Thoughts on N.T. Wright’s Thoughts on the Killing of Bin Laden

Like a lot of folks, I have had mixed feeling since I found out that USA Special Services killed Osama Bin Laden on May 2nd.

On one hand, it is good to know that the man who masterminded the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York City is dead.

On the other hand, my heart is pained to hear that another human has died – no, worse then that, they were killed.

I know that folks can point to various biblical passages to ‘justify‘ killing in war…That may be, I don’t know anymore…I just know that the longer I follow Jesus, the more I becoming a pacifist…The more I feel the pain in seeing a fellow human made in the image of God dying as a result of evil…

Add to this pain the sight of fellow Christians celebrating Bin Laden’s death…a sight that reminded me of the demonstrations among radical Muslims after the Sept 11th terrorist attack….

Then today, I read a letter by N.T. Wright posted on Carl Medearis’ website about the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden.

For those who don’t know N.T. Wright, he is one of the primary theologians of our times. He is also a British citizen who sees things through slight different lens.

In this case, he compares the USA raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan to a theoretical attack by Britain on IRA terrorists in Boston.

Yeah…think about for a bit…don’t dismiss it outright because it is a situations that could legally happen as the USA Government has welcomed IRA leaders at the White House.

What does all this mean?

I guess it comes back to the word I heard at the Vineyard National Conference last week: Mercy triumphs over judgment

We are to give mercy to all; we are to bless and love everyone – friend and foe alike.

Jesus was born, lived, and ministered in the midst of a conquered people. The culture around him pushed and prodded him to take sides – either fight against the Roman Empire or forgo the promises of God and join with the Gentiles.

Yet, Jesus took a third way.

He included a Jewish terrorist (Simon the Zealot) and a Roman tax collector (Matthew) in his inner circle. He conquered judgment and fear with mercy and love.

Shouldn’t we as followers of Jesus do the same?

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. -James 2:12-13

Clarification (Added on May 12, 2011):

N.T. Wright is NOT making a judgment call on the killing of Bin Laden. What he IS doing is  calling attention to the fact that the USA government, for right or wrong, took military action within another sovereign nation without asking that nation’s permission beforehand. Furthermore, the USA has a history of ignoring international laws whenever it benefits the USA.

As a USA citizen, I also have questions about the way the USA government handled the matter.  Over the years I have come to recognize the value of international cooperation through multiple trips internationally and tons of discussions with friends overseas. The USA government may have good reasons for what they did…then again, they may not… either way, I think it is good to question the assumed right the USA government takes in being the world’s police force.

As to my references to pacifism and mercy, they are my response to the killing of Ben Laden, not N.T. Wrights. And no, this does not mean that I think the military is evil or bad. I made no judgments on anyone – their actions are between them and God.  I regularly thank the Lord for the protection and freedom that the USA Armed Forces gives (and has given) to me, my family, and everyone who lives in the USA. (and yes, I do have family and friends in the military at this present moment).

My thoughts are simply a response to what seems to be an attitude of joy across the nation at the death of Bin Laden. An attitude that seem to me to be misplaced as I feel that we should morn the death of any fellow human who died without knowing Jesus personally. My heart breaks for these people as God is reaching down and wanting a relationship with them – He wants to repair the damage done in their lives by the evil one.

I pray daily that the Lord will come again soon and destroy evil once and for all – then we will not have to deal with these sticky issue. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on N.T. Wright’s Thoughts on the Killing of Bin Laden”

  1. I believe there is a difference between personal forgiveness and the governments role. Most people seem to think that what is good at a personal level is good at a government level. To me that is a faulty thought process since they are not the same thing. It might be good but also might not be. Government has a specific role and authority. Personally, I don’t have a problem forgiving them at all. However, the role of government/authority is that of an enforcer. For them to forgive is fine but for them to “turn the other cheek” and not seek to bring justice is wrong and goes against the role they are supposed to fill. (can give verses if you want) If they can’t (shouldn’t) punish those who are lawbreakers or who do evil then we might as well empty the prisons and prepare for anarchy. As a parent I can forgive my kids for what they do wrong but the need for punishment is still there. There is a season for mercy but if all they get is mercy how will they learn what the rules are and how to keep them?
    Now as for invading other countries to get him, how they did it ect and so forth, that is another story, still thinking and gathering info on it, have found numerous things that concern me there.
    Not I do not rejoice in his death, but find it strange that many who never seem to give a passing thought to the death of how many lost a day now become overly pious and declare they must mourn the loss of a soul. Seems kinda like religious mush to me (not saying you are there, I know that you do care but some of the others…….)

    1. Your comments reflect the stance that I have held for most of my life…however, I am beginning to question whether there should be an difference between personal forgiveness and the government’s role.

