Thought Question: How Should Christians feel about the death of Osama Bin Laden?

Tampa Bay Times, St. PetersburgThe death of Osama Bin Laden raises many questions, but the one that has dominated the evangelical web pages is how we Christians should respond to the news.

For purposes of this question, I don’t want to discuss pacificism, just war, or capital punishment per se. Rather, the focus of the question is what is the proper Christian response to his death.

To make the discussion fair, I’m going to post the verses cited by both sides in the various articles and emails I’ve read, in no particular order.

(Pro 21:15 ESV)  15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

(Pro 11:10 ESV)  10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.

(Pro 24:17-18 ESV) 17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,  18 lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.

(Pro 25:21-22 ESV)  21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,  22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.

(Psa 58:6-11 ESV)  6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!  7 Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.  8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.  9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!  10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.  11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

(Job 31:29-30 ESV)  29 “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him  30 (I have not let my mouth sin by asking for his life with a curse) …

(Mat 5:21-22 ESV)  21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

(Mat 26:52 ESV)  52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

(Rom 12:19 ESV)  19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

(Rom 13:3-6 ESV)  3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

(Psa 137:7-9 ESV)  7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare, down to its foundations!”  8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!  9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

(Eze 18:23 ESV) 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

(Eze 33:11 ESV)  11 Say to them, 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, O house of Israel?

(Mat 5:44-48 ESV)  44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

To add to your thoughts, here’s a thoughtful (as always) post from John Mark Hicks.

And here’s a slideshow of celebratory headlines. And here’s a very different set of posters.

Now, no fair arguing, “That may be what the Bible says, but I feel …” Only scripture-based arguments are allowed.

I’ll admit to mixed feelings myself. I’ll be very interested to read your comments.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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23 Responses to Thought Question: How Should Christians feel about the death of Osama Bin Laden?

  1. Alan says:

    Lev 10:6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the house of Israel, may mourn for those the LORD has destroyed by fire.

    So, mourning is permissible, except that the priests were prohibited from mourning. God’s will was carried out and they were expected to respect the verdict.

  2. laymond says:

    1Sa 18:6 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick.
    1Sa 18:7 And the women answered [one another] as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

  3. Alan says:

    Another relevant passage:

    Eze 24:16 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.
    Eze 24:17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners.”
    Eze 24:18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.

  4. Bob Brandon says:

    What would Jesus think? In another regard, I’ve lost track of how many of our congregational prayers hold up the soldiers serving overseas, but rarely/never the noncombatants trapped in the way of the bombs and bullets. For many, the lyrics should say, “Our God, He’s an awesome American God; he reigns in heaven on earth…”

  5. My comments on the topic are at

    I've repeated them here:

    I was shocked Monday morning as I opened the Washington Post web site. bin Laden is dead, killed by the U.S. military. I scrolled around and looked at a few other web sites. I really didn’t believe the news for a while.

    Then I looked around the web and listened to talk radio.

    I was shocked by the celebrations. I guess they make sense. People are happy about the news. Nonetheless, I was shocked. I didn’t feel like celebrating.

    Let’s review this:

    We killed half a dozen more people.

    I just don’t see the cause for celebration.

    I am thankful that a person who enables others to kill innocent people will not do that any longer.

    I don’t know any of the people who died on 9/11. If I did, perhaps I would feel differently. I do know people who were killed and seriously injured by prior attacks enabled by bin Laden. Still, I don’t feel like celebrating and I am shocked by the celebrations of others.

  6. Alabama John says:

    It's good they were not ordered to kill all the livestock too.
    Or, all the children of his and of his nation to totally wipe them off the face of the Earth.
    God was merciful when only Osama was the one killed.

    May this cause some peace in other nations and our own should be our prayer!

    Leave ALL the judging to God.

  7. guy says:

    Should Christians be more celebratory about the death of someone who was *America's* public enemy #1 versus someone who was a public enemy to another country?

