I sat there stunned, not sure I should believe what was being said until I heard it from Obama’s mouth. I watch the CNN coverage as they showed people starting to gather outside the White House at Lafayette Park. I did a google search. I watched twitter, searching for #binladen hash tag (man… I’m in the digital age). I was stunned.
Then I cried as Obama said “The images of 9/11 are seared into our memory.” I listened as Obama as he said these eloquent words: “The American people did not choose this fights. It came to our shores. It started withe the senseless murder of thousands of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle and sacrifice we know well the cost of war.” Yeah, I was in full-blown tears by then.
As the crowd got bigger outside the white house lawn, I simply couldn’t join in with their cheers and chants. My heart was breaking, though I couldn’t identify that emotion until later. The celebration didn’t feel right, but what was I supposed to feel?
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? – Ezekial 18:23
God’s justice and mercy are two of his characteristics that many of us have a hard time reconciling. I fully understand that my sin deserves a great wrath from God. I also fully understand that his mercy is so great that I do not have to feel the full force of that wrath thanks to the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. I also can identify with the feelings of vengeance we all had after 9/11. 9/11 hurt and we all felt the pain of what was happening. It wasn’t just the death of thousands of people… it wasn’t just the attacks on American soil. It was the shattering of our invincibility. It was the shocking realization that our world would never be the same again. Though we were the #1 nation of power, we were not immune. Realizing and experiencing that through the images of wreckage from those airplanes changed everything for us. Our world was altered and I sincerely believe that’s where much of our vengeful thoughts and actions came from.
I relived part of 9/11 tonight and I admit…to know Bin Laden is dead is a huge relief. I am proud of our President, our troops, the Pakistani intelligence that helped, and the courageous soldiers who went into that compound in order to make this world a safer place. But could I rejoice? Absolutely not. A member of the congregation I serve said that celebrating justice and celebrating death were inextricable in this situation. When I read that I realized my tears were not just of remembering that fateful day almost 10 years ago. I was crying because my heart was broken. Another soul condemned to hell’s devastation reminds me of the brokenness in this world, how our sin has messed it up, and that the celebration of a death is expected in the case of one who does evil things.
But God’s vengeance is not something to celebrate. It is something to be fearful and be in awe of. His great and bountiful mercy is something to fall on our knees and be grateful for. My choosing not to celebrate, but rather mourn, on this historic day doesn’t mean I believe we shouldn’t have gone after him. We had to go after him. But I simply cannot picture Jesus in that crowd outside the White House, waving a United States flag and chanting “U.S.A!”
He is weeping for another lost soul. And I am weeping with him.
We must reach out beyond justice to mercy
Going more than halfway to forgive
And though the distance seems so far
The love that used to hold our hearts
Longs to take us beyond justice to mercy
-Susan Ashton, “Beyond Justice to Mercy”