      If we, as followers of Jesus, are to be an end-time community (i.e. bring the age to come into this present evil age), then God should be king and not any government. This also means that the eschatological hope of wrongs set right is happening here…

      Yet, we are also people of the tension living in the middle of an evil age where folks like Bin Laden murder others. As such, human government is a necessity of life… granted, I wonder and ponder at the rights and/or limits of any human government…

      As you see, I’m still wrestling with this as I’m not sure if it is a simple as I once thought. 😕

      But regardless of the rights of a government to punish wrongdoers, biblical or not. I firmly believe that all followers of Jesus should morn the death of any one who does have a personal relationship with Jesus. It should be the hope and prayer of all of us that all people who walk upon this earth with come to know Him personally.

  2. Don’t know if it helps any, but lately have noticed that it speaks of Jesus ruling with an iron scepter, I always thought his rule would be full of perfection (everyone is perfect, nothing wrong happens) but lately have been revising that thought. Ruling with a iron rod or in another place breaking nations with a rod of iron paint a bit different picture.

    1. Heh – Joy – Rabbi Michael was talking about this exact thing on Saturday – why would Jesus need an iron scepter if everyone is being holy and obeying Him?

  3. I have had more than my fill of pastors and/or theologians who believe that God has appointed them to make judgment calls about political and military matters. They use their theological learning as a bully pulpit.

    First of all, N.T. Wright was not around to hear the behind the scenes reasons that President Obama made the decision that he made. It was a difficult one to make. This was not a gleeful man making the decision, but a thoughtful man making a decision with great carefulness and many skilled advisors.

    N.T. Wright is making a judgment for something for which he is utterly unqualified since he is neither a military expert, nor a national security expert, nor a political expert.

    He is a theologian. If President Obama went to St. Andrews and set up a microphone and began passing out theological advice about how N.T. Wright was just another misled Bible thumper and compared him unfavorably to a character invented by Sinclair Lewis, for instance, oh my, we would hear the U.K. babies a cryin’ across the Atlantic. What a bunch of self- centered egotists pastors and theologians are allowed to be when anyone steps a toe onto their turf, but they feel they are God’s gift to the human race in the political and military arena, especially the ones who have never spent ten minutes in the military service of any country.

    Shame on you N.T. Wright. Shame on you.

    1. You are right, a lot of pastors and theologians do use their position incorrectly. However, I don’t believe that N.T. Wright did this in his letter – nor did he make any judgments. What he did do is call attention to the fact that the USA government, for right or wrong, took military action within another sovereign nation without asking that nation’s permission beforehand. Furthermore, the USA has a history of ignoring international laws whenever it benefits the USA. Again, I’m not saying that these actions are right or wrong – I’m just saying that they happen.

      As a British citizen and member of the human race, N.T. Wright is perfectly qualified to question whether or not the USA should have invaded Pakistan with the goal of killing Ben Laden. Instead, he suggestions that the USA should have worked with Pakistan, the UN, and other international countries to capture Ben Laden and place him on trial for his crimes according to the International Criminal Court.

      I, as a USA citizen, have the same questions as to why my government handled the matter in the way that they did. I know that I am not a “military expert, nor a national security expert, nor a political expert” – nor do I claim to be. I’m just a guy who has come to recognize the value of international cooperation through many years of international travel. The government may have good reasons for what they did…then again, they may not… either way, I think it is good to question the assumed right the USA government takes in being the world’s police force.

      As to my references to pacifism, these were my response to the killing of Ben Laden, not N.T. Wrights. And no, this does not mean that I think the military is evil or bad. I made no judgments on anyone – their actions are between God and them as actions within war is not a salvation issue. I regularly thank the Lord for the protection and freedom that the USA Armed Forces gives (and has given) to me, my family, and everyone who lives in the USA.

      My thoughts are simply a response to what seems to be an attitude of joy across the nation at the death of Bin Laden. An attitude that seem to me to be misplaced as I feel that we should morn the death of any fellow human who died without knowing Jesus personally. My heart breaks for these people as God is reaching down and wanting a relationship with them – He wants to repair the damage done in their lives by the evil one.

      I pray daily that the Lord will come again soon and destroy evil once and for all – then we will not have to deal with these sticky issue. 🙂

      Blessings upon you Mindi and thanks for the thought provoking comment.

  4. If it helps you any Josh, from what I am hearing this was done with assistance from the ISI. Thus, with the blessing of Pakistan. Then the US turned and made them look like they didn’t help. I have no idea if this is the US turning on a friend or if it is a staged plan so Pakistan doesn’t make some groups angry. I have refrained from comments about the way it was done since I am pretty sure we are not “in” on most of the ins and outs of this.
    From information I have gathered over the years talking with people who have been over there, I am inclined to believe these reports are accurate.

  5. I do agree with your dislike of the US policing everyone. The one that really gets my ire is what we did with Egypt. I keep waiting for the backlash to all the interfering 🙁

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