Bin Laden and Schadenfruede

I have found myself very uncomfortable with the celebration of Bin Laden’s death. I’m all for justice and I appreciate the military who carried out their orders. I am grateful for all those in uniform, whether police, firefighters, or military that provide us with protection. Just last night I heard on the news about 2 guys who evidently assaulted an elderly woman. Who can’t help but demand justice? Romans 13:3-4 suggests that it is government’s responsibility to render justice to wrongdoers. Amen.

So why am I bothered by the celebrations over Bib Laden’s death? They remind me of the scenes from the Islamic world when there were throngs of people cheering when the World Trade Center towers came crashing down. I didn’t like that so I’m sure the feeling is mutual. When vigilantism takes over for the Romans 13-approved corporate response to wrong then I’m/we’re in trouble. Romans 12:17-21 deals with my personal desire to get back at those who have wronged me. It says I shouldn’t repay evil for evil or get too happy when they get their due.
The Germans have a word for this kind of creepy glee: “schadenfreude.” Schadenfreude means enjoying the misfortune of others. Personal desires for revenge must give way to appropriate corporate responses to wrong. Capturing Bin Laden and bringing him to trial becomes the preferred solution in this scenario. Yes, it would cost a fortune. Yes, it would be worth it. To polarize the West from the Islamic world by celebrating Bin Laden’s death heightens the tensions and fails to win people’s hearts. If hearts can be won, and as Christians we believe they can, then I need to confess and be delivered of schadenfreude. Personal pain doesn’t justify personal revenge. Jesus loved his enemies and even in Matthew 26:50, when he was being betrayed by Judas in the Garden, he said, “Friend, Do what you came for.” Now that’s the opposite of hate. May the power of Jesus help us to call our enemies “Friend.”

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