It was early Monday morning and we were just finishing breakfast. Kristi received a text from her Dad. “You’re not going to believe what my dad just wrote? They have found and killed Osama Bin Laden.” I was nonplussed. I didn’t have a response. I wasn’t happy. I certainly wasn’t sad. I just “was.” My cell phone then buzzed in the bedroom. I went to grab it. It was Pastor K. calling. “Bakushipa Osama. Nzambi atumbishibue!” (they killed Osama; glory be to God!). I have to confess, I wasn’t in the mood for praising God for the death of another human being. But how to respond?
Throughout the day various Congolese friends and acquaintances cited the fact that Osama was now dead. “Are you happy?” they would invariably ask. I have to confess, I was tongue-tied. I really did not know how to respond. I would often say one aspect of this phrase, “Many people in America are happy. In fact, some are celebrating. But as a Christian, I don’t know if it is right to celebrate the death of someone. We are called to love our enemies and to pray for them. I believe justice has been met. That is good. But I cannot celebrate.”
Kristi and I are currently reading through the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a major prophet in the life of the nation of Israel. Chapter eighteen has given me perspective into the death of Osama Bin Laden. The theme of this section is repentance, and how each person is responsible for his/her sin (turning from God). Twice, I repeat twice, God says that He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. In fact, God says that He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone. God’s one wish is that each person would turn from his/her own wickedness and erring ways, and repent - to finally turn to Him! In reflecting on the death of Osama Bin Laden one month on, perhaps the most significant message for each of us is this - death will come. It may not come as suddenly and violently as it did for Osama, but it will come. After pushing through death’s tragic door, some will live eternally with God, worshipping and glorifying Him. Some, however, will not. Through Ezekiel the prophet, God speaks this message, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18: 20). It is a message that is also repeated by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus cautions his listeners to enter through the narrow gate, “for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7 :13). Jesus tells the story of the rich man in hell, enduring torment and eternal agony because he did not care for the poor man Lazarus (Luke 16: 23 – 31). Jesus compares the sheep and the goats - some will will go away to eternal punishment while others will inherit eternal life (Matthew 25: 31 – 46).
The opportunity to turn to God is always there. Ezekiel chronicles how those who were once wicked turned themselves over to righteousness before a most holy God. Others began on the path of righteousness but then turned to paths of self-indulgence and idolatry. God states emphatically in this section of Scripture that we are each responsible for our own eternal welfare. It was a message Israel needed to hear. It is a message we need to hear.
Death will come. Are we prepared?
Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18: 31 – 32).