How should a Christian react to the killing of Osama bin Laden?

May 2nd, 2011 Post by

This was written by BJS board member Pastor Jacob Ehrhard:


When news of the killing of Osama bin Laden broke, my Facebook profile was flooded with comments, mostly of joy and excitement. Mixed among them was a spattering of comments that seemed to condemn anyone celebrating bin Laden’s death. A true Christian would only feel remorse and sadness that someone died. After reflecting on these thoughts, I did some study this morning (the morning after the President’s announcement) and offer these thoughts on how a Christian should react to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

  1. The prophet Ezekiel writes, “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Eze 33:11) A Christian does not find delight in any person dying, except in the death of the saints. Our delight would have been in bin Laden’s repentance.
  2. God relented of His wrath and punishment for ten years following bin Laden’s most vicious attack. He had ample time to repent of his wickedness, but showed himself time and time again to be an enemy of both the Church and the State.
  3. Though we do not delight in his death, it is a cause for rejoicing.
  4. After Moses and the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea and the host of Pharaoh’s army was drowned, they sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Ex 15:1). While this certainly has a spiritual meaning in Christ’s victory over sin, death, and hell, we must not forget the historical fact that the saints rejoiced over the death of their enemies. Psalm 68 says, “God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! (Ps 68:1, 3).
  5. But we live in the New Testament. Jesus has died for the sins of the world. Doesn’t that mean that Christians should condemn any act of violence? Shouldn’t we rather depend on the Gospel to deal with the wicked? First, the essence of God’s nature did not change from Old to New Testament, for it was also in the Old Testament where God says that He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (see point 1 above). Also, the path to salvation has not changed. Even in the Old Testament, people were saved by repentance and faith in the promise of Christ. Yet God still punished the wicked by the sword (often the swords of His saints).
  6. Second, Sts. Paul and Peter reaffirm that God has instituted the government to punish wickedness. “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Pt 2:13-14). And, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…Then do what is good and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he 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” (Rom 13:1b, 3b-4). The Kingdom Christ establishes (the Church) is distinct from worldly kingdoms, but worldly kingdoms and their authority still exist and more so, are instituted by God.
  7. The Lutheran Reformers also teach “that the spiritual kingdom does not change the public state. Therefore, private remedy [i.e. personal revenge] is prohibited not by advice, but by command (Matthew 5:39; Romans 12:19). Public remedy, made through the office of the public official, is not condemned, but is commanded and is God’s work, according to Paul (Romans 13). Now the different kinds of public remedy are legal decisions, capital punishment, wars, and military service” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XVI).
  8. In his work Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved, Martin Luther makes it clear that the work of a soldier–even when it’s killing and bloodshed–is a good work when done within vocation. He writes, “This is why God honors the sword so highly that he says that he himself has instituted it [Rom. 13:1] and does not want men to say or think that they have invented it or instituted it. For the hand that wields this sword and kills with it is not man’s hand, but God’s; and it is not man, but God, who hangs, tortures, beheads, kills, and fights.” The entire treatise is highly recommended, as well as Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed and On War against the Turk (all are found in Luther’s Works, American Edition, vols. 45 & 46). If the work of the Navy Seals was indeed God’s work, then it is rightly to be praised.
  9. How should a Christian react to the killing of Osama bin Laden? We do not delight in his death, even though he was an adamant enemy of Church and State. Yet we rejoice that God has given us the sharpest sword ever borne by Caesar in the history of the world in the U.S. military. Everyone from the Commander in Chief to the special operators of the Navy Seals performed well within their vocations to protect the citizens of this country, to bring justice to a wicked man, and to carry out God’s wrath on a wrongdoer. They are all to be commended. And, as an American, there is reason to celebrate.





Rules for comments on this site:


Engage the contents and substance of the post. Rabbit trails and side issues do not help the discussion of the topics.  Our authors work hard to write these articles and it is a disservice to them to distract from the topic at hand.  If you have a topic you think is important to have an article or discussion on, we invite you to submit a request through the "Ask a Pastor" link or submit a guest article.


Provide a valid email address. If you’re unwilling to do this, we are unwilling to let you comment.


