Since my early days as a new follower of Jesus, I’ve loved the book of Proverbs. The teachings are clear, direct and practical which really captures my attention. Even though I love this book there are some parts that are extremely uncomfortable and make me squirm, like Proverbs 24:17-18: “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. 18 For the LORD will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.” (NLT) When someone has treated you wrong and gotten away with it, it is very tempting to have a celebration when justice comes to them and they are caught and exposed. The idea of this proverb is that no matter how bad we are treated, followers of Jesus are called to imitate His nature. There is a big difference in wanting justice to prevail and wanting suffering to be inflicted on someone. When you and I choose to not celebrate our enemy being in pain, humiliated or broken, there is a very different value system at play.
If we have experienced the forgiveness of God, through the sacrifice of His only Son, then through His Holy Spirit, and the recognition of His grace, we have the ability to offer others the same, even our worst enemy. When we choose to reject gloating, and instead pray for those who have hurt us, we become very much like the one who saved us. I love the example of Stephen, the first martyr in the New Testament. He was caught by an angry mob and brutally killed because he faithfully told the truth about Jesus. Here is how he responded as he was dying, “As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.” Acts 7:59-60 (NLT) Instead of calling down lightening to destroy his enemies, he asked God to forgive them – just like Jesus did on the cross.