Back From the Left Coast

Well, it is back to the old grind after our trip to the left coast.  Our  sojourn to the Pepperdine Lectures has been a highlight for the last 21 years, and we are already looking forward to next year.  But then, we really enjoy our “old grind” as well.  It's a good thing.  This past Sunday marked 31 years at Denbigh!  It was hard getting back in the swing of things, especially since I woke up this morning with a migraine.  The drugs knocked it down enough for me to come into work only 4 hours late, but they also made it a little hard to concentrate.  So if this blog is a little more goofy than usual, it’s the drugs.  I don’t know what it means if the blog is a lot better than usual!

So what happened while I was gone?  Well, Osama bin Laden is no longer on the most wanted list!  Getting bin Laden does not end the war on terror.  In fact, most people seem to think that (in the short term anyway), bin Laden’s death makes another major terrorist act more likely.  But it is hard to imagine any resolution in any form to the war on terror without bin Laden being brought to justice.

So what immediately went through your head when you heard that he had been killed?  To be honest, the first thought that I had was surprise.  I didn’t think he’d ever surface; in fact, I thought it was likely that he was already dead (there had been reports that he had cancer).  So what SHOULD Christians think or feel at the death of an “evil mastermind” like Osama bin Laden?  Well, one indication of what many of us DID think is the Bible verses that were tweeted following the announcement of his death.  According to an article on Christianity Today, the top ten Bible verses tweeted over Twitter were…

  • Proverbs 24:17 "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice."
  • Psalm 138:8 "The LORD will make PERFECT the things that concern me"(KJV). (NIV: "The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.") 
  • Proverbs 21:15 "When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." (Rick Warren started this one):
  • Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?"
  • Ezekiel 18:23 "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"
  • Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us settle the matter," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."
  • Proverbs 11:10 "When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy."
  • Proverbs 24:18 " … or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them." (The popularity of this verse is due to it finishing the sentence begun by the #1 most popular verse.)
  • Proverbs 24:1 "Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company;" (probably an effort to quote Proverbs 24:17)
  • Proverbs 28:5 "Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully."

So should we remind ourselves not to gloat over the death of the wicked or should we rejoice that justice has been served?  The answer is “Yes.”  All those verses are in the Bible, and they all do bear some application here.  God is a God of justice; God calls us to be people of grace.  There should be no joy when hell gains another victim.  But there is joy that “the judge of all the earth does right.”  I don’t do Twitter—too much pressure to have thoughts and remember to tweet them (I’m doing well to update my Facebook status once a week).   But if I tweeted a verse related to bin Laden, it might be Romans 13:4, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he [the king] does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  We should have faith in God’s justice, but that means that we will “leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. (Rom 12:19).

Justice will be served.  In fact, it is already being served, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom 1:18).  We don’t gloat in it.  For one thing, we never know what it is that God is going nor how he is using the events around us to do His will.  For another thing, do we REALLY want God to bring His full justice to bear in the world… or do we want GRACE as well?  If we want grace for ourselves, then we need to leave God enough space to do His work.