Thursday, June 7, 2012

Delighting in other people's troubles

I once heard Haddon Robinson tell the story of a Baptist deacon who stood up at the annual meeting to give the report. Things weren't going very well. There were no new conversions. Attendance in worship had fallen by about fifteen percent. Even worse, according to this deacon, the offerings had fallen about twenty percent. Nevertheless, at the end of his report, he said with some pleasure, "At least I can thank God that the Methodists and the Presbyterians aren't doing any better."

It is a strange thing to take delight in another’s troubles. And yet, often we do. We snicker to ourselves when a famous person falters. We smile self-satisfied smiles when our opponents stumble. We might even put a link to it on our Facebook walls or our Twitter feeds. Big money can be made today by capturing in photos or videos well-known people in, well, less than flattering situations. News agencies would have little to report upon if they chose not to highlight the failings of the famous. It’s a part of human nature to delight in someone else being knocked down a peg or two. Of course, it’s a petty part of human nature.

How different such an attitude is from the attitude prescribed to us in the New Testament. There we are challenged to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15). Far from being petty, we’re called to be generous, humble, and kind. Every person, whether they’re famous or not, enemy or friend, is made in God’s image and deserves to be treated as such. In our text this Sunday, Daniel’s opponents will falter while he succeeds. Far from using his success as way to shame them, he will use his achievements as a way to save their lives. Daniel knew that as a child of God he was called to imitate the character of God – a character marked by concern, compassion, and unwavering care for each and every one of us. We, who are also God’s children, are called to do the very same thing.

“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” – 1 Cor 10:24

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