Usama Bin Laden and Justice

Usama bin Laden

My reaction to the death of Usama bin Laden was one of instant gratification and gratitude. Clearly, bin Laden has been one of America’s greatest nemeses, and the operation by the Navy SEALS to take him out must, I would imagine, go down in the annals of American military history as one of the most important—at least symbolically–of all military operations. In short: it is about time, and what pride I have at the patience and methodical deliberation of the American intelligence community and the American military.

And yet, strangely, I am grieved. Please don’t misunderstand. We were absolutely right to take bin Laden out. And, as I said, I am proud that the mission is accomplished. But for the follower of Christ Jesus the pride is tempered, on some level, with a grief that reflects a certain reality, and that is that bin Laden, contrary to Rob Bell’s confusing diatribe, is in Hell. You see, with the death of this great archenemy to the cause of hope and freedom, is also the demise of an opportunity whereby even he could find peace at the foot of Calvary.

Romans 12 and 13 offer a strange tension. Romans 13:4 says of our civic rulers that they are God’s servants for our good, bearing the sword not in vain, avengers who carry “out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). The operation that finally brought bin Laden to his demise is a clear reflection of this responsibility. It is appropriate and just. It is a burden assigned by God himself.

But Romans 12:19 offers that we should never avenge ourselves, leaving “it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'” (Rom. 12:19). How do we square these two points, one declaring the state must avenge and the other declaring we should never avenge? Perhaps the best way to resolve the (perceived) conflict is to simply acknowledge the necessity of bin Laden’s death with a sadness regarding the more transcendent reality about his soul. Should he have been killed?


Should we recognize that beyond the grave is eternal damnation that could have been dealt with through a contrite heart at the foot of the cross?


Both are true. And the tension, for the believer, is a blessing, helping us to embrace Justice with a heart that remains tender.



  1. Matthew says:

    Wendy . . . brilliant words! Your question is searing my heart, and now I’m asking myself the same thing. Wow! Thank you!

  2. Wendy Gerlach says:

    I wrestled with this myself this morning when I awoke to the news. As I looked at all of the people celebrating the death of this one man and all that that encompassed. Created in His image is what God declares of ALL of us. So then, I asked God….What happened to this creation of yours, how does such evil predominate certain lives. Should we celebrate the death of this man. I was perplexed. Like you, I agree that the world is a better place without bin Laden in it but there will be another to take his place. My heart grieved over the jubilation that erupted. God has had me in a place of dramatic learning lately. Learning about the incredible difference that just one person can have on the lives of many around them. My uncle is dying of brain cancer, my world has been turned upside down and I’m wrestling with the reality that for many of us, we never have really realized what a difference ONE life can make. Christ was ONE life that changed the world!!! bin Laden was ONE life that dramatically altered the world. What am I doing with my ONE life??? I want to be that ONE life that changed the world around me for good.

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