Eugene Cho

the death of osama bin laden

Like all of you, I was stunned some days ago as I started soaking in the breaking news of Osama bin Laden’s capture and death via US military operations.

In the midst of a heavy traveling week, I didn’t have the time to blog about it but this past Sunday, I did a TV interview with King 5 News – a local Seattle news station about my thoughts about Osama bin Laden but specifically, how I reconcile the death of Osama bin Laden as a Christian and a pastor.

Honestly, I’m always reluctant to do interviews because when it’s all said and done, a good interview can be reduced to couple sentences. I learned this couple years ago when I chatted with the New York Times about my views about Mixed Martial Arts and Jesus. We had a phenomenal hour interview…which was reduced to one sentence for the article. Bummer.

So, I thought it would be good to share – in more depth- what I was try to communicate during my recent interview – just in case we get some angry emails and phone calls. So, here are some thoughts:

The reality of Evil

Evil exists.

Perhaps one of the worst mistakes we can make in a plethora of worldviews and ideas is to forget the reality of evil and evildoers in our world; to forget even our own capacity for evil and our complicity towards evil.

Let’s not mince words: What Osama bin Laden did was evil. He was an evildoer. He was a ruthless terrorist and responsible for the deaths of thousands of lives. And the truth is he needed to be stopped.

And I am grateful that he was finally captured and if in the slightest way, hopeful that the world is a bit safer as a result of it.

Gratitude to our administration & military

In an ideal world, there would be no need for military forces. Peace would reign. Seattle would have more than 45 days of summer. The NBA would repent and return the Sonics to Seattle. I’d be tall…

But the reality is that we live in a world that’s far from perfect.

We live in a broken world and as such, we have the necessity of the military and while I hope and pray for a reduction in our military spending and prowess, I am grateful to President Obama and the military for its role in capturing Osama bin Laden. I express my gratitude to our military forces, their families, and those that have sacrificed so much.

Having said that, let’s bring our troops home from Afghanistan.

Role of State & Church

What folks often neglect to understand is that God instituted the function and roles of both Government and Church. While we’re called to work together on some levels, there are distinct things that each much do. For example, the government’s role is to govern, protect its people, etc. The Church has its role and as we’re called to be faithful in our calling to be Light and Salt of the world, our responsibility is not to engage in military wars.

So, as much as some Christians may want to protest the military, I understand its necessity and role. I just want to make sure we don’t glorify it. While we respect and pray for our government, we also commit to holding our government accountable as to not abuse its powers. So much can be said but let me stop there.

Celebration or Reflection?

While I can acknowledge and fully support the need to stop Osama bin Laden and express gratitude to President Obama (and President Bush) for his leadership in making this possible, it was the scenes of jubilant celebration that disturbed me immensely.

While I understand the feeling of “relief”, I can’t condone – as a Christian, the celebration of the death of a fellow human being – even if that person was a terrorist and “an enemy.” By celebrating death, we lose our sense of the sacredness and dignity of life. We become less of who God intended us to be.

Love your enemies

Christians are familiar with another Terrorist – albeit from another time in history.

His name was Saul and he was a persecutor of Christians. He was severely misguided and utterly convicted in his mission in killing Christians. But nevertheless, God had mercy on him and revealed the truth and grace of Christ.  It is beyond our rational comprehension. No one is outside of God’s grace.

The government has its role and simultaneously, the Church has a role. While I don’t have any desire to switch roles, our responsibilities are also heavy and burdensome. We are called to even forgive and love our neighbors. I don’t interpret this for Christians to be doormats and allow others to harm you or your loved ones but nevertheless, we are called to forgive and love our neighbors; to believe and pray for the repentance of our enemies. I can’t think of a more difficult thing to do.

Trajectory of Peace

Ultimately, this is what I want to call us to.

We live in broken and fallen world but nevertheless, we believe in a God that created this world in beauty. Sin and rebellion enters into the human story but despite this sin, brokenness, and rebellion, we believe in a God that sent his son, Christ, to not only reconcile the world but to usher a Kingdom that will – one day – restore all things back unto Himself. God is on the move. God has a trajectory and this trajectory is to restore all things back unto Himself.

I have relief that we’ve stopped Osama bin Laden but I long for peace. I yearn for peace. I pray for peace. And I certainly await the day when God will restore all things.

But I don’t just want to wait, yearn, and pray for something, I want to participate – even in my small ways – in the trajectory of what I believe God has already put into motion. I want to call and invite others to live in the way of the peace: Blessed by the peacemakers.

Here’s the TV interview for those that want to check it out. Wished they could have captured the entire 20 minute sit down interview:

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18 Responses

  1. Leo Chen says:

    As soon as you mentioned the name Saul, the outrageous concept of Love your Enemy in the context of OBL or others such as him became much more clear to me.

  2. Taylor says:

    Eugene,
    I am really wrestling with how killing Osama Bin Laden could reflect loving him. I don’t feel that was the point you made however I wrestle with war or violence in any situation as a solution. Christ taught us to turn the other cheek and to forgive 70×7. I suppose my deeper question is, does scripture ever justify violence as an acceptable part of the new covenant for disciples of Christ to engage in?
    ~Taylor

  3. Harry says:

    Thanks for this, Eugene.

