Tuesday, May 03, 2011

On This Side of Heaven

When I was in college, I remember someone asking the question, is God a loving God or a just God?

The answer, according to this person was both- God is both loving and just.

In the minutes following the news last night that Osama bin Laden was dead, I commented on Facebook that I didn't celebrate his death, but I was relieved justice was served.

Someone responded what justice was served: American or God's?

Well, that left me thinking. I couldn't easy respond to that answer. I tend to believe in a God that loves all, including the sinner and including the one who has killed thousands without a twitch of his conscience.

Of course having just written those words have made me feel somewhat ill. If God can forgive someone like bin Laden, then what kind of God is that? How could the killing of innocents who were doing nothing more than taking trips and going to work be let off the hook?

That brings us to what I think is the other side of God, God's justice. I also believe that God is a just God and can't allow evil to stand. Maybe that means judgement in the hereafter, or judgement now, but either way, injustice can't be allowed to fester.

So,were the Navy Seals who took Osama out doing God's will? I'm a little wary of taking flat out saying yes, though I can say that God might understand. Maybe on this side of heaven sometimes Lovev doesn't always win, sometimes Justice has to meted out.

But justice should never be greeting with emphatic cheers. While there might be some understanding that some people were out in the streets, justice is always a grim task. It's more like oatmeal than it is chocolate cake. A Presbyterian pastor in Ohio sums it up nicely:

The military operation against bin Laden seems necessary to me, even from a Christian perspective. He was a mass murderer of thousands of Americans and of many more Muslims in the Middle East. It seems more than justifiable to go after him, to prevent him from killing any more innocent people, here or anywhere else in the world (though I harbor no illusions that bin Laden's death will end the threat of terrorism). Yet at the same time I claim to serve a Lord and Master who says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," a Savior who prayed from the cross on which he was brutally killed, "Father forgive them." And I find it almost inconceivable that this Jesus would dance to celebrate anyone's death.

The fact that operations such as the one against bin Laden are necessary speaks of the brokenness and darkness that are all too much a part of this world. That this is so seems to me a cause for lament. And while this sad state of affairs may require that we wield the sword, that we kill, there is a sense in which we are thus drawn into the world's darkness.

I don't take any joy out of what happened, only that it is now over.

Sunday's events remind me that on this side of heaven, there will still be folks like bin Laden who commit heinous acts of evil. But there are also those folks who might not kill on a massive scale, but who murder, or molest children and do other sundry deeds. On this side of heaven, sometimes force has to be used to stop evil. But we are also called to love as though we are on the other side. We are called to live in the future and in the here and now.

I think bin Laden's death was a sense of justice, but not one to celebrate. But I also look to the day when Love does conquer all, when peace reigns and when creation is made whole.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Photo: this is the cover Time Magazine will use for its next issue on Thursday, May 5.

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