I am not sure if it bothers anyone else to see people sing “God Bless America” over the death of one of His creations but to me it just doesn’t settle well. Is this a proper response? Is it right to celebrate anyone’s death who we presume will spend eternity separated from God? I am just having a hard time with jubilant celebration over “death” – the enemy of God that was defeated in the resurrection. Especially in the season of Easter. This is the season where we celebrate God’s victory over death in the personage of Jesus Christ and here we are going crazy over the infliction of death onto another human being. And I know that what this man did was wrong. You don’t have to be a moralist to understand that this man has done more harm than good with his actions. He has taken lives. He has caused incalculable damage to relationships between the people of his faith and the Western world. But “God bless America”…really?
So what is the proper response? The prophets called us to look forward to a day of peace, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” – Isaiah 2:4. Jesus reminds us that we are blessed when we mourn for our world and the death it propagates, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4. But some might say to me how can you think of peace now, or mourn for someone who seemed to cause such division? I have to pray for peace and long for God’s coming day of reconciliation and renewal when heaven and earth become one! I have no choice! I follow the Risen Christ. And I am not sure I am mourning so much the loss of one whose life was linked to terror as much as I am mourning the response to his death and what it means for the world. I am mourning the attitudes and actions that led his life into a destructive pattern. I am mourning the marred relations that have characterized human history since the fall of man. I am mourning this world and the loss of any life that has come about because of our sin.
I am lastly reminded of the words of Christ in his instructions to his closest followers, ““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” May we find, in the midst of all of this chaos, a proper response…even a perfect response as we are called to be a people defined by Love!