Americans are safer than we were yesterday. According to this morning’s New York Times, Anwar al-Awlaki was just killed. While this news won’t receive the same media attention as the death of Osama bin Laden, it is just as significant for our nation. Why?
Mr. Awlaki was born on April 22, 1971, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His family moved to Yemen when he was seven years old, but he returned to the States in 1991 to attend Colorado State University. He completed a master’s degree in educational leadership at San Diego State University and did course work for a Ph.D. at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Then he returned to Yemen, where he became the world’s most dangerous catalyst for attacks against America. He recruited Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian charged with attempting to blow up Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 using explosives hidden in his underwear. He inspired Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the man charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas on September 5, 2009.
He influenced Faisal Shahazad, the Pakistani-American convicted of attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010. Incoming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated in July that two of his top goals were to remove Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s new leader, and Mr. Awlaki. His death is a major victory in the war on terror.
Evil always loses. God promises: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them” (Deuteronomy 32:35; cf. Romans 12:19). But Scripture doesn’t say when this “day of disaster” will come. There is a mystery to divine justice.
Nero beheaded Paul, but today we name our sons Paul and our dogs Nero. Domitian exiled John to Patmos; today billions have heard of the Revelation but few have heard of Domitian. We wish Mr. Awlaki had been captured or killed before the Fort Hood shooting, but we are grateful that he cannot plan his next attack against us.
Are you waiting for divine justice this morning? Have you been wronged by someone who will not make it right? So have I. But we can take heart in the fact that God is on his throne and that his justice is inevitable. In the meantime, our job is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Why? So that God’s Spirit can work to bring them to repentance. And so we don’t become like them.
Who is Anwar al-Awlaki in your life?