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Guest Editorial: Blessed are the peacemakers

by Phillip Larsen

I find that I have conflicting yet strong emotions regarding the latest breaking news. To recap, just in case you don’t have a TV, the internet, an iPhone, an Android phone, a Blackberry, an iPad, a Galaxy tab, friends, neighbors or any other means to hear the news, Osama bin Laden was killed by United States special forces. The miraculous thing is that this was done without any civilian or American casualties.

I find myself relieved. It is indisputable that bin Laden was evil. His mission was to enact an extreme (emphasis added) interpretation of Islam, and did so at any means possible. The metric he used for success was a body count. I catch myself wanting to celebrate, not because a life was taken, but because of a sense that justice was done. You are not going to get an argument from me by stating the world is a better or safer place because this individual is no longer drawing breath. It is further example that our conflict is not with Islam, but rather extremist elements of Islam. Saying that we are at war with Muslims because of their extremist elements is the equivalent of declaring war on Christianity because of the actions of the KKK. P.S., both Presidents Bush and Obama have said something similar.

I find myself saddened as well. Not because bin Laden is dead, because I do not mourn this individual in the least. I find myself saddened because it is indisputable that God sent His Son for this individual as well, and even though he ultimately rejected Him, Christ’s blood ultimately covers bin Laden’s sin just as much as it covers mine. The same salvation that is offered to you and me, is offered to bin Laden despite the unspeakable evil that he did. Scripture is clear. God does not rank our sin, He finds all our sins repugnant and worthy of separation from His holiness. If, by some chance, you are reading this and are not a believer in Christ because of some thought that your past will preclude you from His love, let me tell you this: If Jesus’ blood covers the sins of this man, then surely it can cover your sins as well. I would love to discuss this fact further, so send me a message.

I find myself grateful. We have a volunteer military. These men and women have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way to stand a post and keep us safe. Recently, my dad was on the same flight as a fallen soldier returning home. Upon finding this out, he went up to the soldiers in uniform in the terminal, and with tears in his eyes, thanked them for their service. My dad is not someone who cries easily, so this is a perfect image of what my feelings are towards those in uniform. If you are in the services in any capacity, I offer my deepest and most heartfelt gratitude.

I find myself lacking closure. Although I would stipulate that this is a closed chapter, there is no closure here. The fact of the matter is that bin Laden’s death does not bring back the family members who died on Sept. 11, and the subsequent servicemen and servicewomen who gave, what Lincoln called, the last full measure of devotion and fidelity. Pray for these families today.

I find myself once again disgusted with partisanship and the discourse I have read, seen, and heard by those with both Rs or Ds on their voting cards. So for those with a craven view of what this means for this administration or previous administrations, I offer these rebukes . . . enjoy!

For my more liberal friends who want to bash President Bush. Come off it! Say what you will about his presidency, but I will not stomach the notion that his motives were other than righteous. I have never doubted his fidelity to this country, and his desire to see America both protected and prosperous. There is no doubt that I question some of his strategies during his presidency, but I have never questioned his motives. I believe that he did the best he could to protect this country, and absolutely cannot stomach the absolutely hyper-partisan rhetoric. This is not statesmanship, and we need statesmen!

And to my conservative friends who are ready to either dismiss or disparage the current president. Come off it! Once again, question the policies all day long, but to say that his motives are anything other than that of what is best for the country are the worst kind of partisanship. Once again, statesmanship is what we need now more than ever, and I have little tolerance for overt vitriol. We can disagree without being disagreeable, and I pray that this is a step towards healing wounds between those who align themselves between red or blue on the political spectrum.

I feel myself anxious. I wish this was the culmination of something. I wish this was a scene like that on the USS Missouri in 1945. The truth is that we are still in harm’s way. There are still those who wish ill on the innocent. We still live in a fallen world, and evil still exists. I continue to pray for those who are standing watch, and would invite you to do the same.

I find myself praying for peacemakers. Scripture says clearly “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” We need peacemakers. We need people who are willing to say that war and violence are not a virtue. That military action is the last recourse, and that the military philosophy of deterrence is most effective when coupled with diplomacy. To end this, I will offer one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr.:

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

Phillip Larsen is part-time discipleship and children’s minister at Oklahoma City, Journey Fellowship. This column originally appeared on his blog at http://larsenphillip. wordpress.com.

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  • Aaron Turner

    In his 1957 sermon, “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. King made the following statements as the opening to his second point. He said that “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.” He goes on to say that “hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

    If Dr. King was correct (and I believe that he was), then the display that we have witnessed by Christian and secular Americans over the past ten days must truly sadden the heart of God. Proverbs 24:17-18 tell us “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” In these words from scripture, I am most notably aware of what the writer does not communicate. He does not add exception for Americans, regardless of the crimes committed against us (and they are many and horrible). There is also no exception present for those who would simply be grateful for justice done. Justice itself is not objective but subjective, and it in no way grants license for celebration at the death of an individual created by God himself. Christ-followers are not granted exception to rejoice over the death of any man, no matter how evil he may have been. The fact remains that, at his death, bin Laden was (as far as we know) eternally separated from the God who created him. Self-righteous jubilation seems somehow inappropriate, specifically among Christ-followers.

    Finally, it seems appropriate to close with more words of Dr. King, from “Loving Your Enemies.” He says, “We love men not because we like them, nor because their ways appeal to us, nor even because they possess some type of divine spark; we love every man because God loves him.”

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