When Enemies sin
The world is talking about one thing right now: the death of Osama Bin Laden. Putting aside the inevitable questions (how he was able to have been “hiding” in a mansion instead of a cave, why he was buried at sea [was he a sailor? so nobody could verify identity by exhuming the body later?] and why so fast, how we can even know whether it’s really him or just a stunt to boost someone’s tanking approval rating for the next election cycle, another excuse for Islamic rioting and western collective guilt, etc.), this is a good opportunity to discuss how Christians should react to the death of an enemy-- and not a personal one, but one allegedly responsible for the deaths of thousands. We as nations have in the past cheered the deaths of the likes of Hitler and Stalin, was that wrong? What does the Bible say? There are two polarized reactions among Christians: do not gloat, or rejoice, and both cite scripture in support:
Yes, it is okay to rejoice when enemies fall or to pray for them to fall
- 2 Chron. 19:2
- Ps. 44:7
- Ps. 92:11
- Ps. 139:21
- Micah 5:9
- 2 Sam. 19:6
- Mt. 23
- Gal. 5:12
- Phil. 3:2
- 2 Tim. 4:14
- 2 Peter 2
No, we must never be happy when enemies fall or ask God to punish them
- Prov. 24:17-18
- Ezekiel 18:23
- Ezekiel 33:11
- Mt. 5:43-48
I’ve mentioned before that love for enemies can border on treason against God, and that the post-modern Christian community can’t seem to identify wolves or even know for sure that they exist. But in the verses above, it seems to me that we’re overlooking some important factors in how the people of God in either Testament are to view God’s enemies. On a personal level there is consideration for ignorance and mercy for the truly repentant, but there does come a point when even God shuts the door and “gives them over” to evil. If we continue to placate and treat such people as friends (ironically, often better than our own Christian siblings if they aren’t as “nice” as we demand), are we not siding with God’s enemies? Are we not loving Satan more than God? So the question is whether we can know a person has reached that point, or even if it matters. Of course none of us is God, but is that an excuse to refuse to ever exercise discernment? Can we not continue to pray for someone while also condemning what they do? Can we not praise God for the death of His enemies and the administration of justice for their victims?
But what about the national level? Are we to be like King David who mourned the death of his enemies and thus shamed his own army? Read 1 Sam. 19:5-7--
Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”OBL was not the kind of enemy we have as individuals; this is not a case of someone cutting us off in traffic or robbing us or cursing us. This is a case of the leader of those who took thousands of innocent lives out of hatred for Christians and westerners, and added many more in the ensuing wars which continue to this day. We as a nation have been hoodwinked into blaming ourselves for being victims, much the way Islam blames women for being raped. It’s a loathsome mentality that punishes victims and sends flowers and candy to criminals.
Now look at the scene in heaven when God has come to the end of raining down terrible judgment on the earth in the coming Tribulation. In Rev. 19:1-2 we read,
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”The martyrs early in the Tribulation also asked for revenge (Rev. 6:10) and were not rebuked by God, but only told to be patient. So here we see that rejoicing over fallen enemies is not always wrong, and that love does not mean you never ask for justice.
I think this is the big sticking point: what limits are there on loving one’s enemies? The context in which Jesus said those words, the Sermon on the Mount, was that His followers must internalize the laws of God; that is, it isn’t enough to have only outward righteousness. The “enemies” in that context were neighbors and fellow citizens, not criminals or hostile kings. Yes, we are to reach out and show mercy and pray for them, but does this extend to aiding and abetting one sworn to exterminate us? Are we not to rejoice when such threats are taken away? Is there no difference at all between those who persecute us for our faith and those who would murder us, our children, and our country?
Many who decry the rejoicing of Christians over fallen enemies point to “black and white” thinking as a fault or lack of maturity, yet they themselves are thinking in terms of black and white as well when they equate thanking God for taking out an enemy with gloating as the wicked do, such as dragging a dead body through the streets, going on killing sprees to take vengeance into our own hands, throwing parties, etc. How can it be wrong to thank God for removing evil from our lives? Is that not a display of ingratitude?
I believe in loyalty and honor, and because of that I see the muzzling of Christians who rejoice when their real enemies fall as “You love those who hate you and hate those who love you.” Why are so many Christians so bent on dictating the reactions of other Christians? Why do they feel the need to continually micromanage? Why do they set themselves up as judges, and how can they not see the hypocrisy in doing so when the charge they bring against their brothers and sisters is “judging the hearts of others”? The job of the left hand is not to constrain the right; it is not the place of any of us to dictate our personal convictions on other believers. Let each of us “be fully convinced in our own mind” (Rom. 14:5); let those who cry “judge not” stop judging.
As with many other points of contention regarding the scriptures, there is support on both sides of this issue. But we must be careful that we don’t fall for the “plain reading” method and miss the big picture. If your personal conviction is that you must not feel happy when God’s enemies fall, then don’t be happy. If your personal conviction is that it is treason against God to show no gratitude for His taking the wicked out from in front of us, then show gratitude without shame. But please, try not to gloat over the “falling” of your “enemies”, your own spiritual siblings, who disagree with you. The greatest blunder in all of this would be that we turn on each other instead of our real enemies. State your case and let others state theirs, but don’t harbor ill will toward anyone who disagrees with you.