Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them. Proverbs 24:17
I don’t like this verse very much.
It’s one of those challenging, meaty bits of Scripture that I’d rather gloss over and pretend wasn’t there. Because if I take it at face value (which I do), it means that when unjust, evil and murderous people get their comeuppance, I can’t have a party, I can’t virtue signal my delight on Twitter, I can’t even (secretly) do a mental tap dance at the glorious news.
Why? Because my reading of the Bible states one clear, (deeply uncomfortable) fact – we are all the same.
We’d like to think that individually, we are ‘good’ people, that we’d never do a terrible thing like embezzle money, have an affair, hurt someone or rob a bank.
And maybe we wouldn’t.
But sin, the capacity to do terrible things, (given the right or perhaps wrong set of circumstances) is embedded into our DNA like cheese on a crumpet. It seeps its way into the tangled wiring of our brains and emotions, meaning that not one of us is really ‘good’ at all.
We all have the capacity to make terrible judgements, to be blinded by pride and arrogance, to follow a twisted path of destruction that hurts other people. Our actions might not lead to the collapse of a world bank or destroy a country’s economy, but they can hugely impact the person next door, our colleagues, our family.
I’m not above doing it. You’re not either.
Yep, plenty of people do good things, but that’s not the same as being good. After all, if events of the last few years are anything to go by, even prolific child abusers can ‘do good’ and raise millions of pounds for charity. It demonstrates a simple point; doing good stuff, doesn’t make us good.
The only thing that can make us good, is accepting grace and mercy and believing in someone who really IS good, who’s sinless, and perfect. Following him does something that nothing else in the world can do – it makes us right with God.
So when I see people on social media, celebrating the fall of another politician or another celebrity, because of their ‘evil policies’ or something they’ve done, I can’t actually rejoice, because us humans, flawed as we are, are all the same.
To pretend otherwise is really saying, ‘I’m better than XYZ leader. I’d never have done that. I would have chosen the ‘right thing’.
But if we’d been given power, authority and unbelievable wealth, we don’t know what we would have chosen. Because, despite our best intentions, that pesky sin code is always there, nibbling at our thought processes, nudging us to choose the path that benefits our own self interest.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t challenge injustice when we see it. Some things are worth fighting for. But what’s the motivation? Is it the struggle for justice? Or is it to jump on a bandwagon and see the downfall of another human being, who in our eyes, doesn’t measure up to our standard of morality? Is it so we can dance on their graves and let the world know that we are better, we would have chosen a different path?
So, in a crazy time of political instability, with protests, resignations and public disgrace, I just can’t rejoice. I can’t dance on graves or get foamy mouthed with delight at protests on Facebook.
I can pray though, for world leaders, for politicians, for opinion formers, for the media, for the unseen people who help to shape what we think is right and wrong.
The saying, ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’, has never been more true.