Provide at least your first name. Please try to come up with a unique name; if you have a common name add something to it so you aren't confused with another user. We have several "john"'s already for example.  If you have a good reason to use a fake name, please do so but realize that the administrators of the site expect a valid email address and also reserve the right to ask you for your name privately at any time.


If you post as more than one person from the same IP address, we’ll block that address.


Do not engage in ad hominem arguments. We will delete such comments, and will not be obligated to respond to any complaints (public or private ones) about deleting your comments.


Interaction between people leaving comments ought to reflect Christian virtue, interaction that is gracious and respectful, not judging motives.  If error is to be rebuked, evidence of the error ought to be provided.


We reserve the right to identify and deal with trollish behavior as we see fit and without apology.  This may include warnings (public or private ones) or banning.

  1. boaz
    May 2nd, 2011 at 17:54 | #1

    Same way Christ did when peter pulled his sword.

  2. Carl Vehse
    May 2nd, 2011 at 18:44 | #2

    A Christian is a member of both the Kingdom of the Left and of the Right. Thus a Christian’s response to the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden will include paradoxical aspects from the two kingdoms. On the left we rejoice, without remorse, in the death of an enemy; on the right we are remorse, without rejoicing, for Osama’s soul sent to hell for eternity.

    Luther was also a member of both kingdoms (let the reader distinguish), when he noted in his “On War Against the Turk”:

    “But as the pope is the Antichrist, so the Turk is the very devil. The prayer of Christendom is against both. Both shall go down to hell, even though it may take the Last Day to send them there; and I hope it will not be long.”

  3. Matt Wood
    May 2nd, 2011 at 19:13 | #3

    I agree that there is a lot to be thankful for in the death of Osama Bin Laden. The government and military did their job and did it well. Everyone involved in the mission is to be commended and given appropriate honor. We can be thankful that no American lives were lost. But celebrate? I am reluctant to celebrate.

    ?”Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
    and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
    lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
    and turn away his anger from him.” Prov 24:17-18.

    The world is so broken that the only way we can maintain order and justice is to kill one another. Even in the Left hand kingdom it seems inappropriate to celebrate when the sword must be struck. What father celebrates in disciplining his child? The punishment of the evil doer is necessary and good, but I cannot see it as a cause to celebrate in either kingdom.

    Lord have mercy and come quickly.

  4. Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
    May 2nd, 2011 at 21:28 | #4

    Here is another little bit from Luther that I ran across today.

    From Luther’s Letter to Prince Joachim of Brandenburg (August 3, 1532), who was about to go to war with the Turks.

    Secondly, I beg that those on our side may not place their reliance on the Turk’s being altogether wrong and God’s enemy while we are innocent and righteous in comparison with the Turk, for such presumption is also in vain. Rather it is necessary to fight with fear of God and reliance on his grace alone. We too are unrighteous in God’s sight. Some on our side have shed innocent blood, have despised and persecuted God’s Word, and have been disobedient, and so we cannot take our stand on our merits, no matter how righteous or unrighteous the Turks and we may be. For the cursed devil is also God’s enemy and does us great injustice and wrong. In comparison with the devil we are innocent, and yet we must not boast of our innocence and the superiority of our right, but must fight against him in fear and humility and with God’s help alone. This is what David did in his fight against Goliath. He did not boast of his rights, but with God’s help he fought and said, “Thou hast blasphemed against God, in whom I put my trust.” In like manner we must pray God, not that he may avenge our innocence against the Turk, but rather that he may glorify his holy name against those great blasphemers and meanwhile graciously forget our sins.

    Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 331.

  5. Carl Vehse
    May 3rd, 2011 at 12:43 | #5

    In the August 3, 1532, letter to Prince Joachim of Brandenburg, Luther begins:

    I have received Your Highness’s letter and learned from it of Your Highness’s intention to take the field personally as captain of soldiers of the Saxon district in the war against that accursed tyrant, the Turk. I have also read Your Highness’s requestion for my prayers and for a letter of Christian instruction.

