Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed is my first stop for a thoroughly Jesus-shaped perspective on all things. Here’s his thoughts on the death of a bin Laden.
There are a number of places to begin and ideas to consider.
But I have to begin with this. Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Osama bin Laden was a violent man, and he breathed and threatened violence, he funded violence, and he trained some to use violence. That he met a violent end is in accord with the life he chose. Violence was the game he played, and the game eventually caught up to him. The sword cuts in both directions.
Having said that, I can’t rejoice that he was shot to death or that he or anyone else is dead; I can’t rejoice because violence does not bring peace. It unleashes cycles of more violence. We may never know, but it sure looks to me that he could have been captured alive. Of course, bin Laden alive and captured could be one of the biggest nightmares our government could imagine, but that won’t change my view that if he could have been captured alive that would have been more Christian.
Which brings me back to the original point: militaries believe the path to peace is secured by the path of defense and power. Our military is not seeking to be biblical or Christian. It has a mission to protect our interests. Osama bin Laden was a violent man who maliciously murdered innocents and diabolically developed plans of violence against the USA and Western countries. It within the rights of such countries to defend themselves and pursue their senses of justice through power and the use of violence. The words of Jesus, though, come back around: those who use the sword will die by the sword. Swords bring “peace” only to the degree that the one with power can suppress revenge. The sword can bring retributive justice, but time will only permit more violence to simmer and eventually break forth.
The question for us is how should we as Christians respond? We can grieve over deaths, we can be relieved by the removal of a violent man who was making the world violent, we can stand with those who lost loved ones in bin Laden’s wake, from 9/11 onwards into the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, we can pray for the world and for our leaders and for ourselves and for our enemies and for other countries …
… and we can live a different way. The way of the cross. The way of reconciliation. The way of forgiveness. The way of peace.