WHERE is BEN LADEN NOW?
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
MAY 8, 2011
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.” (Luke 6:35)
When the Spirit laid the burden of this writing on me, I groaned and thought, “What again?” It feels like I have written nine million, three hundred thousand, five hundred and three words on this topic already. Nevertheless, after declaring the good news of God’s unconditional love for fourteen years now, I know there are very many who do not share my enthusiasm for God’s mercy based on the exceptional quality of the sacrifice of His only Begotten Son. James, who wrote to Jewish Christians, seems more into law, than grace to me, but there is one exceedingly grace filled passage that I want to share: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13) And that, dear readers, is what we all must hope for when we stand before “the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” (II Cor. 5:10) My conviction is that no matter who we are, and how much we have done toward the advancement of the kingdom, none of us have done enough, as Mother Teresa and Billy Graham each have confessed. Therefore, when our turn comes to stand in “the dock,” we shall be asking for MERCY, not JUSTICE.
But, back to my title, “Where is bin Laden now?”, my answer may surprise you. I don’t know where he is, and neither do you. As Rob Bell said in an interview about his block buster book Love Wins, “No one has returned from the other side with a video, a picture, or a news bulletin about the fate of anyone after he leaves this life.” (My paraphrase, not an exact quote).
See, aren’t you glad you didn’t try to e-mail me those sharp rocks, over ripe tomatoes, and rotten eggs? And for those of you who thought I would say without doubt that Osama bin Laden is in heaven, don’t scold me, for that is exactly where many of us believe he is, but we don’t know for sure, do we?
After the Spirit pressed me to write about this, I knew I was to share a cogent e-mail we received from a dear friend and faithful supporter of the ministry. Here’s a portion of what he wrote:
“Like you, probably, I’ve been glued to CNN re. the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise. I have to admit to somewhat mixed feelings about it all. He needed to be apprehended, and it certainly refurbishes our country’s image internationally. So what’s bothering me? It’s the thought of so much celebration over a man’s death...a man that God loved as much as any but assigned such an evil role to play in chastising an arrogant US. The world has always enjoyed hating villains and seeing them get their just rewards. Somehow it doesn’t correlate with God’s kingdom on earth. On the other hand, I can’t argue with whatever agents God uses to accomplish His purposes.
“Just wondering whether you guys share these somewhat conflicting thoughts.” End Quote.
I replied that Lenny and I are on the same page as he. Bin Laden was a menace to the free world, and just as we’re glad to hear that any murderer has been caught so he cannot kill again, we’re also happy bin Laden has reaped the judgment he sowed. However, since God is no respecter of persons, and He is LOVE (I Jo. 4:8), the inescapable conclusion is that God loves this tortured man as much as He loves any of us. The Apostle John wrote, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I Jo. 2:2) Surely, His sacrifice covers not only mildly wicked sinners, in whose number Paul said we all belong (Rom. 3:23), but extends also to the truly heinous and despicable mass slayers of mankind, including Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and Osama bin Laden.
God’s love cannot be quantified, qualified, or limited, for it is like Him, limitless and eternal. Death cannot stop it; life cannot produce it. We stand in wonder and praise of our Savior for His wondrous gift to us.
The power of the resurrection is surging through me right now as I contemplate the miracle of a risen Lord, coming back in Spirit, to dwell in the hearts and minds of His children so that we may know Him as He is.
Lenny and the Lord gave me an “iPhone,” for my birthday. One of the “Apps” I downloaded was the Bible, in various translations. One great feature is that you can set it to speaker mode and listen to whatever passage you choose. I listened to Luke, Chapters 10-19, last week, and was struck again by the power and majesty of Jesus’ personality. As a child, reading the Bible over and over, I was intimidated by the Lord, because He set the bar of righteous behavior so high that I quickly realized no one could achieve it. He did that on purpose, of course, not wishing anyone to think they could weasel out of keeping the Law.
He said, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Mt. 5:17) The error I made, and a lifetime of observation has convinced me that others have made it as well, is that I mistakenly thought that He was laying down an even more difficult set of rules for me to follow. When, Harry Fox introduced me to Paul’s liberating declaration of the Gospel, I was set free, giddy with the intoxication of the Good News of God’s love, grace, and mercy for all men!
We had a letter recently from a fellow who is struggling to believe that God is love and that ultimately, this love will save all mankind. He’s angry at God right now, for pronouncing him (and all of us) guilty of sin because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. He ranted, “God should be ashamed of Himself if He can’t keep the record any straighter than that.” (Paraphrase, not an exact quote). He went on to say that this feeling makes him even more afraid of hell than he was before. I smiled, because I have thought the very same thing myself early on. Why do I get hammered for Adam’s complicity with Eve’s naiveté?
The problem, of course, is that when you begin sending people to hell, it’s a slippery slope on which you yourself will eventually slide down into the flaming pit, because where is the line? Where does it end? Who makes the cut if anything depends on you?
Paul resolved the whole dilemma in Romans five. I encourage you to read it and you will rejoice. Here’s a sample: “the result of one trespass was condemnation for ALL men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for ALL men.” (Rom. 5:18) He spells it out even plainer in I Cor. 15:22: “For as in Adam ALL die, so in Christ, ALL will be made alive.” It’s the same ALL in both verses. All means all, everyone, no one excluded! Haven’t you ever wondered why religion is happy to include all men in Adam’s sin, but refuses to include all men in Christ’s sacrifice? I have, and it’s not a pretty picture that develops in my mind as a result of it.
Never mind all that, the point here according to Paul is that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (I Cor, 15:51) What that means to me is that we cannot figure out God’s plan hidden from the foundation of the world with our minds. We must have the Spirit to lead and guide us.
When Jesus was speaking to those Jews who followed Him, He spoke to them as people living under the Law, because He had not yet gone to the cross. Looking at it with spiritual eyes, we see then, that He was preparing them for the time to shortly come upon them, when He would return in Spirit, and He in them and through them (and us) would fulfill the law and the prophets. We cannot possibly keep the law, but He in us can and does all day, every day. What blessed relief!
As for Osama bin Laden, He never knew Christ in this life, but I believe, he does now. I also believe that when he or we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, the verdict will be “Not Guilty,” for Christ has paid the price for each and every one of us who has ever lived or ever will live. We will be embraced by the Father who stands waiting for the prodigal to come home. We will weep for joy when we hear him say, “Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24) Let us not be like the elder brother, who resented his father’s grace to an errant son, for according to Paul, we are ALL errant sons. To God be the glory, for the mind of man could never envision such a transformation as will take place in bin Laden and all of us when we “see Him as He is. For we shall be like Him.” (I John 3:2)
Father, we thank You that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:20-21) Amen.