Delight in a Killing

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Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD,
and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?
. . .
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD.
Turn, then, and live. ~Ezekiel 18:23,32 (NRSV)

I see that much is being written about celebrating the killing of the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. The seriousness and solemn demeanor of President Barack Obama who declared justice done has been countered by the jubilation of some of our people declaring joyously that revenge has been achieved.

Throughout the history of humanity, revenge has been the unfaithful satisfaction of our pride and the manifestation of our estrangement in sin. Revenge supports the cycles of violence that terrorists seek. Osama bin Laden built his career as a terrorist upon shame’s desire to restore pride through revenge. To the extent he has succeeded in making us think as he did and take pride where he sought it in killing his enemies, he has won by re-creating us in his image and likeness. Our President has chosen a better path. No, Barack Obama is not a pacifist. He gave the order to find and kill Osama bin Laden, and that order has been fulfilled, but whatever satisfaction President Obama may have felt at the success of the mission (combined with relief that no Americans were killed), he has exhibited no jubilation, no delight in the killing.

It is one matter to be relieved that a terrorist leader is no longer at work and that the retributive form of justice has been done in his case where it seemed beyond human possibility that there was any credible hope for the better form of justice which is restorative. Osama bin Ladin was highly unlikely to have a change a heart. He was ruthless and relentless, and he certainly seems to have been thoroughly convinced of his rightness and so devoid of remorse for the lives he had taken and those he would joyfully have taken in the future had he not been stopped. His death is a relief to the world.

It is another matter to be jubilant about the killing of a human being, which is a further grief to God and to any people who once loved that person and had hopes he would grow into a far better man than he did. Osama bin Laden’s life was grievous to all who believe humanity is created in the image and likeness of God, who believe God has hopes for all of us and is grieved by what our evils do to us as well as to each other. His death ends his career in murder, for which only the fanatical who share his views can be sorry. But delight in revenge serves only to make us a little more like him and to carry on humanity’s seemingly endless cycles of violence.

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