Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
May 16th, 2011

Seeing Christ in bin Laden

The challenging implications of seeing Osama as a fellow child of God



When I learned of Osama bin Laden’s death, my immediate reaction was indifference. I didn’t share the jubilant response that seemed to be sweeping the nation, and I didn’t feel much of a sense of relief, either. Then, for a very superficial reason, I realized I was called to more than indifference: I looked at a picture of bin Laden and for a split second I thought, “Jesus Christ probably looked a little bit like that.” It doesn’t seem very spiritually meaningful, but this moment made me think about what it truly means to see Christ in everyone.

Jesus Christ suffered and died for everyone. He freely offers salvation for all who accept it. He shares in our joys and sufferings, and provides a channel for us to participate with God. Most relevantly, since Jesus’ purpose is to reconcile God and man, His sacrifice is made most profound by the presence of those most separated from God. Literally seeing the face of Christ in the face of Osama bin Laden forced me to accept that he too is entitled to the promise of reconciliation with God. Regardless of what bin Laden chose to do with what was given to him, I’m called to see Christ in him, and even working through him.

Seeing Christ in Osama bin Laden is pretty difficult since he committed atrocities that appear to be devoid of Christ. In fact Osama bin Laden provides us with an excellent example of what happens when you begin to say “no” to God. Those small “nos” turn into a chasm between you and God, which Christ ultimately offers to bridge. So, for one thing, bin Laden can serve as a reminder that we are all fallen.

Since Jesus’ purpose is to reconcile God and man, His sacrifice is made most profound by the presence of those most separated from God. Literally seeing the face of Christ in the face of Osama bin Laden forced me to accept that he too is entitled to the promise of reconciliation with God.

But since he is our brother in the human race — a fellow child of God — we actually have to hope that he found salvation. We can hope that he felt remorse for causing suffering, especially towards the end of his life, when much of his time was spent in hiding. We can hope that perhaps Osama bin Laden was mentally unstable, and that this prevented him from appreciating the effect of his actions, or even compelled him to behave in the way he did.

Regardless, we need to hope that bin Laden was afforded the same mercy we all pray for, and that he is in Heaven. The fulfillment of our humanness is reconciliation with God. God’s purpose for Osama bin Laden must also have been eventual reconciliation with God. God doesn’t will that anyone go to Hell, so we challenge God’s will if we express a wish that Osama bin Laden is in Hell. Our hope must be that God’s will be done.

Christ knows that he has betrayers. That’s part of the deal. Judas was essential to the salvation event. Christ’s words when Judas came to betray him are telling: “Friend, do what you are here to do.” (Matthew 26:50). Ultimately, Judas was, as the NIV puts it, “seized with remorse,” and took his own life (Matthew 27:3-4). Christ offers all of us his friendship, knowing that we will betray him. Let’s hope that Osama bin Laden was similarly seized with remorse and accepted that offer of friendship.

Originally published on May 16th, 2011.

The Author : Helen Lee
Helen is a former Busted Halo intern and recent graduate of Fordham University, where she studied Theology and Communications.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • MrOshun

    Christ in Hitler? Christ in Obamacare? Christ in the Anti-Christ…GIVE ME A BREAK.

  • Helen Lee

    Hi Joe, I appreciate your comment. I wouldn’t want to dismiss heinous acts, whether insurgent or state sanctioned. I do not support the taking of human life under any circumstances.

    To be clear, I used the I think appropriately severe word “chasm” to refer to the atrocities committed by Osama. So I am referring to whatever initial bad choices he made as “small nos” and I am referring to his eventual status as a mass murderer as resultant from a “chasm” between himself and God.

  • Linda

    Well said Joe.

  • Joe S.

    i appreciate the point that you are trying to make, but your article fails to properly address the gravity of his actions…” Osama bin Laden provides us with an excellent example of what happens when you begin to say ‚Äúno‚Äù to God. Those small ‚Äúnos‚Äù turn into a chasm…” You dismiss his actions as “small nos” as if he was guilty of jaywalking or littering. As the leader of al qaeda he is probably responsible for a great deal more than the 9-11 attacks, we just don’t hear about it. Speaking of which, not once in your article do you mention the heinous acts that he perpetrated. I agree it is hard to see christ in all people, and maybe its SUPPOSED to be difficult, and is not in our best interest to casually dismiss certain actions, in a effort to make it more palatable for us to see Christ in others.

