Posted by: L. E. Barnes | May 6, 2011

Rejoice Not…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the news has been full of reports about Osama bin Laden’s death–ad nauseum. And if you’re like me, part of you wants to exult at the death of bin Laden, while another part recognizes the need for restraint, humility, and–hard as it may be–compassion. A recent editorial in Our Sunday Visitor sums up the dilemma we as Christians find ourselves in at times like this:

On the one hand, it is right to feel relief at the killing of the man who is responsible for thousands of deaths of innocent people and who spearheaded a drive in the past decade that has made the world in no small way a more violent, fearful, hateful and costly place. 

It is largely because of him, and the terrible loss of life on 9/11 (foreshadowed nearly a year earlier by the deadly attack on the USS Cole in a Yemeni port), that America and its allies are mired in two overseas wars; that airline passengers now are subjected to lengthy and even humiliating security searches; that trillions of dollars that could otherwise have been spent on development and economic growth have gone to the war and security apparatus. 

More insidious is bin Laden’s effective sowing of division in the human family: inflaming of Islamic sentiment against non-Muslims, inspiring many young Arabs and other Muslims to join his global cultural conflict, which in turn has generated fear and prejudice against Muslims among the wider population.

Yet however much we may want vengeance, we are called to a higher standard. As the editorial notes, we are admonished in Prov. 24:17, “Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles, let not your heart exult.” And the Vatican, while acknowledging bin Laden’s guilt, reminds us that “[i]n the face of a man’s death … a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”

A comment by a Baptist minister I knew years ago, though made in reference to a different biblical principle, applies equally well here: “Easy to read. Easy to preach. Hard to live.” In other words, following the Bible’s command to love and pray for our enemies, even a killer like bin Laden, will come as a struggle for many of us–myself included. May God give us all the grace not to give in to hatred.



  1. Being a Christian isn’t always easy–as a matter of fact, it often isn’t.

    • You’re right on target!

  2. I reflected on this this week, too. The news hit me first thing in the morning on Tuesday–we go to bed earlier than most and didn’t hear the news live–and I never could find it in me to feel anything but sorrow. Not for OBL, but for the brokenness of the world that makes such things a reality.

    • My sentiments exactly!

  3. As the days go by since bin Laden’s death, it is getting easier to say a few prayers for him. After 9-11 I began to pray for the conversion of Muslims and since bin Laden’s death I have added it to my long list of rosary intentions. The conflict between Islam and the rest of the world is so broad and deep only God can fix it.

    • Ultimately, the conversion of Muslims it what it will take. Yes, let us pray…

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