Monday, May 2, 2011

The Fine Line

Christians are asked, in many matters, to walk a fine line.

The Christian is asked to walk the fine line of rejecting sin but receiving sinners. He's taught to honor God above all yet rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's. The believer is to both do justly and love mercy (Micah 6:8), a very fine line. Followers of Jesus Christ walk in the paradox that they are in the world but not of the world (John 17:11-16). The Christian must find balance in the principle that all things are lawful but not all things are expedient (1 Cor. 10:23).

Living for Christ is to walk a fine line.

This week offered Christians an opportunity to walk one of those fine lines. President Obama announced late Sunday evening that a covert team of Navy Seals had killed Osama Bin Laden. After almost 10 years of evasion the mastermind behind the attacks of 9/11 was brought to justice.

As an American I find his death a relief. My hope is that the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks can find some manner of closure and rest in his capture and death. I am proud of our troops and honor their service. In my opinion, the United States as well as the entire world, is better off without his evil influence.

That's my opinion of the matter as an American. My opinion of the matter as a Christian is a little different.

As a Christian, I believe justice was served. Scripture teaches that those in power do not carry a sword in vain but they are the ministers of God to execute wrath of those who do evil (Romans 13:4). In other words the Navy Seals don't carry an M4 Carbine for show. They'll use it if you cross the line. However, I also believe that hell is real and that when an evil man dies his soul will go there.

The line the Believer is asked to walk is to celebrate justice and yet acknowledge the sobering reality of hell.

I was shocked as I read some comments made by Christians on Facebook and Twitter. Many of them celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden with comments like, "He's sharing a room in hell with Hitler now." and "I bet he was disappointed when he found out hell doesn't have virgins."

I'm afraid that many Christians, at times, allow their patriotism to override their faith. Some even equate being an American with being a Christian. They are not the same. Christians must, not extinguish, but moderate their celebration of justice with a sober belief in a real hell. To promote one over the other is unbalanced.

I am happy for America but there is a greater truth that animates my life. That truth includes a belief in a literal hell that is nothing to celebrate.

To celebrate in the death and eternal judgment, even of an enemy, simply doesn't balance with the New Testament Christian ethic. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‎"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

Singer Bruce Cockburn said, "Everybody wants to see justice done, to someone else."

Our faith must temper everything in our lives, including our patriotism. It will not always be easy, but it is the calling of all Christians to walk the fine line.