The investigation of the September 11 terrorist attacks has uncovered an amateur videotape in which Osama bin Laden discusses his role in the attacks. In the tape, the terrorist leader reveals his cheery attitude about killing so many Americans. He even gets a laugh out of the fact that some of the “martyrs” involved didn’t know that the plan was for them to die in the attacks. In short, bin Laden reveals to the whole world the true extent of his perversion.
Americans, of course, have been outraged to see bin Laden’s attitude. Typical is the reaction of President Bush: “For those who see this tape, they’ll realize that not only is he guilty of incredible murder, he has no conscience and no soul – that he represents the worst of civilization…”
Such reactions are, of course, only human and completely understandable; but seeing the words of the president took me aback. To claim that someone “has no soul” is pretty extreme. Indeed, it represents some strange theology for a professed Christian like Mr. Bush.
Christians believe that everybody, including Osama bin Laden, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, has a soul; sullied by sin certainly, but nevertheless an immortal soul. One can only hope that the president was speaking in an unguarded moment; that he doesn’t really believe bin Laden or anyone else is a soul-less automaton.
Moreover, Christians believe that each soul is highly prized by God. This very week we celebrate our belief that He sent His only Son to become a human child, in order to pay the price for September 11 and all other human sins. It may not sit well with our sense of justice to consider that Jesus came to save Osama bin Laden from his sins; but the fact remains that this murderer’s soul is as valuable to God as yours or mine.
In the words of Luke 19:10, “…the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” If there was ever a lost soul, it is the one that animates Osama bin Laden. In Mark 2:17, Jesus says “…They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” If there was ever a soul-sick man, in need of repentance and forgiveness, it is Osama bin Laden.
Surely we need to defend our nation from the crimes and warlike attacks of terrorists and others. That doesn’t mean that we need to be motivated by hatred, denying even the love of God for our enemies. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44 what our attitude should be: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Those of us who are Christians should continue to pray for the safety and success of our soldiers who hunt down and bring to justice our enemies. We should give our full support to all moral and constitutional efforts to defend our nation against those enemies. But at the same time we ought to be praying that God will bring Osama bin Laden and all lost souls to repentance, and to faith that Christ’s sacrifice can save even murderers and terrorists from the eternal consequences of their actions.