Justice is Not an Excuse for Jubilation

There is no way to know that today is a day that will make history. A year ago this weekend, life in my city was savaged by a 500 year flood, the impact of which is still rippling across our burg. Almost 10 years ago America woke to a beautiful September morning that saw the sun set on a nation at war. And yesterday, a major chapter in that war was closed.

Even as I write this, news is continuing to break. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind terrorist attacks in the US and abroad, is dead. It is reported he was located in a compound in Pakistan, surrounded by Navy SEALs, given the chance to surrender and killed when he declined the offer. His body was buried at sea to prevent his grave becoming a shrine and a place of pilgrimage.

Most disturbing about the matter is the reaction of so many Americans. I remember the revulsion I felt when I saw video of people rejoicing in Middle Eastern streets because of the 9/11 attacks. I feel the same revulsion at the rejoicing I perceive taking place in my country at the death of bin Laden.

Justice is not a cause for jubilation.

I feel a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction that the man who murdered so many has been found and been held accountable for his crimes. I am amazed at the commitment to justice my country brings to the fight which resulted in the extension of mercy and an offer of surrender to a man such as bin Laden. I feel proud to be protected and represented by the men and women of the various branches of the US military and our intelligence services. Their bravery and professionalism deserves praise beyond what can be granted here. What I do not feel is joy at the death of bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden was acting in accordance with his faith when he murdered over 3,000 Americans on 9/11 and in murdering so many others, from all faiths, in other attacks around the world. I cannot act other than in accordance with my own faith in my response to his death. Christianity teaches that even Osama bin Laden was created in the image of God; he had a purpose and a destiny for his life that God intended even if he did not live it out; he was loved by God enough that Christ died for bin Laden just as he did for me. The part of the heart of God that loved bin Laden as one of His creations does not rejoice that he is dead.

Christianity also teaches that every man has the freedom to choose. That means that despite God having a plan for our lives, we can reject that plan and go our own way; we can and do choose sin and destruction over righteousness and restoration, and; when we do, we accept the full responsibility for our own actions and must abide by that decision. If our actions are sinful and godless, there is justice to face, both in this life and the next. The part of the heart of God that is holy and just does not shrink from dispensing justice. But neither does He rejoice in the dispensing.

It is surreal that President Obama, who blames George Bush for everything, is taking credit for the one thing that George Bush actually did do that remains into this administration – the successful pursuit of Osama bin Laden. As President Bush so quietly and purposefully stated on September 20, 2001, “Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.” Thank you President Bush for your commitment to justice that was strong enough it extended beyond your administration to accomplish its purpose.

Osama bin Laden is dead. Justice has been served. That is a good thing. It is cause for introspection to determine our motives. It is cause for satisfaction and contentment should we find our motives pure and our commitment to justice well served by the events of the last 48 hours. It is cause for motivation as we move forward into the next chapter in facing down the terrorists who would destroy us. But it is not now, nor should it ever be, cause for rejoicing.

We believe different than that. We believe better than that. We are not our enemy. We are Americans.