When the Twin Towers fell September 11, 2001, video of fanatic Muslims cheering in the streets across the Middle East added another layer of pain to the newly broken heart of the United States.
And, although the death of Osama bin Laden wasn't unwelcome news in this nation nearly 10 years after he ordered those attacks, I was immediately dismayed to see Americans and people worldwide cheering in the streets because of his demise.
Newspaper headlines, by nature succinct and provocative, took a no-holds-barred attitude when the story broke.
Newsday, the Long Island Newspaper said simply, "DEAD," under a photo of bin Laden.
The NY Daily News read, "Rot in Hell."
The New York Post: "GOT HIM! Vengeance at last! US nails the bastard"
And Pennsylvania's Philadelphia Daily News: "We Got the Bastard!"
It's easy to understand the powerful emotions that inspired the headlines. After all, New York suffered the highest casualties in the attacks and the ground in Somerset County, Pennsylvania was soaked with the blood of innocents after United Airlines Flight 93 went down as passengers and crew attempted to wrest control of the aircraft from the hijackers.
But there is danger here. The same level of emotions, if not the same emotions that provoked dancing in the street and banner headlines, also inspired bin Laden and those of his ilk to attack in the first place.
Yes, he was an enemy of the state. Yes, he had the blood of thousands on his hands. Yes, he eluded justice for far too long. But this isn't about Osama bin Laden. It isn't about the Sept. 11 attacks. It is about paying careful attention to what enters the heart of man.
An old parable, most frequently attributed to a Native American elder, describes the two wolves that live to do battle in the heart of every man for the heart of every man. The elder is explaining this phenomenon to his grandson, when the grandson asks worriedly, "But Grandfather, which wolf will win?"
True wisdom is found in the grandfather's response, "The one I feed."
At some point in time I dare say, we have all felt the strong, burning desire for retribution when we have been wronged. In fact, there are nearly a dozen synonyms for the word: vengeance, reprisal, "an eye for an eye," revenge... None are ours to deliver.
Nothing can be done to restore the families torn asunder by the attacks. No punishment, no matter how severe, is sufficient for the pain. Once alive, now dead, the damage done by bin Laden cannot be undone.
It's the ongoing damage by his hand that matters now. Will we allow him to continue to rot our hearts with hatred and bitterness, even now, after he has died?
I know this is hard to hear in the best of times. When emotions are at a fever pitch, to advise people to let go of the anger and hatred before it consumes them is, to some, like waving a red flag in front of a raging bull. Nevertheless, it must be said.
The wolves that do battle in the heart of every man for the heart of every man are called "love" and "hate," "light" and "darkness," or to put it plainly, "good" and "evil." Osama bin Laden has taken enough of the heart of this country. Trust him and his deeds to the only One who judges rightly and the only One who can rightly repay.
"Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him." Proverbs 24:17-18 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.