  4. Sejin says:

    I posted a comment on your OBAMA post (that post and the Osama’s death was such a coincidence). But I had a feeling you’d respond the way you did. I feel the same way.

  5. jim says:

    hi there,

    i just found a crack up product to do with osama. check it out at:

    http://www.osamaslastbreath.com

  6. rick l says:

    “He has told you what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) Don’t “love justice“; love kindness. But DO justice. And I am quietly, humbly grateful that justice has been served. And grieved that it had to be served, because it cost many lives.

  7. Donna says:

    Thank you for this post. It gave me a little peace on my conflicting feelings on this subject.

  8. g says:

    Thanks for writing this post, Pastor Eugene. Amen!

  9. PJ says:

    How do you love a dead man?

    • Andy M says:

      By refraining from dancing on his grave?

      Obviously I mean metaphorically since people are not able to literally dance on his grave, but the level of joy and celebration from this death can be a bit disturbing. I agree with Eugene that celebrating any death, regardless of who it was and/or what they did, de-sensitizes us to the sacredness of all life.

      One thing to also consider is the televised celebrations of Osama’s death in the U.S. are I think a bit similar to the celebrations reported in the Middle about 9/11. Just as those celebrations disturbed and provoked us in 2001, our celebrations of Osama’s death are likely provoking some in the Middle East, against us. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, we at least need to consider that it is bad PR for America, and we don’t need any more enemies than we already have.

      Good post Eugene

  10. Joshua says:

    Thank you for this post. I think sometimes the subject of violence is one where a lot of Christians take an immature approach, preferring either one of denial or naivety. Ethics and morality, however, are rarely simple in the fallen world in which we live. I think your perspective avoids both of these extremes and opens up a very real conversation on the topic, allowing for the reality of the world we live in while pointing to the reality of the coming kingdom and the work to which we are called. Bravo!

    To critique the two approaches I believe are errant:

    Naivety- Some people want the world to be something it is not, and they approach the issue of violence, like many other things, with naivety. Questions like “What would you do if the Nazis came to YOUR door looking for Jews that you were hiding?” or “Would you defend your family if they were attacked in your presence?” are answered with a simple “That would never happen to me.” The hypocrisy in this approach is that those who abhor violence often have freedom because people are willing to do violence to defend them.

    Denial- Other people don’t want to recognize the true ugly nature of violence because it is a hard truth that performing an act of violence has a negative impact on a person even when they performed the act for reasons we recognize as good or noble. These people live in denial, wanting to make violence something it is not. They might use language like “good” or “right” when describing an act of war or of self defense that required violence. Those who celebrated in front of the White House when Osama bin Laden was killed fall into this category.

    Personally, I believe acts of violence go against what God intended for us. Looking at his original plan we see Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Therefore, I don’t believe an act of violence can ever be called “good” or “right,” no matter how good or right the reason for committing it may be. This seems to me to be a genuinely Christian view.

    I also believe that living in a fallen world acts of violence are sometimes necessary in defending one’s self, family, country, etc. or in stopping the advance of evil. Necessity, in turn, is a key component when determining whether or not an act of violence can be considered justifiable. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his colleagues struggled with this very question when deciding to resist the Nazis and eventually attempt to assassinate Hitler.

    The raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and subsequent death at the hands of Seal Team 6, therefore, brings up some big questions.

    Working with language that is neither naive nor in denial about acts of violence, my analysis of the raid stacks up as such:

    – I believe the raid on the compound was arguably necessary and therefore justifiable given our state of war with Al Qaeda.
    – I believe the capture of OBL was arguably necessary and therefore justifiable.
    – I believe an airstrike designed to kill OBL would have been arguably necessary and therefore justifiable if a raid been impossible or deemed too risky
    – I believe that killing OBL may have been necessary and therefore justifiable if he had attempted to resist with violence during the raid.
    – I believe that an explicit order to kill rather than a standard kill/capture order on OBL was not necessary and therefore not justifiable. (Given that a raid was deemed possible and preferable to an airstrike.)

    In this analysis, neither the raid nor the killing of OBL was something that can correctly be called “good” or “right”, making it odd to consider it worthy of celebration. I, for one, do not need to cloak such violence in terms like “good” or “right”- I believe that terms like “necessary” and “justifiable” are closer to the truth on the matter, and I feel ok about leaving it there.

    All this said, I believe we are a little safer as a nation, at least in the short term, and I am glad for that relief. In general, as a child of God I long for peace and for the New Jerusalem, where violence will no longer have a place in preserving our existence as human beings.

  11. Zadok says:

    I think your approach to interviews could use some modifications Eugene; this might help abate your frustration and the bruised ego. Unless it is a personal article about you the purpose and function of most interviews shouldn’t be to land quotes but to help the writer understand and discover concepts and ideas to tell an informed and well-balanced story.

  12. […] And by life…I mean, that all life, is sacred. Even the life of a Troy Davis. And yes, even the life of a Lawrence Brewer who was also executed yesterday for his brutal hate crime. If we truly believe in the sanctity of life, how can we jubilantly celebrate the assassination of Osama bin Laden. […]

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It appears I brought a little Seattle to the NYC. Drizzle fest. 24 hour gathering with a small group of leaders from around the country. Learning. Listening. Asking hard questions. Head exploding. Heart trying to have hope. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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