, you do the math. But what really disturbed me is this: McNamara apologizes to the Americans — who suffered some casualties, to be sure. Why the hell didn’t he apologize to the Vietnamese, whose lands were bombed, burned, poisoned? whose people were maimed, murdered, napalmed, prostituted?

    We can go a long way into this, if you must. Central America, South America? Whom do the Americans support, and why? Who’s getting hurt, and why? Who would Jesus hurt? and why?

    C’mon — Jesus knew exactly what He was doing while He was here. If we want to walk in the power of the Spirit, we’ve got to learn to live like this isn’t the only world there is, that God Himself really does have a stake in how history plays out, and that He will intervene on the Great Day and make things right. We have to live like America is just one more country among many — blessed and grateful to have lived there, so bless the people by living like Jesus among them — but don’t put any more faith in America than in any other country. I don’t mean to be simplistic, as I said — but “realpolitik” in some esoteric defense of our culture has the unpleasant effect of turning us into what we’re fighting.

    Just ask the Vietnamese.

    Grace, cheers — Kirk

  31.   witness4thegospel Says:

    If our attitude, as nation, is to celebrate the death of our enemies then how can we call ourselves a “Christian” nation? One of the most fundamental doctrines of Jesus’ teachings is that we are to LOVE OUR ENEMIES!! How else can the goodness of God that has been given to us by grace ever influence those who oppose us or don’t believe?
    I know that everyone is still hurting and upset about 9/11, but the way God wants us to deal with it not by carpet bombing, or drones, or heavy artillery, but He wants to have faith enough in Him to exercise His own judgement upon these “enemies.” Besides, if our nation, over the many years that Palestine and the Middle East has be exploited by the West, had been treating the Muslim nations with dignity and respect…patiently teaching the gospel when God opened a door to do so…well, I believe our problems there would be a lot different. Once again, it’s NOT Christian to ignore the teachings of Christ. The gospel that saves us is by God’s grace and we have no business acting like “well I’m saved, but their a bunch of heathens.” I pray for bin Laden, his family and all others who DON’T KNOW CHRIST JESUS as their SAVIOR! Isn’t that what we all should be doing?

  32.   Gina Morrison Says:

    I left a note in response to your article about some consensus thing with southern baptists and the Church of Christ on baptism. I’m wondering if you can find it and respond to me?

    Is the link to prayer on your site a part of your site or to someone else’s blog

    sorry to interupt the discussion….thank you


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