Wherever evil is done, there is the cry for justice. It is folly to brush over the deeds of evildoers. People’s lives are being destroyed by them. There is indeed a justice at work in the world by what scripture calls, the powers. These powers or authorities are indeed fallen themselves. That we Christians have given so much heed to them, and even have joined them in their work, in my view, theologically, is a grave misstep. At the same time, God works in spite of our errors, and I would be the last one to say that there aren’t Christians trying to do good things to help others while in military action. But I am getting off topic a bit here. A series I did related to this in the past.
So there is gladness when evildoers are stopped from doing evil deeds. But there should not be rejoicing when the means used are excessive or inappropriate. I realize that involves subjectivity, for one thing. There is a sense in which there is one kind of justice at work in the world. While a new justice has entered in Jesus, through his person and work, bringing in no less than God’s kingdom in terms Jesus spells out, with a vision of shalom. This is where, actually just like anywhere else, we need all of scripture. We especially need the old covenant prophets here to spell out what this means. For example, weapons of war being turned into instruments of agriculture. Etc.
The vision of God’s kingdom is fulfilled today through the church. The church, or those in Jesus, followers of Jesus are called to live out a new ethic, indeed a higher justice. And the powers end up being accountable to this light that has entered the world in and through Jesus. Jesus actually told his disciples, and tells us who seek to follow him, that we are indeed the light of the world. And that we’re to let our light shine before others, that they may see our good deeds, and glorify our Father in heaven. What was promised in the prophets is fulfilled in Jesus. The ethic of the kingdom is for the world, even though the kingdom itself is not from, or of this world. It is with a King, and subjects having a land, etc., which today is fulfilled only in the church. The church is the one entity where the kingdom of God resides. There can be no such thing as a Christian nation. America even culturally could hardly have ever been called a Christian nation, but certainly never so in any scriptural sense. Only in some sort of, in my view loose, cultural, artificial sense.
So the Christian response to Osama bin Laden’s death should hardly be one of joy. We should take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they would repent and live. At the same time, we would want them to be restrained. And so we accept and appreciate the justice at work in this world, even if it is out of bounds quite often, in the way it works. One empire, or nation should be careful how it plays its power, because judgment is coming for it, as well.
And we must be sure to seek to live out the ethic of the kingdom of God in Jesus among ourselves. We must forgive each other, and be fully reconciled in the love of God in Jesus. We must love our enemies, and pray for them. Doing good to them, as well–in keeping with Jesus’ words, indeed commands to us. We must resist the lure of the powers to compromise our calling in Jesus. Jesus has won the victory over the powers by his death and resurrection, to be implemented in full when he returns. In the meantime, we are called to stand firm, taking the defensive weapons given to us in Jesus, seeking to stay near God. By grace living out our calling together in Jesus, as a redeemed community, an alternative not only to the models of the world, but for them as well. In the hope of impacting them, while never imagining that the kingdom is anywhere else except in the one entity in Jesus in this world: the church.
We need to love and pray for our enemies*, and live this out as an example to the world. All by grace, all in Jesus, in God’s love made known for no less than the world. Taking up our cross, and praying for the salvation of all.
*We too are enemies of God in ourselves. They are enemies of the west, but of Christians in a different way. We would call them to be friends in the way of Jesus, and certainly not in any worldly way.
I am indebted in my thinking on this to the following: John Howard Yoder, who I am now reading; Scot McKnight; N.T. Wright. Surely another, or others, Miroslav Volf comes to mind as well. And of course the goal is to be true to scripture and God’s revelation in scripture in and through Jesus. I’m working on that, wanting to do so with others.