Upon hearing about the death of Osama Bin Laden, I was immediately struck with a profound sadness. Throughout the day I found myself tearing up and fighting off waves of emotion. I’m sure some of the emotion is a result of not sleeping well and the grind that life has been for the last several weeks. But I also think there is more. Something about the events surrounding Bin Laden’s death causes me to mourn something bigger.
As I read through the Twitter feeds and Facebook posts, I realize I don’t relate to what a lot of people are feeling. There is no joy in me whatsoever. I don’t feel relief at all. Thinking things will change or that this will bring an end to Al Qaeda seems absolutely ridiculous. For many, this feels like justice. I don’t even know what that means. How can you want justice for one and not for all? Isn’t justice what most people like Bin Laden say they want as well? Is their justice less important than ours? Who decides what’s just and what isn’t?
A few years ago I heard Desmond Tutu speak in Minneapolis. After a few minutes of talking about how all of humanity is connected to each other, he started talking about God’s perspective. I remember him saying, “With God, there are no outsiders. Everyone is an insider.” He quoted Jesus’ words when he said, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” The word that he parked on for the rest of his talk was “all.”
As Archbishop Tutu preached and began to talk about God’s love for “all,” people began to clap and cheer. Then, he brilliantly began inserting specific people in relationship to the “all” of God’s love. I remember him pushing the envelope further and further and listening to people continue to clap and cheer. The second to the last person he referred to as being part of the “all” was President George W. Bush. People laughed but kept cheering. However, the last person’s name to be shouted out that night by Desmond Tutu was Osama Bin Laden. When he yelled out his name, people didn’t know what to do. The clapping slowed, the cheering quieted, and Desmond Tutu knew that he had reached the limit of what the room could handle. He responded by yelling “all, ALL, ALL!!”
I’ll never forget that moment. What I realized is that we have a limit to our love. The pain of 9/11 was never truly dealt with in our country. We carry it and it lies hidden until someone comes along and pulls the cover off. The pain is still there. Today we see it expressed in various ways all over the news and social networks.
The words that have stuck with me are the words of Jesus talking about how God “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” He then calls us to “be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” So much of Evangelical Christianity has been built on the premise that we will never be perfect, and yet Jesus calls us to be perfect like God is. I think the point of the passage is that God’s love is perfect. In other words, God loves all the same. If God loved one more than another, His love wouldn’t be perfect.
It’s hard for me to comprehend God loving Osama Bin Laden as much as Mother Teresa, but it has to be true for perfection. We celebrate the death of one and mourn the death of another. The perfection Jesus calls us to isn’t about getting everything right, it’s about loving everyone the same.
I think my sadness today comes from realizing how far humanity is from the call of Jesus to be perfect in love. My own imperfection comes out when I read stories of people cheering for death, celebrating revenge, and lifting up violence. What they hate about Bin Laden, I hate about them. The speck of dust in their eye is a chip off the plank in my own. I’m disappointed in the violence in me and in all of us.
A few years ago, one of my mentors talked about how mercy is a higher value than justice. I’m not sure Bin Laden deserves mercy, but I’m also not sure that I do. The hope that I carry today is that despite my imperfection of love, God is still perfect in His. His story is a story where mercy comes in over justice. That’s good news for all of us.
We need mercy more than ever if we are ever going to deal with the pain, anger, and violence that lies beneath the surface of our humanity. I mourn for our world today. The cycle of violence continues while we continue to push away and ignore the pain that lies at the center. Mercy, we need You to lead.