Summary: Meditations on how Christians should respond to the death of a wicked man.
“As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?”
Following a busy day last Sunday, I relaxed with Lynda by watching television in the evening. I was struggling mightily to remain awake as we watched a cooking show. Suddenly, I was startled by a buzzing in my pocket announcing receipt of a text message. The message, from my daughter, read simply, “Are u watching news? Bin Laden is dead.”
The news was electrifying. I read it to Lynda, and we switched to Fox News. Geraldo was visibly flabbergasted—he was blathering in an attempt to fill time, waiting for the President to formally announce the action. In short order we learned that a black ops team had killed Usama bin Laden and taken the body with them. Elite forces composed of men from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (commonly known as DEVGRU) and the United States Army Night Stalkers had flown into Abbottabad, located sixty kilometers north of Islamabad. There, the team had disembarked from the helicopters, entered the various buildings on the compound where they engaged in a firefight before entering the main building. Within forty minutes, the warriors had killed two couriers, a son of the murderer, a woman who was caught in the crossfire and the depraved Islamist sociopath who was shot twice in the head. The man who engineered the murder of multiple innocent men, women and children in the name of his religion was himself killed. He died as the coward he was, cowering like a cornered rat.
I was galvanised by the recitation of events as they unfolded. Soon, broadcasts showed a jubilant crowd gathered in front of the White House, raucous crowds gathered in Times Square and scenes of jubilation at the United States Air Force Academy, at West Point and at Annapolis. Candidly, I experienced a variety of emotions as I pondered what I should feel at the death of a man that had come to represent evil. I certainly experienced exhilaration—the Islamist fiend responsible for unleashing a cowardly attack on an unsuspecting and peaceful people had received justice. I certainly felt a sense of deep pride in the reports affirming the professionalism of the American special ops teams. There was a sense of relief that an ogre, a psychopath who used religion to justify his hatred, was removed from the earth. However, a nagging question arose in my mind: what response does the Lord expect of His people at the death of the wicked.
I went to bed pondering my response to the news of the death of this evil man. It wasn’t until the next day that matters began to resolve themselves, especially after reading a blog by Denny Burk. Professor Burk rightly cautioned believers to weigh carefully their reaction to the death of a wicked man in light of God’s character as revealed through the Word. That is my intent in the message this day. I caution the people of God not to assume a position that leaves us guilty either of arrogance or of presumption. Rather, let us acknowledge that God is righteous, and that at best, our responses are not often godly. I caution that we must accept humbly that God does rule in the affairs of men—and He does call the wicked to account.
GOD IS RIGHTEOUS — For the sake of intellectual and theological clarity, one truth must be emphasised—God is righteous. By definition, God is holy; He is just. Should the Lord God prove unrighteous or unjust in even a single instance, He could not be God. More frequently than one might imagine, sinners accuse God of injustice.
Foolish people sometimes bandy about the charge that the death of the innocent proves that God is unjust; God is commonly imagined to be the author of death. Such a view ignores the fact that our own sinful condition results in death. The Apostle acknowledges this when he states, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” [1 CORINTHIANS 15:22]. The innocent die, not because of rebellion, but as result of participation as part of this fallen race. Know that God has made provision for those that are innocent, promising life in the Son of God.
Jesus addressed the issue of death for the innocent when He spoke on one occasion. “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem’” [LUKE 13:1-4]?