    Are people celebrating just because he's someone who killed a lot of people? What about how many people our military has killed? (Do you think that just because they call it a "surgical strike," that means that magically no civilians were involved or caught in the line of fire?) Or is it good when our military kills people, but bad when some non-American person kills people?

    i honestly don't ask pointed questions to rile anyone, i just think these kinds of questions show that many people's reactions will reveal far more about their nationalistic allegiances than about their concern to have a Christ-like and Christ-loyal attitude in this matter.


  8. Adam says:

    Shouldn't are answer to this question start, first and foremost, with Jesus? Jay provides only 1 quote from Jesus in his list of verses. I don't know if that was to make the issue seem more "open and debatable" than the NT would otherwise present.

    Starting with Jesus, it is very difficult to be able, in any way, to "celebrate" the death of the unsaved, or the death of any individual, whether they are friend or enemy.

    As Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Darkness can not drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate can not drive out hate; only love can do that." This seems to be in the vein of how Christ thought and spoke of the unsaved, of the enemy, of the persecutor.

    Obviously there are many, many OT texts that would make one lean towards celebrating the destruction of one's enemy, but we must chose to interpret those texts through the clearer light of Jesus, not the other way around.

    So can anyone out there make the argument from Jesus for the celebration of the murder of our persecutor and enemy?

  9. Price says:

    It's difficult for some to work in the part about "Love your Enemy"…. However, it seems that defending oneself against attack is permissible in either covenant…However, I'm not so sure about gloating…

  10. theophilus.dr says:

    "Oh, where you put your eyes, where you put your eyes, that's about the size of it."

    Matt 6:22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

    On Whom do we fix our eyes?

    Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    Does the death of Osama Bin Laden help us to not grow spiritually weary or to lose heart?

    The celebratory view of the death of Osama Bin Laden depends on whether the perspective is from the physical or the spiritual realm. Which perspective does the media have? Which perspective is the Christian to have?

    2 Cor 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    What does the death of Osama Bin Laden mean from an eternal perspective? He will be replaced by another human representative, and evil will continue. Does the death of Bin Laden free us to be at peace with God through Jesus Christ?

    Physically, I may breathe a little and temporary mental sigh of relief. Spiritually, I grieve for all those who died without an eternal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

  11. Randall says:

    Galations 6: 6-10 from the ESV Online
    6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
    (I included the entire paragraph so verses 7 and 8 would be in context.)

    I am not jumping up and down for joy and I would not have wanted to be the one that delivered the fatal blow, but I am not regretting that bin Laden was pursued to the end b/c of the death and destruction he caused.

    I do not understand why the way a person feels about this event is discounted. We can have and share honest feelings w/o arguing.

  12. arkie55 says:

    The claim is that Osama Bin Laden is now dead, killed by actions of the USA. That may be true. It may not be true. Regardless of whether it is true or false, there are many more to take his place. His death does not end the conflict, and in fact may result in escalation of the conflict. To the extent that our nation rejects the Prince of Peace, to that extent must we expect no peace…

    I posted the above to FB yesterday morning. It sums up how I *feel* about the situation. There was also a quotation of Ezekiel 33:11 accompanying it. "Say to them, 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, O house of Israel?"

    My intent was to perhaps dent some nationalistic fervor. The USA has not only sanctioned, but at the highest government levels insisted upon, the slaughter of over 50 million unborn babies over the past 38 years. I don't think the God who hates the shedding of innocent blood will let that slide, do you? So, I'm afraid that our celebration may be premature…

  13. Alabama John says:

    God alone must do the judging.

    We stumble around and quote scriptures and differ so with each other. We do not know or see the big picture. We simply do not have that ability God does.
    God has good men and bad men, all under His control, playing out His plan.

    How many men of God were good, then bad, then good again and vice versa.
    So, at any time, chosen by us, of that persons life he died it would of been in what classification he was in at the time as we would judge his eternal abode? No, God can see before and after in time, minds, and events and we cannot.

