A Reading from 1st Timothy, chapter 2:
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
Today has been a day of celebration around the western world as we hear news that one of the leaders of world terrorism, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed.
But before we celebrate too hastily, I would like to remind you all of the gravity of this situation. Bin Laden's death, the death of his henchmen, and the death of the innocent human shields who were used to stop American bullets, are just the top of an immense heap of dead bodies and destruction.
Nearly 3000 innocent lives were lost on September 11, 2001, when the world trade center fell and the Pentagon burned. Since then, nearly 5000 brave men and women have been lost in the US Military, with many more injured and their families changed forever.
In the middle east, tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands, individuals and families have been torn apart and rent asunder by war. Many of these have been actively fighting for terror. But most of these are families like yours and mine caught in the crossfire of war.
So, when you think about the death of one man, remember what horrible cost it came at. And also remember this: The reason Osama Bin Laden needed to die is NOT for some juvenile sense of revenge, or "I told ya so", or "we're gonna kick your butt".
The reason Bin Laden needed to die is NOT because of his religion. Islam, when rightly understood, is a religion of peace. The word Islam means both "submission" and "peace". Those who practice Islam are supposed to submit themselves to the peace and harmony of the whole human family. And this is precisely what Bin Laden did not do.
The reason Bin Laden needed to die is for the protection of the innocent. He was the head of a global terror network that targets innocent people, and destroys families and communities. This is what justice is: The defense of the defenseless. Bin Laden preyed on the defenseless, and used their suffering to advance his ideology of hate, exclusion, and injustice.
Now I want to give you a brief understanding of why sometimes war is necessary to ensure justice, to ensure the defense of the defenseless:
In Christian theology, every person is created in the image of God, and every person is a child of the God who is Father of all. That means every person is valuable. Every person is sacred. Everyone. Americans. Arabs. Muslims. Christians. Soldiers. And even though they are horribly misguided, terrorists too are children of God.
So, as our Scripture says "God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth".
God weeps any time he looses a child. God weeps any time one of his children kills another child. It is a sin, an evil, to kill another person intentionally.
But with that said, when given the choice of protecting the innocent who are oppressed, or protecting the guilty who are oppressing and abusing them, it is the lesser evil to stop the guilty. And when the guilty are literally hell bent on hating and destroying others, sometimes the only way to stop them is death.
And that is why the same Scripture also says that it is the job of "those in authority"- our President, our elected officials, and our Military- to provide the conditions "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness". They cannot help us live peaceful lives while allowing people to spread terror and destruction.
So, a war of justice, a war to defend the defenseless, is a lesser evil than allowing a group of killers to keep killing. The death of Osama Bin Laden, who was hell bent on killing the innocent, is a lesser evil than allowing him to keep holding the reigns of terror and harming God's children.
While this may not warrant whoops of joy (for the death of anyone is not an occasion for joy in God's sight), it may warrant a sigh of relief. It may warrant a congratulations to our brave soldiers who risk their lives upholding justice.
But it also warrants something else: It warrants a renewal of our own efforts to create a just world, filled with peace and health and wholeness.
Because I will tell you, unless the basic conditions of human dignity and justice are not met around the world, hatred and terror will still keep raising its demonic head. Unless the people of both America and the Middle East KNOW that they live in a society where the innocent are protected, where there is access to healthy food and clean water, where all are educated and have medical care, and where people are free to become who God made them to be- unless THIS happens, there will ALWAYS be Bin Ladens who arise to channel people's fear and frustration into hatred and violence.
Unless we work together to create a just society, someone crazier, more hateful, more violent than Bin Laden will certainly arise to fill the void left by his death. This is not a time of complacency, where we can sit back and say "He's dead, no worries now!".
NO! This is a time to redouble our prayers, redouble our efforts to bring about the peace and justice of God on Earth. This is what Jesus himself called the Kingdom of God: A Kingdom where everyone is at peace, everyone is healthy, everyone is protected, everyone is healed, everyone has what they need, regardless of what culture, nationality, race, gender, or religion they are.
America has been blessed- YOU have been blessed- so that you can be a blessing to others. You have been given talents and skills and access to resources that people in other countries only DREAM of. You are the tools God will use- if you will let him- to bring about his peace on Earth and across the Earth, so that people will find no need for fear or terror or war anymore.
So is it good that Bin Laden is dead? Yes, it is better than him staying alive to maim and kill others. But his death will not stop the cycle of violence. The only thing that can stop this endless cycle of violence is compassion, is love, is a commitment to use our resources to bring about the peaceful Kingdom of God. Let us commit ourselves to be people of peace, and spread the healing and compassion we see embodied in Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace. Amen.