What Would Jesus Say to... Part 2
What Would Jesus Say to Osama bin Laden?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 10, 2002


He proclaimed a holy war against Christians everywhere. He uttered murderous threats toward anyone who claimed to be a follower of Christ. He captured and persecuted Christians, opposing all who followed Jesus. He even approved of and participated in mobs of people killing anyone who claimed to believe in Jesus.

He traveled throughout the Middle East region to capturing and killing Christians. But he wasn’t satisfied to just concentrate on forcing Christians out of a specific area, he wanted to eradicate all traces of Christianity throughout the world. And he did so with the full approval and support of government and religious leaders. So he planned campaigns to attack Christians everywhere.

Of course, you know who I’m talking about… the apostle Paul. Although at the time he was going by the name of Saul. Oh, that’s not who you thought I was talking about? Who were you thinking of? Osama bin Laden.

Okay, let’s talk about Osama for a few minutes. Osama bin Laden was born in 1957 as one of 50 children born to Mohammad bin Laden, one of the wealthiest construction businessmen in Saudi Arabia. So when his father was killed in a helicopter crash in 1968, all his wealth was divided between all the children.

Over the next several years, bin Laden explored the Islamic faith and became more and more militant in his desire to eliminate all foreign influence in the Muslim area in order to reintroduce young Muslims to the strict tenets of the faith. And he grew more and more militant and extremist as time went by.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979, bin Laden was one of thousands of Muslims who answered the call for jihad, or holy war, against what they saw as a godless power that had attacked their Muslim brothers in Afghanistan. So he traveled to a border town in Pakistan that served as the centre of the Afghan war effort, where he used the resources of his family’s company to organize and finance an active opposition to the Soviet Union.

By 1989, the Soviets were forced to end their occupation, and bin Laden was seen as a hero both in Afghanistan and in his home country of Saudi Arabia. It was then that he turned his attention toward the west and in particular the US. Even though the US had supported the Afghan struggle against the Soviet Union, bin Laden saw their influence and presence in the area as contrary to everything he believed in about the importance of Muslim independence.

This resentment was just magnified when the US landed troops in Saudi Arabia and in Kuwait in August of 1990 to begin Operation Desert Storm against Iraq. As he became more and more outspoken, even the Saudi government tried to silence him. So in April of 1991, bin Laden left Saudi Arabia to move to Sudan and eventually Afghanistan.

During this time, he took his inheritance estimated at $250 million and invested in several legitimate businesses and also began to expand al Qaeda, a network of veterans from the Afghan conflict and other Islamic militants. He also established a number of camps for the purpose of training and equipping terrorists from a dozen different countries. Al Qaeda formed links with several other Islamic fundamentalist groups placing bin Laden at the heart of an international coalition of Islamic radicals.

You know the rest. Over the next decade, bin Laden was linked to several terrorist attacks around the world, focusing on attacking US interests. We saw many of the news reports on our own TVs, even if the names of bin Laden and al Qaeda didn’t mean much to us at the time.

  • In 1992 he claimed responsibility for attempting to bomb US soldiers in Yemen. Two Austrian tourists were killed.
  • He was linked to a 1993 attack in Somalia which killed 18 American servicemen who were helping in the United Nations famine relief efforts.
  • Also in 1993, he was linked to the first World Trade Centre bombing which resulted in six dead and more than a thousand injured.
  • There was the 1996 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan which killed 17 people.
  • On August 7, 1998, two bomb blasts devastated the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing a total of 224 persons and injuring several others.
  • In October of 2000, there was the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 persons. Bin Laden is suspected in this attack.
  • And of course he is the prime suspect in the attacks of September 11, 2001 which killed thousands and at least for a time changed everything.
  • And to top it all off, he’s been tied to several assassination attempts on people like Bill Clinton, the Pope, Jordan’s Crown Prince Abdullah, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.


So the question is, What Would Jesus say to someone like Osama bin Laden?

As I prepared for this morning, it struck me how similar the lives of Saul and Osama bin Laden are. At least as we consider the life of Saul before Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus as we read about earlier.

  • Both were in religions that opposed Christianity.
  • Both were in regions where Christians were in the minority.
  • Both were zealous about their faith and were willing to go to great lengths to wipe out opposing faiths.
  • Both hated Christians and approved or participated in having Christians persecuted, arrested, beaten, or even killed.

So what would Jesus say to someone like Osama bin Laden? To answer this question, I think we have to look at the Bible and see how Jesus dealt with Saul.

Remember, while Saul was on the rampage, Christians feared for their lives. They were being hunted. They were forces to scatter all through the known world. Many of their friends or family would have been killed by Saul or people like him. They have to live in hiding, never knowing when they might be in danger.

I expect the emotions that these early Christians had may compare to the emotions we struggle with toward Osama. Take yourself back about a year. The 9-11 attacks are still fresh in your memory. You’re hearing all these stories of people who were going about their everyday business when they were attacked. Several were killed instantly. You’re hearing about husbands calling their wives from their offices or wives calling their husbands from the planes. You’re hearing about unborn babies who will grow up without a father. And you’re hearing about a world coalition being formed to oust the Taliban and destroy al Qaeda.

