Posted by: Mike Willoughby | May 3, 2011

Thinking about Justice

I’m interrupting the Relationship Matters series today to write about the killing of Osama bin Laden this weekend.  It’s only been two days since the announcement of his death on Sunday evening and it continues to be the top story on the television and cable news channels, Internet news sites, blogs of all stripes and colors and obviously talk shows.  Details of the operation that ended bin Laden’s life are becoming available including a video of the compound where he was killed.  Today, there were even reports flying around the Internet and social networking sites of leaked photos showing bin Laden’s dead body.  Many of these files are actually turning out to be malware files designed by hackers to hijack the computers of the curious downloaders.

Most interesting to me are the many spontaneous celebrations that have broken out across America.  Yesterday as I was riding through New York, we saw two fire trucks parked on a bridge flying a huge American flag from the arch made by their extended ladders.  There are so many American flags flying from homes and business, one might think it’s Memorial Day or Independence Day.  And then there are the parties that have formed outside the White House, Ground Zero and other sites across the country.  There revelers chanted “USA, USA, USA” and hoisted signs, sang songs and bounced those large beach balls around the crowd.

Osama bin Laden was a mass murderer who himself had reveled in the actions that killed thousands of Americans on September 11,2001.  He was a terrorist in charge of a terrorist organization and I believe justice was done in carrying out his death.  I do not mourn his passing in any way.  However, I wonder about the appropriateness of celebrating his death with such gusto.  I wonder if it’s possible to celebrate justice without celebrating death.

On the one hand we have the example of David who celebrated his victories with gruesome gusto.  Read the account of his victory over the Philistine Goliath who had personally terrorized the young Israel nation from I Samuel 17.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.  Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron.  And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp.  And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

Later they held a parade for David in celebration of his victory over Goliath and other enemies as recorded in I Samuel 18.

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.  And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

    “Saul has struck down his thousands,
   and David his ten thousands.”

David was a “man after God’s own heart” and there is no indication that God disapproved of David’s celebration.  Many of David’s Psalms celebrate his victories over his opponents and these are accepted by Jews and Christians alike as inspired scripture.  And yet compare this with God’s own words from Ezekiel 33:11:

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…

This passage indicates God’s pleasure comes from the wicked turning from their wicked ways in repentance.  Reflect also on Jesus’ challenging words in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43-48:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I make no claims to be perfect as the Father is perfect at this point in my life.  And yet continual progress toward that state is a primary objective in my life.  Somehow celebrating the death of a wicked terrorist seems out of step with that objective to me.  I don’t wear one of those rubber wristbands but if I did it would not read “WWDD” as in “what would David do?”  My wristband would read “WWJD” and I doubt Jesus would be partying in front of the Whitehouse bouncing a giant beach ball off his neighbor’s head.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  I Peter 3:9

My Lord is patient even with the wicked wishing they would come to repentance and not perishing in their sin.  Time seems to have run out for Mr. bin Laden and justice has been served in this life for the horrors committed at his word.  I join my countrymen in rejoicing that he is unable to continue to influence the world for evil.  I pray that those most directly affected by his acts of terror are comforted by the Lord’s vengeance for his misdeeds.  However, my Lord is also a God of compassion and mercy.  How much mercy and compassion is present in these celebrations?

Food for thought!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles

Relationship Matters (Damaging Words) Relationship Matters (Attitude of Service) Relationship Matters

Copyright © 2011 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Dear Mike,

    Thank you so much for this post! This is exactly how I feel, and I appreciate your reference to David. You have given me a lot of food for thought which I will share with my kids and others.

  2. Amen and amen…

  3. Mike,

    Thank you for this post; Bret & I completely agree! We cringed at the aggressive nature of some people’s comments in elation regarding this situation. We appreciate your examination & insight as we plan to share this with our kids.

  4. Thank you brother! I believe you are right on with this post. Ruth Ann and I were talking about this earlier in the week and feeling many of the same things.

  5. This has been discussed on my x-FBI agent website as well. I can tell you that after 31 years in the FBI that the deaths of many criminals have been “celebrated” in the sense that justice is served and that the celebration is more of a triumph of right over wrong. These scenes of rejoicing of the death of Bin Laden, in my view point, is not necessarily a celebration of one person’s death, but the celebration that good has overcome evil and always will, no matter how long. If we always rejoiced in the death of the wicked, we would be a miserable people. It’s the triumph of good over evil that I focus on.

  6. Well said Mike. I think certainly our feelings toward a situation can be more flexible, but our attitude and actions speak differently about the death of a human. Justice can come in a variety of ways. Thanks Mike!

  7. This is a great piece of scripture you have quoted. I thought about this bin laden thing for some time and although he was a monster in the eyes of all Americans he was a hero unto his own, and they will probably mourn him just like Christ mourns for the lost. Satan is like a roaring lion……… Let us pray for our enemies with the prayer of Christ.”forgive them for they know not what they do”
    Thanks for your always inspirational lessons.

  8. Great post Mike. Let us pray for mercy for our “enemies” not wrath. God demonstrated His love toward us while we were still his enemies and sent His Son to die for us. Love your enemies and pray for those who use you.

    We don’t condone or water down the sin but we keep in prayer the sinner.

  9. Good post, Mike, and certainly food for thought. I have read the various scriptures where great celebrations and rejoicing was done, then read the ones where Jesus spoke and where God takes no delight in rejoicing. Personally, I do not mourn him either but I am glad that he is dead. I doubt that his heart was ever anything other than “hard.” I liked what someone said in an earlier response, good has triumphed over the bad. I don’t much like all the hoop-la, tho!

  10. In my opinion we are in the midst of an ongoing conflict with those that disagree with us and we should be cautious and alert. A lot of our enemies are home-grown and dangerous.

  11. I totally agree with your comments and the actions of others will be taken care of by God it is all about good overcoming evil

  12. Mike,

    Great post. Brandon and I had a similar conversation earlier this week. I am comforted by the fact that he is gone, but I do not believe that dancing in the streets is appropriate either. I really appreciate your Biblical references in response to this media saturated story.

  13. Great synopsis – Cindy and I felt the same way. We particularly identify with the sentiment expressed and that you referenced in Matthew 5 – we are called to be different, indeed.

  14. Mike—Keep up the good work on your part, so we can be patient and prayerful during this period of stress and danger to our nation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: