Osama Bin Laden, Essentials, and Grace

As Americans, our emotions were all over the place after the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden. Some danced in the streets celebrating, others mourned the death of one who we logically presume did not know Jesus, others bounced back and forth between those feelings, while others did not know how to feel. It was a crazy, few days in the life of America.

I want to tell everyone who doesn’t feel the way I feel, and understand Scripture the way that I understand it, that they aren’t right with Jesus. I have this terrible, evil instinct inside myself. A place of arrogance, pride, and self-righteousness. A place where I sometimes mistakenly think that God is confined to the nice, little box of my understanding. A place where I do not allow any grace for others but gladly except grace for myself. Maybe you can relate.

Even though I think the proper response is clearly expressed in Scripture, I must be gracious to those who disagree. One of the principles of the Christian Church since its beginning in the 1800s is that we believe that there should only be a minimal set of essentials. And the way one should react to the death of a terrorist like Osama bin Laden does not make that cut. If you want to read our church’s list of beliefs, they can be check out at here.

On the rest, we can disagree. And we will disagree. But we will disagree and still call all those who call Jesus their Lord brothers and sisters. This has historically proven to be a tough place to remain because we, the church, suffer from Essential creep. Another issue becomes important, and people want to make that an essential. Then another. Then another. And soon we have a whole handbook, often times unwritten and unknowable even to the individual, that holds all of the legalistic thoughts – a handbook that tells us what to think on a multitude of issues and who to consider not a Christian.

What if we have it all wrong? What if Jesus came to earth to free us from that sort of legalism? He could have given us a legalistic handbook if he wanted to. Instead he taught us that the most important things to do are to love God and to love one another. Simple. Pure. Two noble tasks that we struggle to aspire to. Instead of struggling and relying on grace, we make little legalistic rules that we can meet so that we can feel good about ourselves. Instead of comparing ourselves to Jesus and his perfection, we begin to compare ourselves to the prostitute or the drug addict and brag about how moral we are. We puff ourselves up rather than humble ourselves at the beauty of Jesus dying for us.

I don’t know everything, but I do know that I killed Osama bin Laden in my heart a long time ago. For that I need God’s grace. May I have the strength to show that grace to others.