“Justice has been done.”
With those words, President Obama announced May 1 that Navy SEALs had hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks–responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 American civilians and waves of terror and hatred around the world–was finally dead.
Midnight celebrations erupted across the United States. College students took to the streets, chanting “USA!” Flags waved and horns honked as an enormous national burden was lifted. Meanwhile, it was a solemn time for families and friends of bin Laden’s victims, whose losses can never be repaid.
My first reaction was gratitude for our brave soldiers who flawlessly executed such a dangerous and complex mission. I thought of my son–who has spent much of the past six years fighting terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan–and all the troops who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedom and our nation. Al Qaeda did not die with bin Laden, and our soldiers could face retribution. Please remember them in your prayers.
But I also thought about justice, particularly in light of a comment by David Beamer, whose son Todd was a passenger on the fourth plane hijacked Sept. 11, 2001. Todd was the one who famously said, “Let’s roll!” as passengers tried to regain control of United Flight 93. They lost their lives when the plane crashed in Pennsylvania, but they prevented another attack, possibly on Washington, D.C.
David Beamer said of bin Laden: “He has now come face to face with American justice and, unfortunately for him, he’s come face to face with divine justice. … His days, forever and always, are going to be very bad.”
American justice demanded that bin Laden be held accountable for his crimes against our nation. It took almost 10 years, but he got what he deserved.
Divine justice requires that each of us be judged for our sins against a holy God. The Bible says that none of us are righteous enough to stand in judgment before Him (Romans 3:10), and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
However, if we repent of our sins and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we don’t get what we deserve. Through His substitutionary death on the cross, He has paid the price for our sins and satisfied the justice of God.
The Apostle Paul was a dogged persecutor of the church before he repented and surrendered his heart to the Lord. In his first letter to Timothy, he confessed to blasphemy, persecution and violence.
Then he wrote: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 15-16, NIV).
For everyone who rejects Christ, the bar of final judgment will bring eternal condemnation. For those who have surrendered to Christ, there will be no condemnation (Romans 8:1)–divine judgment satisfied by divine mercy.