Rejoicing When Others Fall

Several years ago, a knife-wielding neighbour tried to kill me (I’ll call him Sam, not his real name.) Sam was a leader of a violent local gang and had done some bad things to our family. We decided not to take legal actions but resolve the issue with his family. We visited his home on a particular day. He quivered all over with rage as we attempted to resolve the issue. I can’t recall what transpired that led to this assault, but what happened next will forever be in my mind. He produced a sharp knife from his sleeve and galloped towards me. I was sitting across the room, barely two meters away. His best friend, who was also present, unsuccessfully attempted to subdue him while protecting me, and in the process, the friend was punched into the stomach several times by Sam. The friend curled up in pain while holding his belly, bleeding profusely on the floor. Sam then went ahead and badly injured those present as they tried to stop him. Sam was a small-bodied teenager but under the influence of hard drugs, giving him the courage to do the evil he did. His friend would later stay in the Intensive Care Unit for some months, but I was left unscathed in all this. Sam’s gang began hunting me, and I had to flee from my home for months for the sake of my safety. Some years later, the culprit was found dead in the street, with stab wounds all over his body. I was informed of his death, and it saddened me, yet he had caused us a lot of sorrows.

A SHINING EXAMPLE

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David, but Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him (1st Samuel 19:1-2). Since Saul was unrelenting and wanted David to be killed, Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, and he fled (1st Samuel 19:11.) Saul even tried to kill David with his own hands when he threw a spear as David played the lyre. But David eluded him twice (1 Samuel 18:10-11.) When Saul died, an Amalekite ran to David to report the incident. The Amalekite lied that he is the one who killed Saul (2nd Samuel 1:9-10), yet Saul committed suicide (1 Samuel 31:4.) He probably knew Saul was David’s arch-enemy, and killing Saul would attract a reward. Instead, David ordered one of his men to kill the Amalekite for killing the Lord’s appointed king.’ (2nd Samuel 1:15-16.) David then sang a funeral song about Saul and his son Jonathan, and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this song. It is called “The Bow,” and it is written in the Book of Jashar (2nd Samuel 1:17-18.) He did all this for the man who was obsessed with killing him.

Proverbs 24:17-18 says, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.” The phrase “gloat over” means rejoice or expressing great pleasure or drawing satisfaction from others’ failure, especially our enemies. David stands as a prime example of how we should treat our enemies or those we don’t like when trouble befalls them. We must resist the temptation of celebrating when others fall. 

HAM’S BAD EXAMPLE

Noah became very drunk. It made him lay naked and unconscious inside his tent (Genesis 9:20.) His son Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and publicised this outside the tent. He probably joked about his father’s nakedness. He gloated over his father’s sin. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backwards and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.  When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he pronounced a curse over his grandchild Canaan and his descendants (Genesis 9:23-24.)

God commanded us to honour our fathers and mothers (Deuteronomy 5:16), but Ham acted dishonourably towards his father. The Israelites took that command so seriously when Moses said in Exodus 21:15, “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.” Jesus talked about this command in Mark 7:10 when he said, “Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.'” Ham punishment would have been death. That’s how grievous Ham’s sin was.

DO NOT GLOAT 

Edomites, who are closely related to Israelites, cheered when God punished the Israelites through the hands of Babylonians. They refused to help the Israelites when the Babylonians invaded and went further to help the Babylonians arrest those who had managed to flee (Obadiah 1:14.) They were spiteful towards their brothers. God rebuked them in Obadiah 1:12, “Do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast; in the day of distress.”

It is common for us to feel good when our enemies, or those we don’t like, are suffering. It is more shocking when that happens among Christians. I’ve seen believers take pleasure when a brother falls in sin. You might ask, how does this happen? When we gossip about other people’s sin and misfortunes. It is shaming a sinning brother in public rather than approaching them in private first, as we are told in Mathew 18:15.

CONCLUSION

God helped me forgive Sam for all the atrocities he had committed against my family and me. It would be easy to gloat over his death. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres.” If you love your brother, you will not gloat over them. Love will also make you want to protect them and not shame them. Ham gloated over his father’s sin, and his son Canaan was cursed. God can never reveal someone’s else sin or weakness to you, for you to shame them or feel good about it.  Galatians 6:1 explicitly instructs us, “if anyone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” God brings to light their sins so that you can pray for them and bring them restoration.

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