We, as a nation, set our sights on killing a man. On Sunday night, we accomplished that goal. Osama bin Laden is dead, and with his death comes a sense of relief, a sense of peace, a sense that justice has been done. For some, there is a sense of joy, a sense of celebration, a sense of accomplishment. We killed a man. This is the week that we killed Osama bin Laden, let us rejoice, and be glad in it.
I don’t want you to misunderstand my words or my tone; I understand the deep need that we felt as a nation to dispose of this human being. Yes, Osama bin Laden was a human being, but he was a human being that had gone so far off the rails of what it meant to be a human being that he just wasn’t safe to keep around anymore.
And so, with the hard work of countless individuals, years of planning, gathering intelligence, risking lives upon lives upon lives, we finally found out where he was, and we killed him. Let us rejoice.
There are people rejoicing. All around the world, people are raising their hands to the sky, screaming Halleluiah! Praise God because we finally did it! We finally got the man responsible for all of the deaths of September 11th. One woman who was the mother of one of the firefighters that died at the World Trade Center said that she knew that her son was cheering in heaven when Osama bin Laden was killed. Cheering in heaven over a person’s death. That’s what she believes. Now, I’m not claiming to have all of the answers, but I have a hard time believing that anyone in heaven would be cheering anytime another person dies. Death is a tragedy; death is always a tragedy.
But, even though I might not agree with rejoicing over another person’s death, I am forced to acknowledge the horror that was September 11th. The thousands of people that died at the World Trade Center. Those people that died at the Pentagon. The brave souls of United Flight 93, who crashed their plane into a field in Pennsylvania before the men who hijacked it could crash it into our nation’s capital. I was just so senseless! The complete disregard for human life. The utterly warped beliefs of the men who hijacked the planes. I will never understand it. I just can’t get over the level of hatred these men must have felt to do these horrific deeds. What could drive them to hate us so much that they would willingly, joyfully, enthusiastically sacrifice their own lives to rob us of ours?
It’s one of the oldest sins in the world. It’s a sin that blinds us. It blinds us to the truth. That blinds us to common sense. It blinds us to our conscience, to compassion, to the whisperings of our soul that keep us close to God. That keep us human. It’s the worship of the tribe, the belief that only those who look like you and talk like you, and perhaps most importantly believe what you believe, are the only people that you can trust. The only people that you can be around. The only people that you can allow to live. Worship of the tribe. What it boils down to is worship of the self. It’s pride; it’s the deadliest sin in disguise.
Osama bin Laden and the men that hijacked those planes were worshipping their tribe instead of God. They held God’s love at a distance, and in doing so warped their view of the world. They could no longer see us as people, as brothers and sisters, as parents and children and friends.
We became demons to them. They couldn’t accept us and how different we were, and so they took it upon themselves to destroy us. And so, we set out to destroy them. An eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth, just like the Bible says. Or does it?
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, chapter 3, verses 9-13, he writes, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator, where there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as Christ has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”
Paul is urging the Colossians to put the old ways behind them, the old legalistic ways of keeping the tribe separate from everybody else. Paul explains that there is a new way. He tells them that Christ is all and in all. He tells them that all people are God’s people.
It’s a message that’s told over and over again in the Bible. But, it’s a message that needs to be told over and over again, because our natural tendency as human beings is to separate ourselves into tribes, into groups of us and groups of them. We have no problem pitting tribe against tribe, Protestant against Catholic, North against South, Christian against Muslim.
This conflict isn’t about Christians and Muslims. It’s about a nation defending itself against an extremist terrorist group. This extremist group has killed Muslims as well, but people keep forgetting that. Because it’s so much easier to blame this huge group of people for the actions of a few. It’s not because we’re lazy. It’s because we will latch onto any reason that will give us an excuse to hurt another tribe. It’s in our nature; it’s written on our sinful DNA. Protect the tribe! The tribe must survive! Kill all outsiders!
And so, we set out to kill Osama bin Laden. To protect the tribe. A lot of people say that we should have brought bin Laden in alive so that we could try him in court, make him face his crimes.
I think agree with that, only I don’t know how realistic that is. I have to believe that Osama wasn’t a person that was going to just come along quietly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only outcome of any attempt to bring him to justice would end up with him being dead. I just wish that wasn’t the way it had to be. Because I really do understand, that’s just the way that it is.
Only it’s not supposed to be this way. The world isn’t supposed to be this way. This isn’t supposed to be an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth world. Paul tried to give us a hint of what the world is supposed to be. What the world could be, if only we could trust God and let the world be the way it’s supposed to be.
The world the way it’s supposed to be is a world were we can talk about our problems. There are no terrorists in this world. There is no need to protect the tribe, because we can all trust that God will protect us and provide for us, not to mention that there is only going to be one tribe, which will be comprised of everyone.
But, I want to let you in on a little secret. We already are all one family under God now. These labels that we use to divide ourselves, these boxes that we put ourselves in, they are not real. Anything that keeps us separated from each other, keeps us separated from God and is not of God. We need to let God tear down these walls so that we can see each other for who we really are. So that we don’t go flying planes into buildings. So that we don’t rejoice when another human being dies.
Death is a tragedy. Death, even when it seems like it might be necessary, is always a tragedy. It’s lost possibility, the removal of any chance for that person to ever do good, and the removal of any chance that someone might do good to that person and perhaps change the world. And so, I do not rejoice over the death of Osama bin Laden. He was a terrible man. He did terrible things. And now that he is dead, I know there are millions of people who will sleep better at night, knowing that he is not around anymore to plot some crazy scheme that ends up with thousands of people dead. As for me, I too have to admit that the world does feel a little bit safer without him in it. And so I am relieved to not have to worry about him anymore. But I will grieve for the world that made him into the man that he was, and I will grieve for the world that had to kill him. This isn’t the way the world is supposed to be.