Most everyone in America rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden. So did many elsewhere in the world. After all, he was a mass murderer and spent the past few years actively plotting to murder more people. What does God, who is love, have to say about him?
One thing that immediately came to mind is this: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? . . . The One enthroned in heaven laughs: the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1, 4). But Scripture also reminds us, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17).
In judgment, God laughs in derision at those who dare to challenge him, but he does not laugh in joy. God so loved Osama bin Laden that if he had ever believed in God, he would never have perished. As easy as it is for us to assume bin Laden is bound for hell, we mustn’t forget that there is but one unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and that no human is competent to judge whether another human has committed it.
But suppose for a moment that our assumptions are correct. We must also remember that God’s grace outlasts his judgment, and that he is, after all love. I have long wanted a front row seat to cheer when Old Sleaze Bucket himself gets chucked into the lake of fire to join his henchmen after the millennium. Many, I’m sure, would love to watch bin Laden, or some other human enemy, get sent to roast. When I think of God’s love, however, I’m not sure he wants the separation of the damned from the saved to be a joyous event for anyone.
God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). And yet the death of Jesus means nothing if people who ultimately reject grace to not receive what sin earns for them. Hell is real. No one will go there by God’s choice, but whoever does not want anything to do with God has nowhere else to go. Whoever goes to hell goes by his own choice. God will allow them to accept the consequences of their choice not with joy, but with sorrow.
I even suppose that God still loves Satan and his demons such that their final judgment will be more a solemn occasion in heaven than a festival.
Let us, even now, temper our gladness at Osama bin Laden’s death with a holy sorrow at the though of what great things he could have accomplished if he had not used them in the service of evil. After all, our loving God is sorrowful when any of his creatures choose to perish instead of accept his grace.