A TIME TO DANCE? ~ 5/4/11

Is it right for Christians to rejoice at the death of Osama Bin Laden?

Exactly 12 days before the Twin Towers fell to the ground, I stood at the top of the south tower, taking in the highest terrestrial view of New York City with my wife, Esther. It was breathtaking. Just under two weeks later I woke up, not just to the news of the attack, but to the sight of smoke rising from the direction of Manhattan.

Like the assassination of President Kennedy, everyone will remember where they were and what they were doing when they found out that the towers were hit. I was on my way to a seminary class to complete a Masters of Divinity degree in cross-cultural missions. My goal was to become a missionary to Muslims. In my journal that morning I wrote these words, in a fog of sadness, anger and confusion: “Where was Superman? Where was God?

The Bible tells us that sin is for a season (Hebrews 11:25), but God always gets the last word (Galatians 6:7,8)— justice is patient. 10 years after the horror of that morning, it would appear that justice knocked on Osama Bin Laden’s door. And America cheered. But here is my question—for Christians, should there be cheering? Laughing? Dancing? Celebration?

I admit to mixed feelings as I watched the news. I was happy this man couldn’t dream up more horrors for the world to gag down, but as I watched video clips and looked at still photos of Americans cheering, waving flags and even leering into cameras with unmistakable glee, I also felt increasingly sad and somewhat ashamed. It was unsettling. Shouldn’t I be happy that this monster got what he deserved? That the ‘good guys’ won? That once again, America came out on top?

Here’s what I think—I think it’s right to rejoice. But not at the death of the man, per se—that seems cheap to me, shallow, petty and even sadistic. Frankly, it just seems below us. Rather, I believe, it’s right to rejoice at the satisfaction of justice. God cares about justice. This was never more evident than when God willingly allowed the death of His son to satisfy the guilt of humanity for affronting His holiness. Only because that act of justice was carried out on Jesus could God, in Christ, forgive you. It’s always right to rejoice at the satisfaction of justice, because whenever justice is satisfied, God is glorified. Earthly justice reflects and echoes the character of God.

I think the reason it’s critical to rejoice over the right thing is because otherwise it’s just way too easy to fall into the finger-pointing trap of defining and personifying evil as being “out there,” rather than where Paul starts with his finger-pointing. We need to be brutally honest about our own potential for evil. I’ve found it’s a whole lot easier to love your enemies when you first see yourself as the ‘chief of sinners.’

Believe it or not, there is a tragic side to Osama’s death, and it’s simply this—he spent his life in the passionate pursuit of a lie. I heard an interview on the radio this afternoon with the Christian parents of a twenty-something young man who died in the towers that day. The interviewer asked them if they were happy to hear the news of the death of their son’s killer. “Well,” the boy’s mother spoke up, “we were able to forgive Osama Bin Laden some years back, and that was when the healing began for us. So no, this news isn’t something we were desperately waiting for so we could find closure. Actually, when I heard, it just made me feel sad… because what seems obvious to us is that he was just a deceived man and that he’s probably facing an eternity in hell. And I don’t think it’s ever okay to be happy about that.”

I thought it was a remarkable response. And don’t you go spouting off something self-righteous at me about how this attitude offends the dignity of the ‘innocent blood’ that was shed that day—these are words spoken by the mother of one of those ‘innocents!’ And I think her words echo those of the Bible’s God—“‘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.’” (Ezekiel 33:11)

God’s first hope for anyone is always repentance, that they will cast themselves down at His mercy and accept the ultimate satisfaction of justice paid for by Jesus Christ. But when repentance fails to come—? Well then, that person must pay the price for the satisfaction of justice themselves, and the wages of sin is death. So I ask you… is it right for Christians to rejoice at the death of Osama Bin Laden? Here’s what I think, for what it’s worth—
We can rejoice in the justice and still mourn the deception.

Surrounded By Grace,


  1. Thank you Josh for putting into words what my heart was feeling, but struggling to express in words.

  2. Josh,
    You have beautifully written the struggle I have been having in my soul all week. I cannot rejoyce in what has happened, but I can rejoyce in God's perfect ways.

    My heart has been hurting over what my Christian Brothers and Sisters are doing, albeit misguided, for I do not believe it interprets God's heart~~thank you for doing so here.

  3. Well said, Josh! Dad, Rachael and I agree 100%!

  4. There is such refreshment in reading your words.Yes, refreshing, encouraging, challenging. It's so easy to put America before God. To gloat over "justice is served" rather than another one soul is facing eternity, a person created by God and in His image. Yes, we rejoice over Justice if that's what this is, but how we truly need to plead with God for the other lost souls deceived and deceiving. Thanks, brother, for the words.

  5. Good words. Thank you for sharing your heart. You hit the nail on the head. You are an excellent communicator.

  6. Thank you Josh! This was said in very simple but meaningful words. I hope the rest of the world understands this. For one this is something I deal with day to day being deployed and something that some people will never fully understand. In some way I think you and I view things the same, having human feels of anger and despair when things like these happen. But then questioning if it is right to do so. They are mislead like you said but conflictions between religious views sometimes can be aggravating when your the one that has to pull the trigger. I thank you again for this post only because it has helped me in my views and understanding of the consequences in mental conflictions of the actions I may or have taken.

    Your Brother in-law
    SPC Payne

  7. Thanks everyone, I'm grateful for your feedback and your thoughts; the world is watching our reactions.

    Cody, I am so very grateful to God that you were encouraged by this. I think of you often, I'm proud of you always and I can't wait until you're back home. Blessings brother.


  8. Once again you have communicated a deep seated feeling that I have had over the last few days so very well. Thank you.
    Unfortunately, many in the world will also view the video clips and come to the conclusion that ALL Americans reacted that way, that we ALL hate Muslims and rejoice when they die.
    I can't change what the media has chosen to portray or the uninformed reaction of many, but I can choose to love those around me and express my deep sorrow that another man has entered eternity without Christ. It makes me think about Jonah was sad when a people who had been cruel to his people would not be punished by God because they repented and God gave him the lesson of the vine. All too often we mourn the loss of the vine and miss the true desire of God for people to repent, turn to Him and spend eternity with Him in heaven. I spent some time asking God to show me how not to be so self centered and instead see ALL people the way He does. Thanks again, Josh.


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*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~