One of the most un-Christian feelings I can find myself experiencing is happiness about the misfortune or the failings
of another, but it’s a common sin – and have no doubt, it IS a sin.
It's a sin so common the Germans coined a word for it: schadenfreude (“SHAY-den-froy-da”
-- literally: “harm-joy”).
The “shrinks” say there’re three primary motivations for schadenfreude; Sometimes, and commonly, it’s a form of aggression
based on group identity. We perceive that the difficulties or failings, or even the destruction of another can, somehow, be a triumph for an “us” over a “them”.
For example: When President Obama announced the killing of Osama Bin Laden, people danced in the streets in the middle of the night shouting “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”.
my wife were traveling at the time, and two of our three adult children called and woke us in our hotel room to tell us the news. If I remember right, one said, “they got him!” and the other “WE got him”.
At that time, I was still a civilian employee of the Dept. of Defense and an old Soldier (I’ll remain that until I die) so, my thoughts and responses to them were first, about the troops -- something along the line
of the killing being almost immaterial to the on-going fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to continue to pray for all involved.
And, I did mean and do mean (most of the time, anyway)
“ALL involved”, including the “bad guys”.
I, really and truly, thought that what was going on in the way of celebration about the death of a man, even a man
as evil as Bin Laden, was kind of unseemly, and it felt a little "ugly", in the same way he was.
Wouldn’t the best of all outcomes for any conflicts be for the aggressors and
bad guys to lay down arms, repent and enjoy Christian fellowship and forgiveness, way before any fatal consequences on this earth damn them for eternity?
I know that's not going to
happen, very often, and that's part of the reason we need soldiers and warriors, but wouldn't it be great? And, that's part of the reason we need Preachers and Christian examples, to help make room for the greatness to happen.
I don’t, often enough, stop to think that the Lord loved Bin Laden and desired his redemption as much as He loves “us” and calls us to repentance and salvation. Yes, really… He did and does.
He died for the sins and for the salvation of everyone you hate and fear, or are mad at, just like He died for mine, and yours.
We were the reason for His sacrifice… and our sins make Him sad (regardless of our religion or doctrines, our politics, nationality, ethnicity, sexual identity, or place in life). Yours,
mine, Osama’s… our sins make Him sad.
And, there's only one "us" and only one "them"... all of us are in only one of two categories: redeemed or not. The redeemed should rejoice with God’s angels at the repentance and salvation of a sinner, not rejoice with the devil's fallen ones at the death and damnation of the unrepentant and unshriven.
I contend that the true Christian warrior, if a literal one, would grieve the death of an unbelieving enemy even as he or she pulled the trigger or called in the strike that killed them. Metaphorical
Christian warriors should grieve the failings and shortcomings of brothers and sisters and heathens, alike, as our Lord does.
Sometimes schadenfreude is more personal… motivated by
rivalry. The person who seeks to elevate him- or herself by putting down and climbing over the fallen or even just by being happy he or she “isn’t like THEM! (see Luke 18:9-14), is always going to be spiritually lowering him- or herself, even below
The third basis for "harm-joy" might be “justice” … just seeing somebody who’s been repeatedly and even successfully “bad”
get caught and punished.
That’s a reasonable response, right? Surely, seeing justice done and liking it can’t be sinful, can it?
Well, the Prophet Micah’s summary of the Lord’s Law for us said it requires us to “… To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (our) God.” (Micah 6:8)
How do we balance justice, mercy, and humility before God?
Christ told us of God’s mercy and love, in many parables (including Matthew 20:1-16,
and Luke 15:11-32) and showed us mercy by taking the just punishment for our sins and failures on Himself, then told us how we could show ourselves to be His disciples.
command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35).
Humbly walking with my God means, to me, subordinating my opinion
of what is just to His demonstrated example of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and never confusing "vengeance" for perceived injustices to me or to "us" with "justice".
I am to practice
justice as best I can, yes, but practice it remembering scripture and the Lord's example.
If we feel any pleasure or triumph at a prominent but opposition politician being embarrassed
or mocked; enemies devastated and dead; a “Christian” celebrity or Mega-Church Pastor (with whom we have doctrinal differences or who we just... envy) being publicly humiliated for his or her failings; or a brother or sister in our congregation
being exposed for some problem or another, it should be a cause for self-examination, repentance, and prayer, not gloating or gossip.
And, the prayer should
not just be for a loving enlargement of our own narrow and selfish souls, but for the reputation of Christ's Church among the lost, who need God's mercy and grace to escape justice for their wrongs, just as we did and do.
Lord, Help us.
Here's a link to Pastor Scott Sauls' Blog piece, "Thoughts on the Rise and Fall of
Pastors", which inspired the above: