Monday, May 2, 2011
Is it appropriate to celebrate my enemy's demise?
The death of terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden has brought the emotions of US citizens to the surface in a way not seen in a generation. Spontaneous celebrations have erupted around the nation, and the surviving families of victims of Bin Laden led terrorist actions have expressed a wide variety of emotions ranging from relief, to satisfaction. I personally admit to feeling a great sense of admiration and pride in those who carried out the mission to attack Bin Laden and great relief that none of the assault force was injured or killed in the attack. Nevertheless, while the celebratory expressions have dominated the news, there are a significant number of Americans who are wrestling with that reaction and asking if it is appropriate to rejoice at the demise of an enemy, especially for those who are people of faith?
Proverbs 24:17 supports the caution of not rejoicing over a fallen enemy. It says:
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice…”
But one might ask, what about the imprecatory Psalms (The ones where enemies are cursed)? What about Moses’ reaction to Pharaoh’s destruction at the Red Sea? In Exodus 15, Moses, Miriam and the entirety of Israel break out into song in a stirring chant of praise in response to the destruction of Pharaoh and his army:
“I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and rider thrown into the sea!”
If one reads further, the song goes on to detail the graphic images of pharaoh’s officers drowning with their chariots “sinking like stones”. If that weren’t enough, by the end of the chapter, Miriam, Moses sister, and the women of Israel take up tambourines and begin dancing with great fervor to celebrate this victory over the Egyptian Army! So what’s the appropriate response? Restraint or unencumbered jubilee?
I’m not sure that the Scriptures give us a clear black and white solution to this question, though I do believe there are some guidelines present to take into consideration.
The object of the praise in the Song of Moses and Miriam is the Lord. Moses and the nation of Israel realized that without God’s intervention, they would have been the ones at the bottom of the sea. They were quick to recognize that though the Lord would lead them into other battles in which they would have to engage the enemy more directly than they did in this instance; the Lord was the Source of their victories. Celebration was appropriate, but it was always imperative t realize that their victory was a demonstration of God’s care for them and His mercy, not their superiority or self-sufficiency. God warns His people that it is not because they are any better than other nations that He protects them, but it is because He has promised to care for them. God showed Himself continually to be merciful and made it known that the other nation’s behavior was so repugnant that he chose to chasten them with military defeat. He also warned that those who seek to follow Him can also find themselves in jeopardy of being defeated if repentance, humility and righteousness are not the guiding truths of that nation’s way of life.
It should be understood that the Scriptures make it clear that governments bear arms for the putting down of evil and destructive people. Romans 13:4,5 says:
“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
Though we are instructed not to engage in vengeful actions as individuals and not to indulge in “vigilante justice” on our own individual initiative, those persons who bear arms as representatives of the government exist for the very purpose of keeping or restoring order even by the use of deadly force, if it is necessary. Nevertheless, the question remains, is celebration appropriate? My personal opinion on the matter based on my understanding of the Bible is this:
It is understandable that the feeling of jubilation exists at the apprehension and subjugation of a man responsible for the death and destruction of thousands of innocent people for whom he held no regard or mercy. I especially appreciate his being subdued, because I understand that it was his full intention to continue executing his diabolical plan had he not been stopped by force. I also have deep admiration and respect for the people who have sworn to defend this nation and who have been on the job pursuing this man and his cohorts for more than a decade. Everyone who has contributed to the years of military engagement which led to this especially sweet victory, deserves praise, gratitude and respect for the sacrifices they have endured to bring about this result. Their dedication to see this victory through serves as a warning to anyone who believes they can attack innocent people without facing severe consequences and their dedication deserves recognition and celebration.
Nevertheless, I am fully aware that there are many others dedicated to the same diabolical cause to which Bin Laden devoted himself, and I understand that we must remain ever ready to confront those people whenever and wherever they surface. I also understand that while we seek to stand for justice, we ourselves must live justly if we are to righteously project ourselves as a global force for good. Therefore, as we celebrate this victory and honor those who have served with such excellence , let us be mindful of the way we live, walking in sobriety of mind and spirit, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought and taking great care to live our lives with righteousness and humility. These verses from America the Beautiful say it best:
O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
A heartfelt “Thank You” to all who serve in the present and have served in the past to protect and secure liberty for all those who seek it. A heartfelt call to righteousness to all who will heed it, that as we stand for what is right, we might stand on a platform of goodness and light, and truly distinguish ourselves from those who propogate evil. May the Lord have mercy on us all and lead us in the everlasting ways of righteousness.
Until next time…