A member of Genesis sent me an e-mail asking about our response to the news of Usama Bin Laden’s death. As we watch people celebrate, is this the appropriate response for us? Also, how does this situation relate to the Commandment not to kill? Here is the response I wrote. I it might be good for all of us to hear.
The command in the 10 Commandments for “Thou shalt not kill” uses a specific word for “kill” that means murder, taking the life of another without cause, etc. It isn’t referring to war, defending ones self from attack, etc. It is a pre-meditated act of taking an innocent life. In the background of this verse, we also have to see God sending his people into wars and battles, and even giving them the command to take all the lives of the enemies. In a very literal way, the Hebrews were to be the arm of God’s justice against the horrible wicked nations around them. With this being the case, the command not to kill obviously does not apply to war, or God would be contradicting himself. There are also passages about the right to protect and defend yourself and your stuff, passages about capital punishment, and passages that allow for softer penalties for those who commit manslaughter (accidentally causing another’s death – which was not punishable by death).
So how does this apply now. Lots of discussion here. First, nowhere in Scripture does God give the church the job of taking lives. In the Old Testament the people of God and the state were intertwined so that the government and the expression of religion flowed from the same stream. But in the New Testament that stream is split, so that the people of God are the church, but they are to live under their government, to pray for it, and to live in peace and subjection to the authorities. The church does not have any command to exorcise capital punishment or participate in a holy war. But the state or government does have this right. For many, it has led to the theory of the “Righteous war” or the “just war”. In this concept, Christians live as citizens of two kingdoms, the Kingdom of God expressed in the church and the kingdom of men expressed in their relationship to their country. As a member of the kingdom of men, they may serve in the military, or as a policeman, or in some other function that may require violence and the taking of life. For the Christian, their primary citizenship lies with the Kingdom of God, which means they must always ask if the cause they are defending is just and righteous. When violence and war are for reasons that reflect righteousness, they are free to serve. I believe this is the case. Bin Laden was a wicked man who murdered thousands and thousands of people and is continuing to be a part of the violent terrorist network. His death reflects the righteous judgment of God on evil, but it was carried out by American soldiers. If this was purely an act of revenge, I would say the better option would have been to take him captive and have him stand trial. But I don’t think this is the case. The primary motive was not revenge, but the removal of evil in the context of a real war.
So, how about our response. Should we celebrate. As a member of the kingdom of men, I am glad that this scourge has been removed, and I rejoice for our nation. But as a member of the Kingdom of God, I also have reason to rejoice and to mourn. I rejoice because God’s justice is demonstrated through this act, evil does not win, death is certain, and God is victor and judge. But I also mourn over the death of any person, especially when I know their eternal destiny is in the pits of hell. I also mourn because I know that in our depravity, we too are capable of this level of evil, and as a nation we too have areas where we are not righteous in our lives and dealings. And God would be just to judge us as well. This should lead us to prayer for our nation, and repentance. And as Christians, we must always remember that we are aliens in the kingdom of men, that our true citizenship is in the Kingdom of God.