And this morning crowds gathered around the around the White House and at Ground Zero in New York to celebrate. I was glad, but I was not in a celebratory mood.
I was glad because our government has finally brought to justice a man who has done great harm to our country. As I argued in my book The Beauty of God for a Broken World, God’s justice is one aspect of His beauty. It arises from His love for His Son and His love for His own intrinsic righteousness. Even on the human level, we can recognize that a just society is more attractive than a city or nation where ruthless thugs rule the roost. God has given human governments the responsibility for exercising the temporal portion of His vengeance (Romans 12:19-13:5). The eternal portion of His vengeance God reserves for Himself.
So I am glad that bin Laden has been brought to justice. However, celebration is another matter.
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him (Proverbs 24:16-18 ).
The soul of Osama bin Laden is now, no doubt, suffering the torments of God’s wrath. At the final resurrection, his soul and body will be reunited to endure forever the fiery judgment of Hell. It ought never to be a matter for rejoicing when any human being is consigned to such a fate.
In the previous sentence, I wrote never, but I didn’t quite mean it. I meant never in this life. There will come a day when all of heaven’s angels and all of Christ’s redeemed will shout for joy, praising God for His just judgment of the wicked (Revelation 19:1-6). But that day has not yet arrived. Our hearts are not yet pure enough to celebrate the judgment of bin Laden because mixed in with our celebration there will inevitably be a self-righteous smirk and the soul-deadening satisfaction that comes from taking our own revenge.
So let us thank God for the justice that has been done. Let us thank our President and his elite forces for their diligence and professional expertise. But let’s hold off on the cake, the dancing and the fireworks.