The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death has brought about a flood of response all around the world. In America, US citizens are filling the streets of Washington, D.C. and New York City, cheering and celebrating the news. And, in some obvious ways, this response is understandable. Over 3000 of our fellow American citizens lost their lives in a single attack orchestrated by this terrorist mastermind. Many other US citizens, men and women serving in our armed forces, have given their lives in an effort to bring this man, and those who followed him, to justice. So, now that Bin Laden – the perpetrator of great atrocities toward our nation and its citizens – has been killed, the question could be asked, “Shouldn’t any good citizen celebrate?” Perhaps the better question for Christians to consider, however, is “Where is our primary citizenship?”
This is always a difficult question to raise, as doing so immediately raises the ire of those for whom American citizenship and patriotism are next to godliness. I believe the question we MUST consider, however, is not whether or not our American citizenship is important, but whether or not it is primary. We, by God’s grace, were born into a great country that, among all of its benefits, allows for religious freedom for its citizens. This is a fact for which we can and should be grateful to God. But, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, as Christians, our primary citizenship is not in America, but in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21), as citizens of the kingdom of God. So, as we seek to reflect good citizenship in response to the day’s news, it is incumbent upon us to reflect “good citizenship” of our primary country/kingdom. How do we do this?
1) As image bearers of the God who is just, we can be thankful when the government, which God ordained (Rom 13), seeks to bring about justice for all and judgment upon lawbreakers. We should also remember, however, that though government is God’s immediate provision for maintaining civil justice, God Himself, the just One, will one day bring all things to ultimate judgement according to His justice. In fact, the very existence of hell is God’s provision for judgement against those who have perpetrated not simply “crimes against humanity” but rather sin against a holy God.
2) As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we live according to the Kingdom guidelines Jesus laid out, in part, in His sermon outlining kingdom principles – the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). One of the clearest examples here is the following, from Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
3) Before screaming “justice” for those who commit great atrocities, kingdom citizens first recognize that, while justice demanded eternal punishment for our own atrocities against a holy God, we were recipients of divine grace through the person and work of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean that we excuse criminal behavior and let perpetrators “off the hook.” Those who commit crimes should be punished for their actions. God’s own just nature guarantees that ultimate justice will be served (Exodus 34:7). But, while we support just penalties for crimes committed, as Kingdom citizens, our greatest concern is for the perpetrator to receive the same grace and mercy of God we have received through Christ, by repenting and believing the Gospel. By comparison, our cries for “justice” should be overshadowed by our louder appeals for the perpetrator to repent and believe the Gospel.
4) As ambassadors of Christ, we have been given both the message and ministry of reconciliation. Our message is not, “Grace for the Saved! Justice for Sinners!” Our message is, “ALL are sinners, by nature and choice, and have sinned against the Holy God (Romans 3:10,23). His justice demands death for sin. (Romans 6:23a) But, this holy and just God, because of His love, mercy and grace, has met the demands of His own justice for your sin through the sacrificial death of His own sinless Son (1 Peter 3:18). And, if you will repent of your sin and, by faith, trust in Christ as the only Lord and Savior, you will be reconciled to God; receiving forgiveness of sin and life – eternal and abundant” (Romans 10:9,13).”
Muslim terrorists are not the only ones who need the Gospel. I need the Gospel. I not only needed it when I trusted Christ. I need it today in order to respond to this situation in a way that will honor Christ. May we not only speak these words and acknowledge their truth, but may we also live as if we really believe them.
Our greatest challenge as believers, in the midst of today’s news and every other day, is to glorify God with our lives by living and proclaiming the Gospel. Therefore, both our actions and words should demonstrate good citizenship – our citizenship not of the nation into which we were born, but rather of the Kingdom into which we were born again. May the actions of our lives, the words of our mouths and even the meditations of our hearts be such that will both glorify God and be winsome for the sake of the Gospel.