The general air of celebration that erupted with the news of Osama bin Laden’s death has been mitigated in many quarters by the debate over exactly how much celebration is in order.It’s a rather profound question, especially for those whose religious faith requires us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:39ff). These spiritual obligations are never suspended – not even when the enemy in question is a terrorist, a mass murderer, and a man pitiless in his determination to drive America to its knees. On the other hand, the same Bible that directs us to live out such unswerving love is equally insistent that our God is a God of justice, and that even His eternal mercy doesn’t mitigate a final reckoning. Indeed, the cross that we celebrate as the embodiment of Divine love is as much a demonstration of God’s demand for justice as it is of His compassionate intercession for sinners. So, to be godly is to both love those whose actions embrace evil, and to work tirelessly to bring them to justice – and grace. That is how so many Christians can work fervently to stop abortion, denounce same-sex “marriage,” and even support a just war – all while interceding faithfully for the souls of those who kill babies in the womb, practice destructive homosexual behavior, and shoot at our soldiers. It is not a particularly complex dichotomy, but it is one that is often a source of consternation, confusion, anger, and, yes, hatred for those whose passions are more…unilateral. It is certainly easier to believe in the cultural ideal of a God who just loves everybody than the biblical revelation of a God whose unconditional love is inseparable from His demands for obedience. It is more comfortable to believe He forgives everybody, no questions asked, than to admit that He requires real repentance and a change of attitude and behavior. And for many, believing He doesn’t exist at all is infinitely preferable to acknowledging that our moral choices, under God, have eternal consequences. For those whose convictions are cut to their comfort zone – and whose comfort zone must conform to what the culture condones – the idea that thoughtful people can condemn homosexual behavior while genuinely praying for those engaged in such behavior is not just confusing…it’s outrageous. To love someone, the current culture tells us, you have to embrace their every behavioral choice with enthusiasm. To genuinely care for another person’s soul, you must encourage them even in the behaviors that will destroy them, if those behaviors give them a fleeting moment’s comfort or sexual thrill. We learn early, from our public schools and the omnipresent media culture, that to be an active, influential, respected part of society today, one must eschew any personal conviction or understanding of the truth that contradicts another person’s beloved lie. If the lie is popular – if the delusion is conventional – the truest test of citizenship in a free country is to submit to that falsehood and deny the deepest truths that we know. That is why millions across this country are convinced, for instance, that the Constitution calls for complete “separation of church and state.” It doesn’t, but that’s a truth whose self-evidence we long ago sacrificed to the prevailing legal idols of the ACLU. It’s why for 40 years we’ve been trying to persuade ourselves that the killing of children in the womb is a small price to pay for a man and woman’s right to on-demand sexual gratification. It’s why so many want so desperately to convince themselves – and so violently to convince others – that homosexual relationships are physically, emotionally, and culturally healthy, when every indication is that they are, in fact, mortally destructive to both those who participate and those who condone their behavior. It’s why seemingly sane judges, schoolteachers, and parents across the country are determined to sexualize children from infancy, oblivious to the psychological damage that does, and blandly titillated at the prospect of the youngsters’ introduction to a society ever more engulfed by unrestrained lust and perversion. To feel so strongly about these issues is, almost by definition in America today, to be a hateful person…a hypocrite and a homophobe…a reactionary and a killjoy…an enemy of the state of mind that embraces self-destruction and rejects the wisdom of the ages. How long can freedom exist in such an atmosphere? Liberty thrives on purposes higher than lust and license. It’s worthless if it exists only to serve self-absorption and gratification – such “freedoms” only chain a man to himself. “Freedom,” Kris Kristofferson famously said, “is just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” But in truth, freedom comes not with the elimination of the things we once cherished, but with the unflinching willingness to risk everything to defend them. The opposite of freedom is not slavery – it’s fear. What many “celebrated” at the news of bin Laden’s demise was not the death of an indisputably evil man…but the triumph of freedom over the fear that man inflicted on us. And what Christians pray for – as we stand in opposition to those who press for abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and pornography – is not the destruction of our “enemies,” or their mindless adherence to a timeworn, knee-jerk morality, but the triumph of freedom. Freedom for everyone…even those who oppose us. Freedom from the aches and confusions and loneliness that drive fearful souls to illicit sexual gratification and its consequences. Freedom that will only come with acknowledgement of the divine and “self-evident” truths our contemporary culture is working so desperately to deny.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.