(Photo: Reuters / Eric Thayer)
Americans are waking up Monday morning to the news that al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden is dead.
President Barack Obama announced late Sunday night in a televised appearance that U.S. forces killed bin Laden during a firefight in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida," Obama said.
It's been 10 years now since al-Qaida carried out what Obama called the worst attack on the American people in U.S. history, Nearly 3,000 people were killed when four planes were hijacked, with two of them crashing into the Twin Towers in New York City and another into The Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 11.
In response, the U.S. launched a war on terror in 2001.
Obama informed the American people on Sunday that shortly after taking office two years ago he directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, "to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al-Qaida."
It was last August when the U.S. had a possible lead to the world's most-wanted terrorist.
"[F]inally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice," Obama explained.
On Sunday (ET), the U.S. launched a targeted operation against the compound bin Laden was hiding in and after a firefight, killed the terrorist. No Americans were harmed.
Immediately after the announcement, Americans began celebrating.
Christian leaders took to Twitter to celebrate.
"I DO mourn death=The widespread death that Bin Laden's life created. Today we MUST celebrate the sacrifice & victory of our troops," Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., tweeted.
"I unapologetically celebrate multitudes of people who will have an opportunity to live b/c of this man's death. That is good-THAT is victory."
While celebrating, Furtick also remembered the thousands who became victims of terrorism.
"The thousands of people who Bin Laden sent into a Christless eternity & forced to endure hell on earth receive all my sympathy." He also tweeted the biblical passage Psalm 9:19-20, which states "Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, Lord; let the nations know they are only mortal."
Some Christians, however, were more cautious in their response to the news.
Brian McLaren, considered an emergent church leader, lamented the image he saw on television of "American college students reveling outside the White House, shouting, chanting 'USA' and spilling beer."
Currently in the U.K., McLaren blogged that he saw the same scene as he flipped through the channels.
"I can only say that this image does not reflect well on my country," he stated.
"Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?"
He quoted an email he received from his friend back in the U.S.: "When I received the news of his death, I must confess that my primary emotion was not excitement, but sadness...deep sadness that his life did not reflect God's intent for the world...deep sadness as I anticipated the rhetoric that awaited me on Facebook, the internet, and TV.
"I do not understand a world that allows for a man to cause so much pain and I do not understand a world that rejoices in the death of that man who just happens to be created in the image of God."
The email continued: "Perhaps everyone is right. Perhaps the death of Osama Bin Laden has made this world more safe. I do not believe, however, that his death has made this world more beautiful."
Not all were on the same page as McLaren. Tim Stevens, a pastor at Granger Community Church in Indiana, also took to Twitter to express his emotions.
"Some tweets suggest we should feel guilty being happy about this, but I don't," he said.
Obama provided his own take on how the American public should react.
He first stressed that the war is not against Islam and that bin Laden was not a Muslim leader, but rather a mass murderer. "Indeed, al-Qaida has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
While the death of bin Laden marks a tremendous victory, the fight against terrorism is not over, Obama made clear.
"There’s no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us," he said in his address. "We must – and we will – remain vigilant at home and abroad."
In the meantime, perhaps the appropriate response to bin Laden's death is to see what this can mean for the spread of the Gospel.
"Lord, may we see peace. May the world be more free so the gospel may be preached w/o restriction. Use this for your agenda," Ed Stetzer, a missiologist and Southern Baptist pastor, tweeted.