    He then offers three points of instruction:

    “First, and above all else, I wish and I pray God through our Lord Jesus Christ that he may give the pious emperor and all the princes and others who are now to fight against the Turk a courageous spirit that relies cheerfully on God’s help. May he graciously keep them from depending on their own power and strength, as do the Turks, for such reliance would be disastrous…”

    The second point was quoted above in #4. Luther then concludes:

    Thirdly, I wish and pray that in such a war those on our side may not seek honor, glory, land, booty, etc., but only the glory of God and his name, together with the defense of poor Christians and subjects. For the glory should and will be God’s alone. As unworthy sinners we deserve nothing but shame, dishonor, and even death, as Your Highness knows better than I can write. But since Your Highness has so earnestly requested spiritual counsel, I have no doubt that if Your Highness inculcates such sentiments in others, with the result that the war is conducted on such a high plane, the devil and all his angels will be too weak for our soldiers and the Turks will encounter men who are different from those whom they have fought before, when both sides were insolent and fought without God, which has always harmed God’s people more than their enemies.

    May Your Highness now go forth in God’s name. And may the same God send his angel Michael to accompany Your Highness and help you to gain a glorious ictory and return home to the praise and honor of God. Amen.

  6. Carl Vehse
    May 3rd, 2011 at 13:10 | #6

    Some historical context to the August 3, 1532, letter of Martin Luther to Prince Joachim of Brandenburg:

    – April, 1532: After their failed attempt in 1529, the Turks (Ottoman Empire) prepared for another siege of Vienna.
    – July 23, 1532: A peace agreement (the Peace of Nuremberg) was reached between the Protestants (including the Smalcaldic League) and Romanists, and signed by the Emperor on August 2. The agreement was necessitated by Charles needing to concentrate his military strength against the Turks rather than the Lutherans.
    – August 5-30, 1532: Croatian Miklós Jurisich and 700 men defended the city of K?szeg, 70 miles south of Vienna, against the siege of 120,000 Turks until the August rains (or a miracle, depending on the version read) forced the Turks to abandon their siege as well as the planned attack on Vienna.
    – August 12, 1532: Luther reiterated to Robert Barnes, an intermediary for Henry VIII, “I advised the King [in a September 3, 1531 letter] that it would be better for him to take a concubine than to ruin his people; nevertheless he craftily put away his queen [Catherine of Aragon].”
    – August 16, 1532: John Frederick the Wise (John the Steadfast), Elector of Saxony, dies.
    – Fall, 1532, Luther believes the end of the world is near, but refuses to write a preface to Lutheran pastor Michael Stifel’s Rechenbüchlein vom EndChrist: Apocalypsis in Apocalypsim (Booklet for calculating Christ’s return: An apocalypse within an apocalypse). Steifel uses his calculations to predict the end of the world would be on October 19, 1533.

  7. Rev. Gerald Heinecke
    May 3rd, 2011 at 13:58 | #7

    Thank you for such well written words

  8. Rev. Weinkauf
    May 3rd, 2011 at 14:31 | #8

    Very well put together, Rev. Ehrhard. Perhaps people in Illinois are smarter than I thought.

  9. boogie
    May 3rd, 2011 at 16:12 | #9

    I attended an Islam seminar at CTSFW a few years ago. One of the speakers, as I recall, was a former-Muslim that converted to Christianity and was an LCMS pastor. He had a picture of Osama bin Laden either in his study or right outside the door to make people ask about it. To paraphrase his reply, it was not really a picture, but a mirror. It is by God’s Grace that we are not all bin Ladens.

  10. Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
    May 3rd, 2011 at 19:46 | #10

    @Carl Vehse: Thanks for the historical background; where did you get it from? Interesting tidbit that this letter was written just two weeks before our own Johnny Steadfast’s heavenly birthday. (Although our own biography lists his death as 10 August–someone should look into that).

    I also find it fascinating reading through the history what role the Turk played in the Reformation. This has been happening for a long time, but God works good out of all things for those whom He has called.

    @Rev. Weinkauf. Thanks for your kind words :) I know that when you read too much of Rossow, you begin to think, “Can anything good come out of Illinois?”

  11. Carl Vehse
    May 4th, 2011 at 13:17 | #11

    How should a Christian, and Native-Americans, react to the inappropriate use of the name of a Christian and Native American icon, “Geronimo,” as the code-word for Islamoterrorist Osama bin Laden, in the White House-approved military operation to kill him?

  12. Carl Vehse
    May 5th, 2011 at 08:29 | #12

    While Christians ponder how they should react to the announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden, now that additional questions are being asked by the international community, the Steve Dunham administration is revising even more details of the original story reported to the American people.

