Recently a chorus of rejoicing erupted over the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The announcement and national reaction reminded many of Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011. Fewer of us were familiar with the name al-Baghdadi. But most of us have heard a lot about ISIS and badly want the terrorist organization to be rendered obsolete.
The elimination of al-Baghdadi and the resulting exuberance made me wonder: From a Christian perspective, what is the appropriate response to the death of a person who has done great evil?
In the Bible, there is precedent for celebrating the death of the bad guys. The people of Israel rejoiced in the death of the Egyptians who pursued them. “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.” (Exodus 15:1) The horse and his rider were the bad guys. They died as the Red Sea covered them. In response, the Israelites partied, and God did not condemn their response. In fact, he preserved their response in His holy Word as a testimony to His deliverance.
So how do we respond to the death of a bad guy? Here are three thoughts:
With sadness. Sadness at the high probability that he or she never came to know Jesus and is a lost soul. Ezekiel 18:23: “Have I any pleasure at the death of the wicked, declares the LORD God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” God’s fervent desire is always that people repent of evil, turn from sin, turn to Jesus, and find true life in Him.
With relief. The death of a bad guy means greater safety for the rest of the world. For the lives that have been preserved from the threat of harm, we can be grateful. It’s another opportunity to remember the bravery of the men and women who serve our armed forces, particularly those who are overseas, far away from family and safety. They are doing incredible good for our world, preserving innocent lives and making the world a safer place.
With resolve. We should resolve to do everything in our power to point people to the light and keep them out of the darkness. Many people become doers of evil because of unfortunate factors in their lives. They’ve felt unloved. They’ve been desensitized to evil. They’ve been brainwashed by manipulators. Each of us has a measure of influence in the lives of others. We best use that influence when we steer them toward good and away from evil. We do that when we love them.
1 Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” It may also be true to say that love prevents a multitude of sins. Is there an isolated, misunderstood person who might benefit from your attention? Your interest in that person could be a real force for good.
Unfortunately there are bad guys in our world, people who hurt others and make the world a scarier place. The ultimate Good Guy – Jesus – still reigns supreme. His death is what we celebrate most of all, the death of the Good Guy. We celebrate His death not because His life ended but because in Him, we have life that never ends. He has the final victory over all things. Our security is in the Good Guy who died, who rose, and who never ceases to come to our defense against all that is evil.