I, like most Americans, was glad to hear that news. We all know that war is a terrible thing. We also know that it is inevitable that non-combatants are going to suffer when war breaks out. Innocents will die when bombs and bullets are being hurled back and forth. We are unfortunately familiar with the cold expression, “collateral damage,” as a reference to the unintended deaths of civilians as a result of combat. It seems obvious that simple, common human decency will compel soldiers do to their utmost to avoid such damage and to be grieved on those sad occasions when it occurs. This is where Bin Laden and those of his ilk are revealed to be so heinous. Their preferred method of war is to actually target non-combatants. Military strategists call it asymmetrical warfare. By that they mean it is an attempt to exert influence and power far beyond one’s actual military capabilities by creating fear in a general populace. Their primary weapon is fear, terror. The more deaths of innocent men, women and children one can cause, the more effective the strategy. In short, Bin Laden and his tribe glory in raining destruction upon defenseless people. His great triumph, of course, was to cause the death of nearly 3,000 people on September 11 2001, almost ten years ago. That made him one of the great mass murderers in the history of humanity. He richly deserved the demise that befell him on Sunday.
However, as glad as I was about the news, I received it with a certain amount of melancholy. I found the pictures I saw on television of people celebrating in the street to be somewhat unsettling. Somehow it conjured up images in my mind of Arabs in some places in the world celebrating on 9/11. I remember the outrage that engendered in my soul when I saw it. I would not be surprised if seeing people celebrating Bin Laden’s death produces that same effect in some parts of the world this week. That made me realize that the cycle of vengeance will be encouraged to continue. That is the way of this fallen world. One person inflicts harm on another, the victim lashes back, the initial perpetrator responds in kind, and the cycle can go on for years, for generations. How sad that this world is so full of this cycle of revenge.
But the biggest factor in that sense of melancholy is that while I am glad that justice has been done, those thousands of people who died in the attacks ten years ago are still dead. The death of one awful man cannot undo that. The families that lost loved ones that day will no doubt feel some sense of satisfaction that the man who was responsible for their loss has paid the ultimate price, but they will still have a hole in their hearts left by those they lost. That cannot be undone. Sadly, the death of Osama Bin Laden was not enough to make up for all the pain he caused. I was reminded of the fact that Adolf Hitler died at his own hand, and that his death could never make up for the horror he inflicted on the human race. However, even as I reflected on that sad truth I was reminded of the great truth of our faith. In Matthew 16:27 Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” If all we have is this life, there is no true justice. How could the deaths of 3000 innocent people ever be set right? How could the death of Hitler ever be sufficient punishment in light of the inhuman atrocities of the Holocaust and the destruction of millions of lives in the Second World War? But our God is a just Judge. Psalm 98 tells all the world to rejoice before the Lord and then says in verse 9 “for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.” It is not uncommon for people to think they dislike the idea of judgment. But in fact every human heart yearns to see justice done. It grinds and grates on our souls when wrongs are not righted. The great hope for every human being is that on that day of judgment, God will make all things right. He will deal with these terrible wrongs in a way that will bring a true sense of satisfaction to all of creation. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” At last we will be able to say, “Yes, this is truly just and right, and all that was wrong has been put right.” This is something most people don’t think a great deal about, but in truth it is a great promise of something that we all long for.
One of the great hopes of the Christian faith is that God is just and he will judge. From the little injustices we feel that are inflicted on us personally in our daily lives to the great evils that have been heaped on the human race, all will be made right. This is a cause for great peace and satisfaction. In the end, this event was a reminder to me to give thanks to God that he is a just Judge. I am thankful that I can have confidence that all will be set right some day. Having said that, I must also say that I owe a great debt of gratitude to those in our military who put themselves in harm’s way to carry out missions like this and to protect our nation and our lives, as do we all.