Sometimes a person can find spiritual truth in unexpected places. Recently, I was relaxing and reading the sports page in the local newspaper. The article I was reading was about intense rivalries in college sports. The word ‘schadenfreude’ caught my attention. It was a new word for me. Webster’s Universal Dictionary yielded this definition: “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” That certainly applies to most sports rivalries. A report that a rival is under NCAA investigation is often met with a cheer.
The sad truth is that schadenfreude relates to many other areas of human interaction. People may be happy when a superior fails or a perceived competitor is unsuccessful. Maybe it’s when the “perfect family” down the street runs into trouble. Maybe it’s when a growing church in the area, one that has attracted members from your congregation, experiences a moral failure and bad publicity. A smile may cross our face at the adversity of those we don’t like.
Schadenfreude is a clear reflection of the impact of the ‘fall’ and the influence of sin in the human heart. How unlike the character of God schadenfreude is! When we were in trouble, He came to us. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, KJV). Hear God’s word speak about His attitude toward even those who oppose Him:
- “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23) I like The Message paraphrase of this verse: “Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn’t it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right—really living?”
- “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)
The Apostle Paul writes to the Church at Corinth about dealing with opposition and rivals. He reminds them of how Christian love conducts itself. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). There is no room for schadenfreude in the Christian life.
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
O my Savior divine, All my being refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
~ Brother Roy