  • Easton Ellsworth

    Helen, I like what you said here: we actually have to hope that he found salvation. I recently started a non-profit having to do with Christian missionary work and all along, an overarching idea in my mind is to have hope … not just for myself but for any person who happens across it. We all know we should love God, ourselves and others … but we often forget that we are supposed to also hope toward God, ourselves and, yes, others. Without that hope, there can be no love.

  • Steve

    I did not exault in the death of OBL, but I must confess an amount of satisfaction in it. I did pray the rosary for his soul, but I prayed for God’s will to be done. IMHO, salvation for OBL, however unlikely we may believe it to be, would be a glorious example of the Divine Mercy of Jesus. So, I prayed for his salvation in accordance with God’s will and for the Glory of His Holy Name.

  • Beth

    Linda…I think you missed the message.

  • Linda

    Disgraceful to even use the name of Jesus and bin Laden in the same sentence. I see more the face of the devil than that of Jesus. I seriously doubt Jesus ever ordered the deaths of many innocent people.

  • Jemil

    Extremely interesting point of view. I admire your courage to write a document like this. And the most important thing, you made me think in a different way after reading your note. Thanks.

  • Beth

    Well stated!! My belief is that ALL have until their last breath to accept Christ as their Savior and they too shall reap the benefits of eternal life with Him. My hope is that OBL did this.

  • M

    The world has many prodigal sons. That they (we?) wander, that they sin makes them no less a child of God. What is God’s plan for OBL? What is God’s plan for ourselves? Questions to which we may not know the answer in this lifetime. Yet we are called to pray for all in the hope that they will return to God in the way that is planned.

    This article is truly courageous. Thank you.

  • paulaj

    I’m with you on everything but this one, nit-picky- but highly important point, bin Laden was NOT a child of God. He was God’s creation. He was dearly loved by God (“for God so loved the WORLD…”), but he was not God’s child. Christ was not in him. John 1:12 says “but to all who received him, to all he believed in his name, he gave the RIGHT to become children of God.” That is not to say that he may not have come to believe in his final breathing moments. There is always hope, but to say that on this earth he lived as a “fellow brother” or a “child of God” is in error.

  • Michael

    I appreciate this. I am a High School scripture teacher and we had just finished learning Jesus’ teaching on the Law from Matthew, “Turn the other cheek,” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” When I came in that Monday and prayed for OBL, some of my students were aghast. I asked them if they thought the Gospel was a suggestion, or a way to really live…

  • Keith

    Helen, I have been struggling with something lately. I wanted you to know that the Lord lead me hear and my faith in the goodness of God has been restored. Thank you for faithfully proclaiming what is right and true. God bless you!

  • Kat

    I’m not going to judge whether he’s in heaven or hell. It doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other. It’s more beneficial and personally challenging to see Jesus in the office worker who gossips about me, the man who shot his son in the head that I’m now caring for in a hospital, than to take the stand that a man I’ve never met who reveled in and spent his entire life scheming for the mass murder of thousands is a reflection of the Christ. Celebrating his death may be wrong, but I can’t pretend either that I’m not relieved that Osama bin Laden is no longer on earth. I believe in God, and I believe that there’s a Satan. Geez, let’s hope that OBL is more a reflection of the latter than the former.

  • Kevin K

    great article. I wish everyone used God’s gift of mercy as freely as you.

  • Gaby

    Great article. I’m a student at Catholic university, and hundreds of students tromped around campus cheering and singing and celebrating his death. Maybe they were caught up in the moment, and maybe not all of them were practicing Catholics who remember that we can’t rejoice in anyone’s death ever, but the celebration was not an appropriate response. A Facebook friend of mine got a lot of crap for posting a status that said he would not rejoice in the event at all.

  • Adam

    A wonderful article and a beautiful view. My first reaction to hearing of Bin Laden’s death was to say a Hail Mary that he is at peace. He was a terrible human, but a human nonetheless.

  • Leah Dalton

    Beautifully written, Helen. I share the opinion that we should not forget that bin Laden is a child of God, just as each of us are. While I dislike his actions and his point of view as we Americans understand it, he deserves all the forgiveness that Christ’s death offers.

  • James Leo Oliver

    It takes a lot of courage to write as you did. It is a truth we do not want to deal with. It calls us to forgiveness and there is no way around it. Jesus forgave all who inflicted suffering and death upon him. We are commanded by him to do the same. Thank you for your honesty and fearlessness.

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