Thursday, May 5, 2011

There, but for the grace of God, go I...

When news broke of the death of Osama bin Laden, it definitely sparked an array of emotions. Facebook went crazy, at least a lot of my Facebook friends went crazy. People were posting all sorts of thoughts, quotes and articles. My brain went into crazy mode. For someone who already thinks way too much, this was just making me go insane.

At some point, and I'm sorry to say I don't remember where or who I was reading, a man said that he and his wife had prayed that Osama bin Laden would become the modern day Paul before his death. They had prayed that he would meet God, as Paul did on the road to Damascus, have the scales fall from his eyes, and go on to proclaim the name of Jesus.

Wow. What an interesting concept, I thought. Hmm. To pray for the enemy, for the glory of the Lord. I never prayed for Osama bin Laden and most certainly never prayed that he might become the modern-day Paul. I really began to consider what I know about Paul and was shocked to realize that there were definite similarities.

Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He stood by and "approved" as Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the Word of God.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of their killing him. Acts 7:59-8:1

Two things stand out to me in this. #1 Stephen was forgiving the people who were killing him as they were killing him. Paul witnessed that. Can't help but think it had an impact on him in later years. #2 Paul approved of the killing. In a Beth Moore biography of Paul, To Live is Christ, I read that the original Greek word for approval is suneudokeo; it means "to take pleasure with others." He wasn't just witnessing the murder of Stephen, he was enjoying it. Sound familiar?

But one day in the life of Paul (Saul then)...

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:1-6

And Saul, who became Paul, was never the same again. Changed. Adopted. Used. Perhaps this is where my comparison of two hugely influential men in history begins to unravel.

I can't think of anything good that came from Osama bin Laden. When I reflect on the lives that were lost September 11, 2001 it nearly takes my breath away. I remember the gut-wrenching feeling I had as I watched people jump from flaming windows, seeing the buildings plummet to the ground, the face of people who were searching for missing loved ones...the devastation was unthinkable. I have no clue as to what those directly affected must have been and continue to go through. Whoever could stand by and approve of that act should rot in Hell. Yes, I will agree with that.

Again I am drawn to think about the suffering a martyr like Stephen endured as he was stoned to death. Stone after stone after stone beat against his flesh until he could breathe no more. The participants in his murder were taking pleasure in seeing his pain. Anyone who stood by and approved of that death, and enjoyed watching it should also rot in Hell. That would be Paul.

And then we know that the most agonizing suffering that ever took place happened when Jesus Christ bore the entirety of wickedness and evil of all humanity as he hung on a cross and died. People watched and cheered as it happened. Should the evil that required His death rot in Hell? That would be me. I can't ignore the fact that it was the evil within my heart that put Him there. It was me. Should I rot in Hell? Absolutely.

There, but for the grace of God, go I...

I believe God is just and that I can and should rejoice in that justice. His justice prevails always--I don't even think I have to wait until a terrorist is killed to celebrate that. HE IS JUST. Osama dead or alive. Yes, let's rejoice that justice was served and perhaps the world is a safer place...but we do it with a generous dose of humility. As a follower of Christ, I do so knowing that my "Damascus road encounter" is essentially the only thing that separates me from Osama bin Laden.

And who knows? Maybe he had one, too.

“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Lewis Smedes

1 comment:

  1. I love the quote at the end of this great post. I have struggled with the fact that so many are almost apologizing that we can rejoice, as Christians, when justice is served. God is just. God will not be mocked. We don't have to apologize for that. But, if there's pride and arrogance in our hearts then we need to ask the Lord to change our hearts. God didn't wish for Osama to perish without the knowledge of Him, and according to scripture, Osama is without excuse as are we all. Spiritually, almost, I'm relieved that the goal of finding him has been met. I now turn my prayers toward the safety of our men abroad and our homeland. Thanks Keelie. I've had a few moments of frustration over this one, and your post helped me wrestle just a bit more. Blessings!