The news cycle on Osama bin Laden’s death is waning, which means that, as a nation, we’re pretty much over it at this point. The Facebook statuses have moved back to the trivial and mundane. Christians aren’t tweeting and posting scriptures at each other anymore.

Yesterday I tried to collect my thoughts on his death, but, like many of you, couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on in my own heart or mind. I wasn’t happy, but I certainly wasn’t sad. He needed to die, I think. But it wasn’t a tactical strike, as far as I can tell. It was justice. America needed a blood avenger.

As I laid awake in bed last night, I began to wonder what the gospel is for Osama bin Laden. Not what he thinks it is, but how he needs to hear it. Yes, I know he’s dead, and I don’t want to go all Rob Bell on you…but the question wouldn’t leave my mind. What is the gospel for Osama bin Laden. So here’s my attempt at an answer. This is how I would communicate the gospel to him.

You are a fraud. You are a deceiver. You are the son of a billionaire, and yet you rail against the evils of capitalist America and prey on the hopelessness, ignorance, and illiteracy of poor young men. You use them as pawns in your sick game. You are a sociopath. You don’t even see these young men as humans, and you use women and children as shields. You are a coward. You are a false prophet, and you seek to serve God through violence and terrorism. You approach God through a false system of beliefs. You are a megalomaniac. You hope to be saved by your acts of violence. You are a murderer–the worst kind because most of the murders you committed were by proxy, through brainwashed servants whom you convinced were doing the will of God, but they were really just carrying out your sick perversion of justice.

And yet, Osama bin Laden, the perverted desires of your heart are no different than the perverted desires of my heart. The only difference between me and you is Jesus Christ. You thought he was just a prophet; he was is so much more. He is the Son of God, the King of Creation. You thought he merely swooned on the cross, or that a substitute died there; he was the substitute for you, and for me. You have just died for your sins, but he died for your sins 2,000 years ago. And then he rose again from the dead, conquering it once and for all.

As hard as this is for me to say to you, Osama bin Laden, Jesus loves you. He paid the divine penalty for all of your murderous rage. All of your murders, all of your lies, all of your manipulation, all of your violence are eternally forgiven at the cross of Jesus Christ. When the towers fell on 9/11, and the rubble was finally cleared away, do you know what was left? Two iron beams in the shape of a cross. That cross is for you, Osama bin Laden.

Let me tell you something: You deserve hell, and there are millions of people on this planet who hope you get it. You are in a select group of criminals against humanity, and the human race stands ready to condemn you. Your only hope for salvation is not in pleasing Allah through violence, but in clinging to the cross of Jesus Christ with a repentant heart and a humbled spirit. Only Jesus can save you. You must drop your agenda of violence and take up his agenda of grace. This is your only hope. Turn to Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the King of Creation.

‎Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? -Ezekiel 18:23

And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind. -Genesis 9:5-6

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them. -Proverbs 24:17-18

As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel? -Ezekiel 33:11

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. -Matthew 5:21-22

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. -Matthew 5:38-39

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48

You shall not murder. -Exodus 20:13

The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when the avenger comes upon the murderer, the avenger shall put the murderer to death. -Numbers 35:19

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. -1 John 3:15

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. -Revelation 21:8

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Timothy 1:8-17

I’m continuing to plod my way through an excellent book, How People Change, by Lane & Tripp. I say “plod” because I haven’t had much time to read lately. Many are the distractions these days…but all good.

In the opening chapter, the authors talk about five gospel perspectives that drive the book. They are:

  1. The Extent and Gravity of Our Sin
  2. The Centrality of the Heart
  3. The Present Benefits of Christ
  4. God’s Call to Growth and Change
  5. A Lifestyle of Repentance and Faith

These five perspectives pretty well encapsulate the gospel life. Let me share with you what they write about the third perspective, The Present Benefits of Christ.

The Christian hope is more than a redemptive system with practical principles that can change your life. The hope of every Christian is a person, the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He is the wisdom behind every biblical principle and the power we need to live them out. Because Christ lives inside us today, because he rules all things for our sakes (see Eph. 2:22-23), and because he is presently putting all his enemies under his feet (see 1 Cor. 15:25-28), we can live with courage and hope.
Our hope is not in our theological knowledge or our experience within the body of Christ. We are thankful for these things, yet we hold on to one hope: Christ. In him we find everything we need to live a godly life in the here and now. Paul captures it so well: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

A friend of mine went to hear Shane Claiborne speak a couple of years ago, back in the previous electoral cycle. The other speakers (all Christians) were trashing George W. Bush up and down, assuming, I suppose, that Claiborne felt the same way they did about Bush (hate) and Obama (love). When Claiborne took the podium he said this: “Last night, on David Letterman, Barack Obama said, ‘America is the hope of the world.’ I thought Jesus was the hope of the world.” Stunned silence.

We put our hope in a lot of things that are not God and a lot of people that are not Jesus. I know too many single women who put their hope in finding some man to marry. I know too many men who put their hope in success. And I know too many people who live shattered, cynical lives because they placed their hope in things that are not God and people that are not Jesus.

Jesus is your hope. He is my hope. He is the only one who, when all is said and done, will come through for us. He is the only one who can rescue us from the evil that lies within our hearts. He is the only one who can change us by transforming our hearts, by changing that which we desire.

Don’t be allured away from Jesus by shining, beautiful things. Don’t trust in the strength of things determined by the values of the market. Don’t put your hope in yourself. Jesus rules over everything for your sake, and he his conquering all of his enemies, and he lives in your heart by faith. He is your hope.

Jesus was right all along. That’s what Easter means. He is who he said he was. He did what he set out to do. And God vindicated him in the end by raising him from the dead. What does this mean?

  • All of your sins are forgiven. All the garbage in your life is cleaned up. You are declared innocent in Christ.
  • Jesus is King. He has defeated our worst enemies–evil, sin, and death–by rising from the grave. He is the most powerful force in Creation, the true King over all.
  • You have real hope beyond the grave. The hope of the Christian is that, one day, we will also rise from the dead and enjoy real, embodied fellowship with Jesus.
  • Death has lost its sting. Death lost. Jesus conquered it. It holds no power over us anymore, and we need not fear it. Yes, it will come to each of us, but it no longer has the final word.
  • The One who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you and with us. The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, and now the Holy Spirit lives in you by faith in Jesus Christ. You have resurrection power within you.

I’m sure this list could go on and on with more good news. Rejoice! Jesus Christ is the first of us to be raised from the dead, and he will never die again. He is praying for you right now, sitting at the right hand of the Father. So rejoice and be glad, for the King Over All is your risen Lord and Friend.

He is risen!

I suck. There is a lot of garbage in my heart. I worship idols like money, ease, and food. I have a massive ego that is never satisfied, an appetite for praise and accomplishment that can never be satiated. I am proud and arrogant, thinking of myself far more highly than I ought, and desperately wanting others to think as highly of me, too. My sense of entitlement is out of control, and so I want personal greatness at the cost of mediocrity. I sin. I am sin.

People like me make this world a horrible place to live. I spread darkness and wickedness. I encourage the worship of idols. Because of me, and others like me, God is despised, forgotten, and rejected. Nobody pays attention to God, least of all me. I’m taken in by the distracting entertainments of the world–the false gods of fame, celebrity, and leisure. In this idol-infested world, which I helped create and which I perpetuate, there is no room for God.

And yet God made room for himself. The Son of God became just like us, and lived a life like ours, only much harder and far less comfortable than I could ever know. Except that he wasn’t like me at all. He was perfect. He didn’t spread the darkness. He didn’t worship idols. He didn’t cower when the moment called for courage. He didn’t despise God or anyone else, for that matter. He didn’t run from unclean people–he healed them. He didn’t condemn sinners–he saved them. He didn’t despise rich people–he loved them.

And for all this, we killed him. Yes, we. I killed him. You killed him. It was us, and the crap and wickedness and idolatry and sin we carry around in the deepest places of our hearts that sent him up there on that cross. He loved us; we murdered him.

But he said something as he hung there, something that echoes still through the streets and alleyways of our modern cities. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even while we murdered him, Jesus prayed to the Father for us, begging that we would be forgiven of deicide, of executing God. And that prayer was answered with an astounding, earth-shattering, “Yes!” on Sunday.

Be forgiven, you murderers. Be forgiven, we killers. And let the mercy of Christ cleanse your hearts and uproot your idols.