I watched the TV movie “SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden,” which was released just before the election in November. I thought the timing was interesting and so was the movie. “Zero Dark Thirty,” a full length movie on the same subject had a limited release on December 19th and was released nation-wide on January 13, 2013. I have not seen it, but understand it is very powerful. Most Americans agree that justice was done in the killing of Osama bin Laden last May in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Yes, justice was done but very little else was accomplished.
Someone might say, “Well, it doesn’t matter if justice accomplished anything, we got him; he got what he deserved.” This shows that our understanding of justice is primarily one of punishment. The killer gets killed, the cheater gets cheated, the victimizer gets victimized- “good he got what he deserved”! However, I think this povertizes the concept of justice, and is the very reason why justice for one side will always be seen as injustice by the other. Bin Laden’s followers vowed revenge for his death and the Pakistani Taliban proceeded to send two suicide bombers to attack a paramilitary academy in the northwestern town of Charsadda killing 80 people. It was their first installment of vengeance. “There will be more,” they said; and there has been. You see, this is why “the wrath of man cannot accomplish the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Only God can accomplish “perfect justice,” which gets at the true meaning of the word. Justice means to make things righteous or right; to adjust things so that they fit properly together. In the case of bin Laden, if his death was “perfectly just” then it would have led to reconciliation and the resolution of the hatred and bitterness that have separated the West from the Muslim world for centuries. (One could only imagine what perfect justice would accomplish between Israel and the Palestinians.) Does this mean that we should not work for justice in his world? Not at all. However, we need to be aware that justice carried out by sinful human beings in a sinful world will always be inadequate and in dire need of safeguards and boundaries, laws and force.
While this does not let us off the hook of the doing the best we can “to act justly and to love mercy” (Micah 6:8), it should make us yearn for that Day when Jesus will come to judge the world, and when “justice will roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24). Even Islam believes that Jesus (ISA, Peace Be Upon Him) is alive in heaven and will return from heaven to destroy the Anti-Christ and establish the reign of perfect peace and equity. [Islam does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and, therefore, when he comes he will deny his divinity and renounce all Christian teaching.] However, we believe that Jesus Christ will come as the very fulfillment of human history, and because he is the Son of God has the authority to judge the quick and the dead. Only then will perfect justice be accomplished and every living thing will recognize the rightness of that justice to the Glory of God. Even so, come Lord Jesus…