    The White House revision now being told to the MSM is that, while bin Laden was being shot in the chest and head, instead of watching the action via helmet-cam videos fed into the White House big screens (as pictured and previously claimed), there was nearly a half-hour video blackout in which they saw nothing.

    Furthermore, Leon Panetta has told reporters that the US Navy SEALs (outed by Blabbermouth Biden), rather than the President, made the final decision to kill bin Laden. Thus, the SEALs did NOT use their communications links and ask, “Okay, Mr. President, we have Osama. What should we do with him?”

    And if the SEALs did something unauthorized like giving Osama a bloody lip by hitting him – before blowing his brains out – they will face a court martial as did three other SEALs who were similarly accused during the capture of another Islamoterrorist (the 3 SEALs were later found not guilty).

    As previously noted, the SEALs did use the pre-planned name of a Native-American Christian as a code-word that Osama bin Laden had been terminated. It’s not known if the code-word was also meant to imply that bin Laden had been scalped as evidence that he was dead.

  13. Carl Vehse
    May 5th, 2011 at 11:16 | #13

    Despite repeated assertions by various Administration officials that there was a firefight consuming most of the 40-minute assault, according to now Version No. 48:

    The sole shooter in the al-Qaida leader’s Pakistani compound was quickly killed in the early minutes of the commando operation… As the Navy SEALs moved into bin Laden’s compound, they were fired on by bin Laden’s courier, who was in the guesthouse, the official said. The SEALs returned fire, and the courier was killed, along with a woman with him. The official said she was hit in the crossfire.

    The Americans were never fired on again as they encountered and killed a man on the first floor and then bin Laden’s son on a staircase, before arriving at bin Laden’s room. Officials have said bin Laden was killed after he appeared to be lunging for a weapon.

    Another version claimed that the SEALs were authorized to kill bin Laden “if he’s not naked,” because of concern about a possible suicide vest being hidden under his pajamas.

    And, still another version claims that, despite the grim facial expressions of WH officials watching the intense commando attack (or the blank WH screen), Hillary Clinton’s hand-over-mouth expression was because of a cough due to a spring allergy, and not one showing anxiety.

    Hillary’s coolness under combat conditions was previously demonstrated when, as the former first lady recalls, she came under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia in 1996.

  14. Trey
    May 8th, 2011 at 00:15 | #14

    Carl: I don’t think the code name was directed toward Geronimo, but just a code word. Also, I read, perhaps erroneously, that he rejected Christianity later in life? Could you confirm he professed Christ until the end.

  15. Jason
    May 8th, 2011 at 08:20 | #15

    Well, from history, When Geronimo was on the run, the large army had trouble getting him. It took a scouting party to make contact and bring him in. There are certain similarites. For the most part it is a just code word. I guess we could have called him gray duck, or blue dog, or brown cow. Maybe D. B. Cooper?

  16. Carl Vehse
    May 8th, 2011 at 12:00 | #16

    The question of whether Geronimo died as a Christian is something that will not be known for sure until Judgment Day. In his Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars (Simon and Schuster, 1994) David Roberts admits that “Cynics thought Geronimo’s Christian experiment [in becoming a Christian] just another charade to curry favor.” (p.313). Another Indian prisoner of war, the Chiricahua chief Naiche, who himself became a Christian, also claimed that Geronimo was not really a Christian. Geronimo joined a Dutch Reformed Church in 1903, but in 1907 the pastor of the church, Rev. Leonard L. Legters, suspended Geronimo from membership in 1907. In Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest (UNM Press, 1999) Douglas J. Preston points out that when Geronimo died in 1909, he was given a Christian funeral, conducted by the Rev. Legters.

If you have problems commenting on this site, or need to change a comment after it has been posted on the site, please contact us. For help with getting your comment formatted, click here.
Subscribe to comments feed  ..  Subscribe to comments feed for this post
Anonymous comments are welcome on this board, but we do require a valid email address so the admins can verify who you are. Please try to come up with a unique name; if you have a common name add something to it so you aren't confused with another user. We have several "john"'s already for example. Email addresses are kept private on this site, and only available to the site admins. Comments posted without a valid email address may not be published. Want an icon to identify your comment? See this page to see how.
*

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.