Terrorism, Justice, and the Gospel

Suleiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was recently detained by U.S. government agencies, and charged with "conspiracy to kill Americans" in the events related to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. It has been over 10 years since that horrific day, with some strides having been made toward apprehending those responsible, not the least of which was the recent death of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in 2011.

Ghaith was within the inner circle of the Al Quadea group that launched the attack against the U.S. on 9/11. It is significant, then, that he has been captured alive given the wealth of otherwise unattainable knowledge about other key figures connected to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, as well as numerous others.

What caught my attention as I thought over this bit of recent news was what it represents. What I mean is that after more than ten years, we are still vigorously searching for persons related to and responsible for the events of 9/11. The question that then comes to my mind is why? I think the ultimate answer to that question is rooted in Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him..." To be created in the image of God is to essentially be created as his representatives. People, pre-Fall, were meant to communicate by their character, activities, and interests true things about God's character, activities, and interests. This long and continual pursuit of those like Ghaith comes from the stamp of God's justice on all people.

Some may ask the question, "Not everyone in America is a Christian, so how do you explain this desire in all people for justice?" This is a good question. It is here that we must realize that being made in God's image does not belong to God's redemptive work so much as it does his creative work. What I mean is that being a Christian is directly related to God's redemptive work in the world after Genesis 3, and only belongs to some people. Being made in God's image is directly related to God's creative work in Genesis 1 & 2, which includes all people. As a result of Genesis 3, however, the image of God in man was marred. This is the reason why we may see glimpses of God's character in all people (regardless of faith in Christ), though each of these attributes may be sinfully twisted and distorted (such as a desire for holy justice becoming one for personal revenge). It is only in God's redemptive work, or his "New Creation" work being brought about by the Spirit of God that Christians are growing more into the image and likeness of Christ, who is the image of the invisible God. The Christian is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ, and we are being restored "after the image of our creator" (Col. 3:10), seen most clearly in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

My goal here is not to promote any particular view on the fight against terrorism, or to support any particular judicial action by the U.S. government against Ghaith; instead, the goal is to point to a glaring reality for the Christian when it comes to justice. We understand that while the U.S. government seeks and carries out what it deems to be a just punishment for Ghaith's crimes against America, the sense of justice in all people can never be fully satisfied this side of heaven. Nor can the pain, heartache, and tears from 9/11 be taken away. These things are all that the non-Christian has when it comes to the events of 9/11, and no matter what the outcome of Ghaith's trial, they will remain. Christians, however, look forward to the day when Jesus returns to make all things new, and complete what he has begun. John, in Revelation, paints this picture beautifully when he writes,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:1-8)

Perfect justice will be had, pain turned to joy, and sin destroyed. All of this is made possible through the perfect life of Jesus, slain on the cross having borne our sin and received God's eternal wrath due to all of us as sinners. Let us realize that people like Suleiman Abu Ghaith are really not that different from us, for we too were born in sin under God's condemnation. When the secrets of our hearts are revealed apart from the redeeming work of Christ, we realize that the grace of God is the only reason why any of us have not found ourselves where he stands today. His hope, our hope, this country's hope, and this world's hope lies only and fully in the mercy of God in Christ through the forgiveness of sins!

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