It seems strange that people would party because someone is dead. When the news broke that Osama Ben Ladin had been killed by Navy Seals in a meticulously planned attack the sight of people gathering to rejoice and shout patriotic messages was all over the TV. I’m sure there were also people in other parts of the world and some in the United States who were shedding tears over his death at the same time. As amazing as it is, one person’s number one enemy is someone else’s hero. To some he was a dad and to some a friend, while to millions of others he was an extremist, hate filled, murderer.
How should a Christ follower feel in times like this? “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” But God didn’t ever say that the death of an evil person was precious to him. What is obviously true is that the execution of one who has murdered other people is ordained by God. It was God who first said, “Whoever sheds a man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Genesis 9:6) It was God who made the law, “You shall not commit murder” one of His basic laws for the people of Israel. It was God who set up the punishment of the death penalty for different sins that one might commit including murder. When Israel was preparing to enter the Promised Land God told them to set up seven cities of refuge in all parts of the land so that one who killed someone unintentionally could flee to one of those cities and be protected from the avenger of blood as long as they stayed inside the city. On more than one occasion God himself demanded that someone be put to death by the people of Israel such as the man caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath Day. God himself executed many who were rebelling against His will such as Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 when they as priest offered strange fire on the incense altar that was different from what God had commanded.
It might be said that these were all under the Old Covenant and that Jesus taught a different ethic than this. To some degree that is true. He made a huge change in the way things were to be done in the church as compared to how it was done in Israel because Israel was a nation. They served as both the government and the church and there was no separation between church and state. In the New Covenant the church is to preach a gospel of peace and their message is one to try to lead people to repent not to fight or kill those who disagree.
But what about government under the New Covenant? In Romans 13:1-8 God had Paul to tell us that we as Christ followers are to submit to the ruling authorities understanding that they are servants of God sent on a mission to praise those who do well and punish those who do evil. He said of the governing authorities that they do not bear the sword for nothing. Christ followers aren’t to avenge themselves but to realize that vengence belongs to the Lord and he will take care of getting revenge for evil that is done. Sometimes God does that by means of civil government, with police and soldiers who are God’s servant to execute wrath on the children of disobedience.
Did the government of the United States have the right to execute the man who was responsible for the death of over three thousand citizens? Certainly they are authorized by God to punish such evil doers.
But that still doesn’t answer the question of how one who follows Christ should feel at such a time. It seems to me that there is a place to rejoice that an evil person has been stopped from doing anymore such evil. Although I have no doubt there will be others who will quickly fill his shoes and work to do just as much evil as he did and more. It seems to me that as a Christian there is also good reason to be saddened that someone else died without Christ. Jesus died for all people. He doesn’t want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). As evil as he was, he could have changed, repented and submitted to God’s will and have been forgiven. If he had done so, would he still have been responsible for the crimes he had committed? Yes, forgiveness from God doesn’t take away one’s guilt before the country. They still have to pay the price for the crime. The difference is between the person and God.
It isn’t wrong to be glad that a crime has been punished. It is wrong for us to seek personal revenge or hate people because of their association with the person.