    All we can do is the same as so many of Gods heroes did and perform as best we can trying to make this world better as we think it. WE tell those stories of Gods heroes slaying thousands to our children at early ages like Samson killing so many in one day and our children celebrate. Why then do we wonder why grownups celebrate death of our enemy when older?

    That is why we must do as the Marine Corps says and kill them all and let God do the separating. We can rid, from our presence, but that's all.

    WE very simply don't have the ability to make an eternal judgment and look very foolish trying.

  14. aBasnar says:

    A bullet, a bomb from an airplane above,
    a trigger pulled at someone's order;
    None of these matches the Savior's great love
    that strives to cross enmity's border.

  15. Jerry Starling says:

    WHAT IF our response to 9/11 had been 10,000 missionaries preaching the Prince of Peace?

    Oh, they would have been killed, you say?

    Well what if we had sent 2 more for every one that died?

    How long would it take to change the hearts of enough people to end some of the crazy, seemingly endless violence?

    Would I have been willing to be one of those to go, you ask?

    Ah, there's the rub! The Islamists have, seemingly, an ample number of young men ready to die for their cause. How many do we have – if any?

    A little while ago, I posted my reaction at… and included notes from my remarks at a congregational memorial service on 9/11 – one year later.

  16. eric says:

    this debate reminds me of the time in Davids life when his enemy happened to be his own son. If I look at this in that light, I have to believe that God would have all his children redeemed. My personal feelings are that governments must protect their citizens according to scripture. They are given the sword to do so. Unfortunately this is the world we live in, the world we made for ourselves. I don't celebrate his death any more than David celebrated his sons death. Knowing it is necessary saddens me, and I look forward to the day when the word enemy has no meaning. And like David I have to look inward to my own sin as part of the problem.

  17. Cynthia says:

    No matter how great the evil, how can a Christian celebrate the loss of any human life? Like each one of us, Bin Laden was God's creation, made in his image, and so loved that Jesus died for him.

  18. Terry says:

    It's appropriate to have mixed emotions about this topic.

    Based on Proverbs 11:10, I can rejoice that a serial mass murderer will no longer be a threat to my neighbors. But based on Proverbs 24:17-18, I cannot rejoice that a sinner who never turned to Christ for forgiveness and a new life faces eternal hell.

  19. Anne says:

    I have not been dancing in the streets, but I feel as in the Psalms 31 "17 Let me not be put to shame, LORD,
    for I have cried out to you;
    but let the wicked be put to shame
    and be silent in the realm of the dead.
    18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
    for with pride and contempt
    they speak arrogantly against the righteous."

    and as Terry states above I think we can rejoice that an evil man who has devised so many plans to bring destruction to so many because he hates Jews and claims that he does it in our Holy Lord's name, that his "lying lips have been silenced."

  20. Jay Guin says:


    Here’s my analysis.

    1. The scriptures repeatedly prohibit the taking of personal vengeance. (Likely due to the honor culture that still prevails in much of that part of the world).

    2. Rather than personal vengeance, we must leave vengeance to God.

    3. God’s right to avenge has been delegated, in some circumstances, to the state —

    (Rom 13:5-6 ESV) 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

    — in contrast to —

    (Rom 12:19 ESV) 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

    4. The action taken against Bin Laden was more in the nature of a police action than war. There was no conquest of land. It was an action taken against an admitted mass murderer by the state against which the crime was committed. Once the criminal was executed, the state left. His compound wasn’t bombed.

    5. Now, the death of Bin Laden isn’t just because the government did it. Governments aren’t inherently just. But unlike individuals, they have the power of vengeance — which must be exercised to protect their citizens. And by that standard, the execution of Bin Laden was just.

    6. I disagree with the argument that we are all sinners, putting Bin Laden in the same category as all humanity. Yes, we’re all sinners, but the scriptures repeatedly distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. A number of the quoted verses make exactly that distinction. So do countless other verses. We are all sinners, but we are not all criminals and we are not all proper subjects of God’s vengeance via the state.

