Hand The Ball To The Referee

In football some coaches are stricter than others. They teach their players to win with dignity, to respect their opponent, and to keep their emotions in check. Consequently, after their players score a touchdown, they are to hand the football to the referee, not spike it into the ground or chuck it into the stands.

Interestingly, other coaches believe the sport is physical and the players will naturally get emotional about what’s happening on the field. Why not let them have a little fun? So what if they do a little dance in the end zone or taunt the other team with an exuberant celebration over top a sacked quarterback.

Using this familiar football backdrop, President Obama told the American people yesterday we were not going to spike the football in the face of al-Qaeda.

This made me think once again about the very sobering subject of our armed forces attacking and killing Osama bin Laden a week ago. I’ve heard some of the comments wrung out of people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. In most cases it was some version of “they’re glad he’s dead.”

I have to admit, I have mixed emotions, and apparently so do many others. Essentially the man was a mass murderer and needed to be brought to justice. He also didn’t deserve the world stage his capture undoubtedly would have given him. But some are characterizing the actions of the American forces as an assassination. Others are regaling the servicemen as heroes.

My discomfort, though, is confounded by the spiritual implications. Unlike Rob Bell, I believe by killing a person steeped in idolatry we have closed the door on his last opportunity to repent. And heinous people in history have repented. Not many, to be sure, but some. Nebuchadnezzar comes to mind, as does the Jewish king, Manasseh.

God Himself says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked:

‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.’
– Exekiel 33:11a

On the other hand, God is the Judge, and He will bring the consequences of the wicked man’s ways down on his own head.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy
– James 4:12a

He also says that vengeance is His:

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
– Romans 12:19

All through the Old Testament the instrument of God’s wrath, if it wasn’t drought or famine, was assault by other nations. Who’s to say, then, that God did not use America as the instrument of judgment on this wicked man?

I guess this is the point where we have to trust that God does have the heart of the king in His hands, that the events of this world are under His sovereign direction.

I’m not going to rejoice that Osama bin Laden is dead. I’m more inclined to mourn that the man was deluded and did not believe Jesus Christ is the way to God.

Consequently, I’m quite happy President Obama made the decision not to spike the football. It’s the right call to hand the football to the Referee.

Published in: on May 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm  Comments (7)  
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