Reflecting on the Death of Osama Bin Laden – Post 3 – What Does it Mean to Love Our Enemies?

I have obviously hesitated in posting recently. Not out of fear, I am entitled to my opinion but out of sensitivity. I’ve been mentioning in my previous posts that I found some reactions to the death of OBL to be too jubilant. In others I’ve questioned the practicality of some of the very spiritual updates/tweets/sentiments. And I want to be sensitive to some measure. I’ve also been dialoguing with my high school students regarding this. We even had a discussion night about it. So, I want to be pastoral, wise, and helpful to them and of course, to you as well.

First, thank you to those who commented on the previous post – really appreciated reading your thoughts. It’s always interesting to me that I think I get as many (or even more!) emails and Facebook messages than I do comments. Which is fine – it’s probably wise for some of you to not say some things in a public space. I would encourage you though to share your thoughts every once in a while here – it may prove to be beneficial for us as a whole.

If this is your first time reading this blog, you should know a couple things. I am not a pacifist though I prefer the path of non-violence. Most importantly, I am a Christian and since I see myself as a Christian first and an American second (tI feel this would be consistent with New Testament teaching), I am more interested in how the Church (specifically the conservative evangelical church) should be responding than how our government/president/military does. Hope that makes some sense.

And so because I foremost seek my identity in God and not the State, I hope the Church contributes to counter-balance some of the perspectives found in society. Further, I am grateful and proud to live in a country that values open society and the freedom to express one’s voice in a manner that does not harm others. I try to never take this for granted.

All week, I’ve been wrestling with the question of “What does it mean to love our enemies?”. Now, I have a lot of faults and shortcomings so know that I am aware of this but every so often, I practice my Christianity and among those practices is praying for my enemies. Ultimately, I do not believe that a war will solve our differences and as naive as it sounds, I believe peace can only be achieved when hearts and minds change and that includes ours. That’s the big picture.

I pray that my heart changes and that the hearts of my enemies change. But that does not mean that all I ought to do is pray. Wisdom and practicality are also needed, otherwise you might be accused of being indifferent to living which is poor stewardship because God is the giver of life and He expects to be faithful with it. So to be blunt – There is a time to lock the door. There is a time to barricade the door. And because of the world that we live in, there is a time to kick down the door of the evil doer. I do believe in self-defense, I do appreciate “just war” theory, and I support the troops. But there is also a time to turn the other cheek, there is a time where “just-war” theory must be tempered and I support the peacemakers. Many things are situational, the world is gray in some parts, and life is lived on the slippery slope.

That said, Osama Bin Laden was evil. And I know we as Christians are accustomed and theologically correct in saying that we too are evil and depraved, there are different kinds of consequences for different kinds of evil. Society has always understood this and that’s why we are not sent to the electric chair for speeding. We do need to recognize that there are thousands if not millions of people who hate us (and others) so much that they would kill you (again, and others) if they had the chance. They would kill you even if it meant they too would be dead. We call them suicide bombers, they call themselves the” righteous”. It’s good to remember the context.

People will be quick to say that treating OBL will only empower our enemies and reinforce their hatred towards us. That may be true. Some have said that we should have arrested him and brought him to trial – that may be true as well (as in it may be “more moral” but I am wrestling with that one). People have said that we need to be careful of the slippery slope – that’s true too. But in my opinion, all of these excellent thoughts only point to how difficult the question is, how complicated the world is, and among many things, the need for humility and prayer before a loving and just God. And it’s good if we pray and dialogue in community so thanks for reading.

How does a Christian respond? Some have responded by sharing the faith and hope of Jesus Christ with them. That is beautiful. Some of have responded by suggesting the entire Middle East be bombed – that is regrettable and frankly, embarrassing. It’s not just middle ground that is needed, but goodness tempered with justice anchored by love would be a helpful start.

This post has gotten too long so I am breaking it down. I’ll be continuing soon with question “What Does it Mean to Love Our Enemies?” In the meantime, feel free to dialogue here.


  1. Perhaps you’ll address this in your next post, Tim, but I’m one of those guys who is pretty self-assured about Jesus’ radical pacifism. I’m not self-righteous enough to say that I would always do “the Jesus thing” in every situation, but I really have a very, very difficult time justifying ANY violence, especially lethal violence, even against those who may threaten our own person safety – or even the safety of our friends and family. I agree that there may be a time to “lock the door” based upon the teachings of Jesus… Jesus doesn’t teach being senselessly reckless with life, but I just can’t see where kicking in the door of the evildoer to kill or hurt them is justified based on the teachings of Jesus (not pragmatically). When Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, I don’t think that’s what he had in mind. Again, I’m not lecturing you or anyone else here, but saying that when Jesus said never to return evil with evil, to turn the other cheek, and to not resist an evil doer (the word Jesus uses for “resist” (antistenai) doesn’t imply passively allowing something to take place. It rather connotes resisting a forceful action with a similar forceful action), he certainly was prohibiting killing our enemies, no matter what the circumstance. Even in the life of Jesus, certainly Jesus saw Romans killing and abusing those he cared about, as Rome was far more opressive toward the Jews than Al Queda is to the United States. It was a daily reality, and yet Jesus never chose to kick any centurions’ doors in. Now, we may say Jesus was off his rocker, but I can’t see any wiggle room, even if one’s family is in danger (probably not a standard I can live up to). Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. Bo, so grateful for you – thanks for commenting your excellent thoughts. I do have a few words regarding this and I hope I have articulated them well enough in tomorrow’s post. Not to convince you but to offer a worthy contribution to the discussion.

    In the meantime, I do want to say that I certainly do not condone all types of violence as just about anything can be justified in the mind of the aggressor. You know that right?

    I also appreciate my honest pacifist friends (like you) who express the difficulty of responding to violence when done to their families and loved ones. That said, feel free to push back harder on tomorrow’s post :)

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