    7. The scriptures plainly allow us to celebrate justice. And justice includes the punishment of the wicked.

    (Psa 10:17-18 ESV)(Psa 10:7-18 ESV) 7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. 8 He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; 9 he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. 10 The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. 11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” 12 Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. 13 Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? 14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. 16 The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. 17 O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear 18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

    8. As the Proverbs teach, we may celebrate the doing of justice — not because we delight in vengeance but in the justice of God. God receives the praise for justice, and when justice is done, God is honored.

    (Psa 37:28 ESV) For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

    9. There are two ways of looking at this (at least). First, God is both a God of love and of wrath. God’s wrath is a just wrath, and because it’s God’s wrath, we may celebrate it. (But we must be very humble in recognizing that we can’t judge as wisely as God. Nonetheless, a just state will execute justice as God’s servant. Indeed, one of the most frequent complaints the prophets make against the ancient kings is their failure to be just.)

    Second, wrath and love do not contradict. God has no split personality. In the current context, leaving a mass murderer at large would not be a loving act. After all, we must love not only Bin Laden but his past and future victims, Christian, Muslim, and otherwise. And letting him run amok killing would not be loving in the least. It would not be loving to his victims and would not be loving to him to let him compound the punishment he will suffer at the hands of God. The more sins he commits, the worse his eternal fate.

    Of course, we should have prayed for his repentance and conversion (as many have done), but the state’s function is to protect its citizens from evildoers.

    Now, some will dispute the state’s right to capital punishment, even of Bin Laden. Some will dispute that the state has the power to execute vengeance on behalf of God. But I think Rom 13 is pretty clear, and I think it makes for an entirely coherent understanding of the text. But I have to add —

    10. The government is a necessary evil, destined for destruction when Jesus returns. It’s a patch, a bandaid. No state can execute justice as well as God himself, and any state will make mistakes. Humility is essential, but the state can’t be so humble that it fails to do its God-given task of protecting its people and executing God’s wrath against evildoers. Therefore, it’s essential that those who know God’s will — via the scriptures — oppose oppressive decrees and failures of the state to be just.

    11. Just as the early church opposed emperor worship, we must be careful not to worship the United States or its officials. The government is subject to God’s judgment. The state killed Bin Laden because God charged the state to execute justice. We should be grateful that the government did exactly what its job is. This is actual justice and we need not pretend otherwise.

    12. But we don’t celebrate anyone’s pain or death. Rather, we celebrate the doing of God’s will. We regret the Bin Laden never repented, but we’re glad that his crimes have ended, for the sake of his past and future victims — and for the sake of Bin Laden.

  21. Zach23 says:

    what i seemed to get from the quotes jay posted was don't murder, don't seek revenge and don't rejoice in the death of your enemies.
    1. murder is not equal tokilling that one is easy i suppose (though a fine line there may be)
    2. revenge is not equal to killing to protect others; though it is debatable whether or not killing Osama makes us any safer
    3. rejoicing in the death of an enemy is not equal to rejoicing in justice

    even a US soldier who knows they are doing what is right I can't imagine rejoicing in killing people, even a man of God I imagine must feel pain in their soul from the lives they have taken, but rejoice that they can return home safely to their families and that their children will be protected for another generation.

    now reconciling loving your enemy is the much harder problem, and Jesus seems to preach mercy over justice (Matt 5:38-39).

    someone asked me a week ago if Hitler were to truly repent at the moment of dying and turned to God for forgiveness would they be forgiven and i responded with "without a doubt" because God's love for us is infinite and far beyond our own love, even if we can't imagine doing the same. But it is God's place to judge man's heart not our own.

  22. I don't know if I've ever agreed more with what you have written than this response Jay.


    BTW, the Central congregation here in Shawnee where I preach is devoting its entire contribuation for tornado victims on Sunday. We're all in our thoughts and prayers.

    Robert Prater

  23. Jay Guin says:

    Thanks for your church’s generosity. The money is greatly needed. In fact, at this point, money is the single biggest need because people have been so incredibly generous with other kinds of gifts.

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