Celebrating vengeance?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It did not take long for the news to spread.

Every major network broke into normal programming with the breaking news.

Even sports channels were talking about it, especially once the word spread from smart phone to smart phone at Citizens Bank Park during the New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies game, inciting chants of "USA!"

The news, of course, was the death of Osama bin Laden, at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals in Pakistan.

Nearly 10 years after bin Laden claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and the more than 3,000 deaths that resulted, he had been dealt his own death.

Just as most Americans, and probably many around the world, remember where they were on 9-11, they likely remember where they were when they heard of bin Laden's death.

Judging from social media posts and some news coverage, it is safe to say many Americans celebrated this news.

Celebrating death in any way shape or form, just doesn't seem right, especially if looking at it from a Biblical perspective.

"As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live," the prophet Ezekial quoted his Lord in the 11th verse of the 33rd chapter of his book.

It is difficult for the human mind to comprehend that a terrorist -- or any murderer, rapist, etc. -- could change their ways. However, for those who believe in a loving God that can draw hearts to himself, refusing to believe in the possibility of repentance for those people is undermining the power of an omnipotent being.

In this case, it is hard not to look at this death as a form of vengeance. Of course the Bible speaks on that topic as well.

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself," is the command in Leviticus 19:18.

But, bin Laden certainly does not qualify as our neighbor, does he?

Considering Jesus' parable about the Samaritan helping a Jew, someone considered an enemy by the man's own people, it is clear that foes qualify as neighbors.

In addition to that parable, forms of the word vengeance come out in numerous New Testament writings. So, this isn't just "old law" meant for Jews that can be ignored by Gentiles.

An argument against this Biblical stance is that justice -- not vengeance -- was served. After all, God believes in justice, does he not?

Of course he does. But, just as he said "vengeance is mine" in Deuteronomy 32:35, he also reserves the right to enact justice.

A facebook friend asked, "Has justice been served?" An ample response is, "Justice is being served beyond this earth, which would have happened regardless."

Another friend also put the justice versus vengeance debate into perspective.

"Justice is a solemn, serious occurrence," he said.

Solumn and serious are definitely descriptive of the speech President Barack Obama gave and the statement former President George W. Bush released.

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"The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaeda," Obama said. "Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must -- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad."

"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done," Bush added.

Hopefully going forward, when life and death are the topics at hand, America -- especially people of faith -- will keep justice, not vengeance, in mind.

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