I have a copy of a A Christian Hagaddah, by Moshe Cohen – it’s a Jewish-Christian explanation/manual for taking the Passover. From the first time I read it, one statement in particular anchored itself in my mind. In speaking of one of the cups of wine during the Passover meal, Cohen writes:
“We cannot drink this full cup, because as the people of G-d, we cannot rejoice at the suffering of even our enemies. Therefore, our joy is reduced by their loss…”
This statement turned over and over in my head last night as I lie awake in bed struggling with the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death and, more specifically, the reactions that I both saw, and wrestled with inside myself. I find it challenging and profound that built into the Passover celebration, is this reminder that while we rejoice in the deliverance of God, there is no joy to be expressed at the death of even the worst of enemies.
Cohen’s words are not unique, of course. Listen to the words of Jesus to his followers:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that…Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” - Luke 6
As I consider the death of Bin Laden, I am challenged to respond in a way that’s truly Christian, rather than “natural” or even “American”. We (Christians) have an opportunity to express love for our enemies and sorrow for the fate of a man who inflicted great pain on us. This is how we bring light into darkness; how we do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. This is what separates Christianity form all other forms of citizenship on the planet.
Understand, I get the fact that Bin Laden was an evil man. I understand that he finally reaped what he had sown for so many years. Still, do we really want to get into the “you get what you deserve” game? Will any of us win that in the end?
May we rise up to meet hatred with love. May we pray for our enemies and and for peace (not just victory) for our world in this most tenuous. And, may we show the world a true reflection of our God who is kind to the wicked and rich in mercy.
This is how we overcome.