Today, I am ambivalent.  It’s very rare that I don’t know how to assess what I’m feeling. But last night, I had a difficult time figuring out what was going on in my heart. I had experienced something similar about 5 years ago at the Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s Conference in California. I was sitting at a table during lunch with a few of the local pastor’s I’m close with and someone got on the PA with an announcement. The speaker informed us that Saddam Hussein had been executed just a few minutes ago. I will never forget that moment, because when I looked each man at the table in the eyes, I saw a reflection of what was going on in my heart. There was a sense of relief that a very wicked man could no longer harm anyone, but it was mingled with a sadness because a man very likely just passed into a Christ-less eternity. On the one hand, we all knew it was right to put him to death. But on the other hand, Jesus died for him and wanted so much more for him.

All of these mixed emotions came rushing back last night when the news reported the death of Osama bin Laden. My first thought was relief and a sense of satisfaction that justice had been meted out. Just a second later, the thoughts of sadness joined my first thought. Most likely, this man was now in Hell and would be judged for an eternity. But this time, something new was injected into my garbled emotions. The news coverage showed footage of my countrymen shouting patriotic phrases and singing songs of victory over bin Laden’s death.

I’m normally a pretty black and white person. And while I think I have learned a measure of wisdom in thinking things through before rendering a verdict, I don’t usually find my thoughts in murky waters. I honestly didn’t know what to think when I saw the footage of people celebrating this man’s death. My first thought was, “Dear God, we look just like the Palestinians when they’ve committed a terrorist act.” But then, they brought on a reporter who read statements from those who had lost family or friends on 9/11. How would I feel if I had lost someone dear to me at the hands of this wicked man? I struggled to wade through the murky waters of my soul that night and into the morning without any good answers.

So, I started to ask myself what God thinks about this. First off, God has no issues with a government executing judgment on a lawbreaker and murderer. If you think He does, then just go read about Aiken in Joshua chapter 7. God established government for the purpose of exacting vengeance upon those who take the lives of others. Second, God says very clearly in Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” God did not celebrate the death of bin Laden. Yet, I cannot help but think He saw it as just, even if He didn’t agree with the method.

In light of this, how should I respond? Sometime before noon, while reading a bunch of articles concerning Osama bin Laden, the Lord brought a couple of scriptures to my mind. In Revelation 5, we see those who have been martyred for their faith cry out for vengeance. God doesn’t tell them to repent. He tells them to wait until the time of judgment. So, it is not wrong to want to see justice done. In Revelation 15, God pours out the great bowls of His wrath upon a Christ-rejecting world. All the saints of God (that includes us) stand before Him and this is our response in 15:3b. “…just and true are your ways, O King of saints.”

When the Lord brings judgment, we will nod in approval and say, “You have done the right thing as always, Lord.” We will agree 100% with what He does. And yet, there is no party in heaven. In fact, when God pours out this judgment He does something very unique in 15:8.  “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled. ” This is the only time I see in scripture where the saints in heaven are barred from God’s presence. He treads the winepress of His wrath alone. There is no party. There is no celebration.

I know this is long, but I found great comfort in these verses today. Because, part of me felt proud to be an American last night. Yet, another part of me felt conflicted in my sense of justice. I am so thankful I don’t have to look inside myself to find out what is really true. I am so thankful that God spoke  from heaven and gave me His Word so I can know how to accurately access everything that goes on around me. I am so thankful for the solid ground of the scriptures. I am so thankful that “…He has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM  (2 Peter 1:3).”

Have you thanked the Lord lately for the scriptures? Are you studying them on a regular basis so you can know how to respond rightly to situations like this? Take some time to open your Bible and apply what you read tonight 🙂