I feel that I can’t ignore this month's big news story, which is that the West’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, was shot dead in his home in Pakistan in the early hours of the morning of Monday May 2nd. How we were supposed to react to this news? Bin Laden was the leader of an organisation that was responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people not just in the USA and Europe, but also in the Middle East and in Pakistan. Yet I’m sure I’m not alone amongst you in finding some of the scenes of rejoicing at his death rather hard to stomach. A quotation from Martin Luther King was doing the rounds during that week:
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. … The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Jesus seemed to understand this idea of hate begetting hate and, I suspect inadvertently, Hillary Clinton, put her finger on the same point in a speech in Italy on Thursday:
Osama bin Laden's death sent an unmistakable message from the international community in its stand against extremism, the battle to stop al Qaeda and its affiliates. It does not end with one death and we have to resolve and redouble our efforts not only in Pakistan but around the world.
“It does not end with one death,” said Mrs Clinton, and how right she is, because it never does.
I’m not going to argue that bin Laden’s death was wrong, or in any way illegal, because I’m not sure that I would be able to argue that killing Hitler would have been wrong if it could have prevented the deaths of millions of innocents in the 1930s and 40s, but nor can I argue that either man’s death is the way of Jesus.
Christian discipleship is about living in a world where good and bad people do good and bad things. It's a mess, but it's the world in which Jesus lived and he called us to live his way in it.