I have often said that if I hadn’t been married when 9/11 happened (only 39 days earlier, actually), then I would’ve made it my life’s goal to gain 30 seconds with Osama Bin Laden to tell him that God genuinely loved him, after which he could kill me or whatever. I started saying that because on the day the world trade towers fell, the mass reaction was always something to the effect of, “Find him and kill him!”. Christians all around me seemed intent on being the tools of “God’s vengeance”. It seemed that all anyone could think about was their anger and pain.
The conviction grew in me that I’d like to be at least one person in the mix who was simply wanting to live God’s forgiveness and acceptance for Bin Laden. If everyone else could yell and kick and fight, then couldn’t I cry and pray and pray? I started pointing out that we might make a whole lot more difference in the grand scheme of things if we’d just starting praying for the guy and using our “screen time” (tv, internet, movies) to get the message out that God didn’t hate Osama. I thought it’d be much more avaunt guarde (and, it turns out, ancient) to remind all the haters that if this whole Jesus bit is true, then that means that “while WE were yet sinners, Christ died for US.”(Romans 5:8)
So, on 9/11/2001, I began earnestly praying for Osama Bin Laden to somehow experience God’s infinite love and mercy before we all got to him. A few years ago, I became Catholic and the “source and summit” of the faith is Communion, the Eucharist. The belief is that, when you receive Communion, you receive God’s infinite grace and you participate in the mystical life of the body of Christ. One of the teachings is that you can, in a real sense, offer up the graces you would gain by receiving Communion for anyone, anywhere. Well, since the first day I began receiving Communion, I have been offering all of those graces to my wife and Osama Bin Laden. (Odd mix, I know). My prayer for the last three years has been that any grace, any strength, any mercy I would’ve received during that time would be given to them. Down to my core, I desired that they be drawn deeper and deeper into the love and mercy that my life has been given.
Essentially, ten years of my life have been poured into the hope that this man would find Christ. Ten years of praying that somehow, in the middle of whatever cave (or compound) he was in, he would discover mercy. Ten years of burning for him to find an imminent love that would knife through the zeal and fervor and hate and anger and misunderstanding. Three years of countless graces offered into his life.
Now he’s dead. He’s finally gone. Bullets found their mark. What has the reaction been? “We found him and we killed him!” “I praise God that he’s dead.” The problem is that God, himself, is never happy when someone dies. Death was never the intent. For any of us. “God is not willing that ANY should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine) It is NOT a good thing that he’s dead. It is not worthy of rejoicing. It is not a happy day when anyone dies.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should’ve handed him an Easter basket and told him to run along and never do it again. I am fine with removing a threat to humanity. I support necessary punishment for ANY sin committed, mine included. I might even go as far as to allow that the death penalty might be allowable in rare cases. Where I make my stand is that we can’t be happy about any of it. We can NEVER take joy in ending something as dignified and in “his image and likeness” as a human life, no matter who’s it is. It is good that he can no longer hurt others; it is wretched that he is dead.
Please take a few moments and seek the love of God in your life and in the lives of those you struggle to love. Strive to be his illogical, unfathomable mercy in the midst of the staggering pain this world can cause. We do not know what light God can bring out of any darkness. You don’t know if that person of whom you desire judgment is an Osama or a Saul. You simply don’t know. I’d say you’d do best to treat him as the latter, since God did. We are entrusted with the gift of our life and we must never be flippant with our days, or anyone else’s, for that matter.
I will never get those 30 seconds. It is decided. I don’t know his state of existence now, and neither do you. Let’s not pretend to. What I do know is that there is no shortage of souls in this world that our Father is anxiously waiting for us to love in return for hate. Jesus summed it up by saying: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21) and “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). How has He loved you?