Common grace is more potent than we normally think. Special grace, on the other hand, is likely more nuanced than we tend to think. As these United States celebrate the just end to the life of Osama bin Laden, I’m afraid we are in danger of missing both of these truths. First, common grace is keeping the world from being populated with nothing but Osama bin Ladens. The difference between bin Laden and Gandhi isn’t that bin Laden was evil enough to embrace an evil, violent religion while Gandhi was good enough to at least choose and teach a more gentle, false religion. The difference is the amount of common grace given by the living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus. Both men were sinners. Neither gave any sign of having turned to the cross and clinging to the finished work of Christ. And so both men find themselves well beyond the reach of any grace, in eternal torment. Both are receiving what they so richly deserve.
The state itself is a manifestation of common grace. We would be wise to remember that God killed bin Laden, not the United States government. God ordained the state to bear the sword, to punish evildoers. And so in this case they have done so. They have rightly served as His ministers of justice. We should give thanks, to the God who gave us government. That said, what does it say about us that we are dancing in the streets today, while we Christians were so silent and ashamed when notorious abortionist George Tiller was killed? Please don’t misunderstand. I do not believe that private citizens should take the law into their own hands to kill abortionists. But the same state that has spent millions of dollars and nearly ten years to hunt down one killer in bin Laden, in those same years has spent millions of dollars to protect men like George Tiller whose grisly work has resulted in many times over the number of deaths bin Laden gave us. God bless the USA?
Which brings us to the subtlety of special grace. Today even those who have been born again, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who are daily being remade into the image of Christ, find themselves caught up in the twisted and distorted perspective of the world. We are singing “Ding Dong the witch is dead” while hundreds of bin Ladens are murdering more babies than there were adults killed on 9/11. We, who are called to take every thought captive, fail to think deliberately. We are not sober-minded. We have horrible, evil, murderous men in our own neighborhoods, but we are either caught up in celebratory jingo-ism or fevered conspiracy theories.
The truth is that God is in control. He does cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Thus the beleaguered president gets a bump in the polls. Thus a wicked nation celebrates the death of one man that attacked it. On the other hand, our Christian heritage did not protect us on 9/11. Our Christian heritage does not protect our unborn children. Our Christian heritage does not make sure we think cogently, biblically about the day’s events.
For those of us who have been reborn, may I suggest a few steps towards sound thinking? First, Osama is an example of what we would all be with less grace in our lives. By all means give thanks for God’s just judgment. Then be sure to give thanks for His grace in your own life. Second, evil isn’t what you see on television, or what they talk about on talk radio. Evil is what is advertised in the yellow pages. Evil is what is in your state’s budget, as well as the federal budget. Evil is what we call a political issue that we must nuance. Evil is what is happening in that rundown office on the poor side of town. Evil is killing babies. Third, evil is what is in our own hearts because we know what happens in our neighborhoods, and yet think today a good day because one evil man died on the other side of the globe. Fourth, stop waving the flag. But also stop chattering about doctored photos, hurried “burials” and May surprises. Fifth, ask God that He would give us more repentance and the wisdom to stop being led around by our noses by main-stream media, talk radio, and bloggers. Today is a dark day. Babies are being murdered.