…Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres… – 1 Corinthians 13:6-7
At church this morning, the pastor challenged me with a very basic question. Do you rejoice when others suffer? Do I rejoice when others suffer?
At first, of course, the answer “No!” in bright neon lights flashes through my mind. That’s terrible! Why would I ever rejoice because someone else is suffering. That’s a terrible thing, anyone who does that is just sadistic, evil, malignant, heartless, uncaring, unloving, rude…etc. But then he started listing ways we do actually rejoice in others sufferings without even realizing it. Anytime we openly gossip about other’s misfortune we are using their sufferings for our enjoyment, and I know so many of us are guilty of that. How often do you catch yourself saying, “Have you heard about so and so and what happened to them, or have you heard that they were caught doing this or that.”
Granted we may not be celebrating, but at the same time we are indulging ourselves in sharing. I find it fascinating that we so often are more eager to share people’s grief stories than their rejoicing stories. Take the news and entertainment magazines – most of the headlines center on other’s misfortune. The pastor truthfully pointed out this morning that we soak up the tragedies around the world and rarely focus on the good things. Disasters do pervade our planet. After all sin is in this world, but our Heavenly Father is still also very present in this world, and for every disaster, something good is happening somewhere. Why is it our human nature to focus on the bad and forget the good?
Can you imagine what the world would be like if instead of focusing on the bad things that were happening, that people instead focused on the good that surrounded them? Or can you imagine what some conversations would be like if people only reported good things that happened to their mutual friends instead of the bad things? Can you IMAGINE how different the world would be? The world isn’t all rainbows and pink ponies, but I think a general shift in how we view things could make a tiny, no giant change in the world around us. Our attitude towards other’s affects our lives.
A big challenge for me when I was younger was wishing people who had hurt me well. When someone did something to offend me or when they did something deliberately against me, I would frequently catch myself wishing something bad would happen to them, or silently rejoicing when something went wrong in their life. I wouldn’t actively do something towards them, but in my heart I would wish evil upon them. Some people do not see any thing wrong with this attitude: “Oh, they are just getting what they deserve!” But is this what should be in the heart of a believer in Jesus Christ?! Of course not! We should never ever wish any wrong towards anyone. Christ calls us to love everyone even those who harm us or those who have caused us injury in the past. If life was about people getting what they deserved, then trust me none of us would be going to heaven when we died. Jesus Christ did not in anyway deserve to die on that cross, but He did it anyway for His enemies! We were enemies to Christ before we were reconciled through Him by the shedding of His blood. Christ had no reason whatsoever to die on that cross for us wicked sinners, and yet He did it out of love. If we can so openly accept that then how on earth can we wish our enemies ill will? We cannot in the Christian faith because Christ calls us to love everyone not rejoice when things go wrong in their lives.
Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn His wrath away from Him – Proverbs 24:17-18.
God convicted me of this and with His help I was able to cleanse my heart and no longer wish evil on people. Instead by surrendering it to Him, I was able to release my feelings and instead pray for those who had hurt me. Amazingly it released me from feelings I didn’t know I even had. It was such a freeing experience. Some people might call someone weak for wishing their enemies well, but its not a weakness. It is a VICTORY in Christ. By allowing God to deal with the circumstances and not yourself, you are allowing Him to work out what’s best for everyone involved.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:17:21
This week I challenge you to see how often you can catch yourself “rejoicing” in other’s sorrows, and as soon as you do try to turn it and rejoice in something positive about that person.