FIRST-PERSON: Osama bin Laden, a victim
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Every freedom-loving person, including virtually every right-thinking American, takes comfort in the death of Osama bin Laden. As Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has stated, his killing was actually more of an execution: Having claimed responsibility for the horror of 9/11 along with numerous other bloody, vicious and cowardly acts of violence, few people question that justice was served with his killing.
Simultaneously, there is another side of the issue.
Bin Laden was a committed and consecrated Muslim. He believed that Muhammad was the final, true and totally reliable prophet of God who served as the messenger of God's final and only inspired authoritative revelation -- the Quran. Bin Laden, consequently, accepted the view, consistent with the teaching of the Quran and Islamic thought, that Jesus Christ was a secondary prophet. Furthermore, Jesus did not die on a cross, certainly not as an atonement for sin, and neither did He rise from the dead.
In following Islam, Osama bin Laden had missed the truth and reality of God's gracious offer of salvation in Jesus and had fallen victim to a false and non-Gospel worldview.
Bin Laden was the victim of a religion that purported to have the truth but in the end was in great error. Islam is a religion, in fact, that contains in the pages of its holiest book the salient ideas to fuel violence and jihad against non-Muslims.
What was true of bin Laden was also true of the 9/11 hijackers who, under bin Laden's direction and believing that they were acting on behalf of their god, killed thousands in the name of Islam. Bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists were and are the victims of a skewed worldview. It reflects a position that has turned salvation upside down. Not "God loved the world and gave His Son" for our salvation; rather, this worldview teaches that when one dies in jihad, holy struggle against Islam's enemies, one may achieve eternal life in paradise. Under bin Laden, the notion was touted that even suicide by the perpetrators of jihad in the effort to kill Islam's enemies was allowed, even though suicide itself, notably, is condemned in the Quran.
The military action of the Navy SEALs as well as that of the allied forces in the fight against Muslim militants is essential to restrain evil in our world. But let us keep in mind that they are dealing only with the symptoms of the problem of world terror. The evangelism of Muslims, however, is treating the cause of the problem -- new birth by faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and Lord of Lords. Jesus Christ alone is the hope and means for salvation.
This is the truth behind the penetrating statement from the Word of God: "'Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,' declares the Lord God, 'rather than that he would turn from his ways and live?'" (Ezekiel 18:23).
*Paul Richards is a pseudonym used in this article for travel security purposes for a Southern Baptist leader.