It’s been just over a week since we heard the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by an American special ops team. In that week, I’ve seen and heard emotions that run the gamut between sadness and jubilation. I’ve seen people partying in the streets over the death of another human being and I’ve seen others who despair for our country because such a violent act goes against their faith. In between, there are the lukewarm responses, like the one I posted last Monday. In it, I said that Bin Laden’s assassination was “the best of a shitty lot of options”. This past Sunday evening, Olivia (my youngest) and I were discussing Bin Laden’s death. When I told her I thought it was necessary, she said “I don’t think so. We killed someone, why is that necessary?” Every so often, the girl will say something that just knocks me out and makes me proud to be her father. Another excellent response comes from Chad Holtz, the Duke student whose blogging and Facebook posts wound up costing him his job as a pastor. On May 4th, Chad wrote a post titled “What If…“, which postulates a world where the people of the United States responded to the 9-11 attacks with love rather than military action. In fact, the government couldn’t use military force because “those crazy Good Samaritans” were in the way, dropping care packages on Baghdad. This show of love prompted terrorists in training to leave their camps and even convinced the wife of one the hijackers that maybe Christians weren’t as evil as she’d been taught. The universe that Chad shows us in the post, one where Christians act like the followers of Christ that they profess to be, really got to me and I shared it with others. Unfortunately, they weren’t as taken with it as I was.
The common reaction to the question of what might have happened if we’d responded with love instead of bombs was it wouldn’t have made any difference. Those people over there, I was told, have hated us for 60 years and they’ll continue to hate us no matter what we do. Here’s a response from a link I posted on Facebook: “We get alot of rewritten history now. I understand the lesson behind this but I seriously doubt that a radical islamics wife would cry if she received a color tv etc in place of her husband. Maybe we should have sent a bag of jelly beans to Osama so he would call off the al queda attacks. Oh well..uptopians have a great sense of humor. The title says it all i guess..What If! What if the radical idiots of this world didn’t exist under any banner and all the suicide bombers were really cuddly bleeding hearts…” To that I can only point to the words that Jesus gave us about how to deal with our enemies and violence:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:38-48
Read that passage very carefully, please. Is there anywhere in there where Jesus makes this response conditional on the conduct of those who wrong you? Does he ever say, “These are the things I want you to do. But, if there’s a possibility that they’ll still treat you bad, forget it. Go on and rip ’em a new one!” Of course not, because it’s not in there. I can hear you now, “But, doing all that stuff is hard. What He’s asking for is impossible!” Yes, it’s hard; He told us it would be. Maybe it’s even impossible, but that doesn’t mean shouldn’t strive for it. To quote the poet Robert Browning, ““Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”