This morning the news media and internet are buzzing with reactions to Osama Bin Laden's death in Pakistan. Images of waving American flags are everywhere, and Irving Berlin's classic "God Bless America" seems to have found its place as the anthem of the moment, as people literally dance in the streets all over the country. President Obama has raked in his political hay, claiming this is an example of how "Americans can do anything if we put our mind to it."
Why does this feel so jarring? All I have felt ever since learning of Bin Laden's death has been a pervasive sense of sadness. A human being died. An act of righteous retribution has been carried out. Is the world a better place? Will terrorism cease? Not necessarily - all that can be assured is that many people feel this act of revenge has been long overdue.
The Deacon's Bench blog has reminded us of Jesus' command to love our enemies - and how hard this is in this situation. My own son, in the Air Force, has admitted he found it hard not to have mixed feelings as his base exploded into celebration last night. It is not wrong or unpatriotic to feel conflicted. It is simply Christian. If we believe that the merciful will receive mercy, that those who live by the sword will die by the sword, that the peacemakers are the children of God, we should feel somber and reflective.
No doubt there is a sense that justice has been done. Yet Osama was a man who also saw himself as fulfilling the wishes of his God. Jihad, however misinterpreted by extremist Muslims, is holy war - conducted to cleanse the earth of unbelievers. On the flip side is the sentiment that, as one woman told a TV reporter, that Osama is burning in Hell and deserves it. Both Muslim extremists and Americans, in effect, see themselves as having carried out the will of God.
What we have here is two different views on the will of God. However, based on the words of his Son, neither is necessarily correct. An "eye for an eye" is an Old Testament concept. "Love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" are Jesus's revision. Which is God's will in this situation? This is one of those questions to ask when we finally see God face-to-face. No doubt some will hear God say "That wasn't what I had in mind at all." Maybe all of us will hear that. In our human arrogance, do we dare act as if we know the answer?