What emotions are you dealing with?


We all dealt to one extent or another with feelings and thoughts or anger, rage, hatred, revenge, sadness, vengeance, loss, and fear. With that kind of a mix, it would have been very difficult if not impossible for any of us to plan a course of action without having our judgment or motives clouded.

The early Christians dealing with these same feelings and thoughts, and going through a similar experience only much more local for them, would never have expected Jesus to deal with Saul the way He did. I don’t think it would have been their first choice, and I’m not sure that Jesus would deal with Osama in a way that we would expect or want, either.


What Would Jesus Say to Osama bin Laden?


1. Osama, I know who you are and what you’ve done.

I know all the evil things you’ve done. I know every person who has been killed because of you. I know the hatred you have in your heart, and I know the violence you’re capable of. Nothing is hidden from me. I also know about the humanitarian things you did in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. I know about the food and medical care you provided for the Afghan people. I know everything about you. I know exactly who you are.

Jesus confronted Saul by name. He knew who Saul was. He knew all the things Saul had done.

In John 4, Jesus was traveling through Samaria and stopped by a well. A woman came along to draw out some water and Jesus struck up a conversation with her. They talked for a while, but we’re just going to pick it up in verse 15. You can read the rest of the chapter later for the whole story. Jesus was speaking metaphorically about how people come to the well, drink the water, and become thirsty again, but He could give her water that would take away all her thirst… He was talking about the eternal life he was offering. The woman responds…

John 4:15-18; 28-29 (NLT)
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me some of that water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to haul water.”
“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
“I don't have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You're right! You don't have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now…”
…The woman left her water jar beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone, “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?”

There was nothing about this woman’s life, about Saul’s life, about Osama’s life, or about my life or your life that is hidden from God. We can put on a great face and try to deceive Him if we want, but he’s going to see right through it. He knows not even what we’ve done but everything about us… our thoughts, our motivations, our feelings. The Bible says that

1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person's thoughts and intentions.


2. Osama, why are you persecuting Me?

Same question he asked Saul. Osama, you’re not just persecuting the U.S., you’re not just persecuting Christians, you’re not just persecuting the Church, you’re not just persecuting a society founded on Christian values, you’re persecuting Me. Why?

It’s interesting to me that when Jesus asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?”, Saul didn’t give an answer. In fact, he couldn’t. Why? Because he didn’t know who was talking to him. So he asked, “Who are you?” And Jesus responded, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”

I don’t think the question was meant to be answered. I think it was meant to make Saul realize exactly what he was doing. He wasn’t just opposing a small group of people he disagreed with, he was attacking Jesus, God himself. It’s actually quite a dramatic way for Jesus to introduce Himself to Saul, and it made Saul come face to face with his actions.


3. Osama, People Matter to Me.

They may not matter all that much to you, but you need to know they matter to Me. These people you are killing are people that I love. The women treated so poorly under the Taliban matter to Me.

John 3:16 (NLT)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Even the passage in John 4 about Jesus talking with the woman at the well reveals the worth that Jesus places on people. Both woman and Samaritans were looked down upon in the culture, but here Jesus is talking with someone who is both a woman and a Samaritan.

John 4:27 (NLT)
Just then his disciples arrived. They were astonished to find him talking to a woman, but none of them asked him why he was doing it or what they had been discussing.


4. Osama, I don’t kill my enemies. I died for them so they could live.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Ezekiel 33:11 (NLT)
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?

It’s an absurd thing. Something that if we hadn’t grown up hearing about it we may find it hard to believe. But Jesus died for you, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how bad you may have been, no matter how much you may have hated Him and hurt Him and rebelled against Him.

That can be tough to take, but here’s another one…


5. Osama, despite everything you’ve done, I’m offering you forgiveness.

If there were one person in the Bible that Jesus might not forgive, I think Saul may have been him. Saul relentlessly persecuted the church that Christ established and tried to eradicate it. But here’s what Saul (Paul) wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15…

1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT)
This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--and I was the worst of them all.

If there were one person today that Jesus might not forgive, I think Osama would stand a good chance of being that person. But Jesus came for sinners… for people like you and me, and even for people like Osama. And from everything I know about the Character of Jesus, he would not withhold His forgiveness even from Osama.

You know, from our limited perspective, we are so much better than Osama. We haven’t even come close to doing the evil acts that he has done. There’s no question that Osama is the scum of the earth. But try to look from a different perspective for a moment. Try looking from God’s perspective.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23 (NLT);
For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.

In comparison with the incredible purity, integrity, perfection, and holiness of God, we are all the scum of the earth. Nice thought, eh? The differences between the best of us and the worst of us are only matters of degrees, and we all fall far short of the glory of God. We are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.

How about you? Do you get caught in the trap of thinking you’re “good enough”? That God came for sinners, but that doesn’t mean you? I’m here to tell you this morning that it includes all of us. It includes you, and it includes me. And despite anything you’ve done, God loves you and offers you His forgiveness.




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