Have you ever been in a position to see, first-hand, someone’s fall? You know, one of those obnoxiously arrogant people who always seems to come out on top in spite of, or because of, forceful personal characteristics that drive him/her to run over everyone on his/her road to success? I had a front-row seat to such an event recently, and I must admit that my immediate reaction was a quiet thrill that ran up my spine. The verse, “’It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord,” came to mind. Sometimes it’s encouraging to be reminded that God does see and respond to injustices in the world (Ps. 94:9). It is poetic justice, after all, to see someone finally get his just deserts. However, as my quiet thrill grew to elation, and yes, maybe even to a little gloating, I felt an inward tug of conviction that my attitude was not honoring to God.
For while the Bible does say that God will uphold the righteous and punish the wicked (Deut. 32:35, Is. 59:18-19, Nah. 1:2), it also says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased…(Prov. 24:17-18),” and “…he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished (Prov. 17:5).” In my defense, I will say that this particular event was not calamitous; it was (hopefully) merely a lesson learned. But while poetic justice may be fun to watch, God’s justice is not fun to experience (Heb. 10:31), and I shouldn’t wish it on anyone. Instead, I should take Jesus’ challenge in the Sermon on the Mount to love and pray for my enemies (Matt. 5:43-44), and Paul’s challenge in Romans 12:20-21: “…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Oh Lord, forgive me for my own arrogance, and give me a heart of compassion even for difficult people!