I've been struck by the reactions to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. On the one extreme, we hear triumphalistic theocratic rhetoric, falling into the error of assuming, or thinking, that somehow America is "God's chosen nation." On the other extreme are the pacifistic, hand-wringing comments made, sadly, yes, even by some Lutherans who should know better. Why should they know better? Because we know and understand the doctrine of vocation and the doctrine of the two kingdoms.
The doctrine of vocation teaches us that all callings and stations in life are honorable and noble, from the person who changes the bed pan in a hospital, to the person who drives a taxi cab, to the soldier who does his duty in service to country and neighbor. This is why Martin Luther wrote in his treatise, "Can Soldiers Too Be Saved?
The other doctrine to keep in mind is the doctrine of the two kingdoms. We know that God works to save souls from hell through the "right hand kingdom" that is, within and through the Church via the means of grace, given to her to proclaim the Gospel for the salvation of sinners. This is the calling of the Church, not the state. On the other hand, it is to earthly government, the "left hand kingdom" that God gives the authority to protect and defend life, by giving to it the power of the sword, as Paul explains in Romans 13. It is this duty that our government discharged in hunting down and killing Osama Bin Laden, for the sake of defending us and our families and our nation. Bin Laden has demonstrated, for many years, a clear desire and intention to do our nation harm and proved it many times over, most dramatically on Sept. 11, 2001. We do well to remember that pacifism is not a Christian teaching. The Bible does not support it, and it is therefore indefensible.
Do we rejoice in the death of a wicked man, who from every human perspective, is facing now nothing but eternal torment and punishment in hell? No, of course not. Do we however rejoice that justice was carried out and a man who wished to kill us all is now dead? Yes, of course we do. This "no" and "yes" response is incapable of being understood without the doctrine of vocation and the two kingdoms clearly in view.