Dear Siblings in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus! I don’t know about you, but I love to laugh at physical comedy. I love when someone falls or gets hit in the face with a rake during a movie or in a comic, I don’t know why but I laugh really hard. But there can be a more sinister dimension to taking joy in another’s suffering. There is a word in German, schadenfreude, which strikes me as particularly apt for our current political climate. Wikipedia says schadenfreude “is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.” On every side, because let’s face it there are too many to count, we seem to be more against something than for something. We seem to be taking pleasure in one another’s frailures, we take pleasure in the problems of “the other.” Rather than looking at the issues and working to find solutions. It seems we’re spending more time placing blame than working for ending problems.
The super good news is we don’t need to worry about this kind of behavior in the Christian community. Jesus tells us in three of the four Gospels what to do when things go sideways in human relationships. Rather than taking pleasure in suffering, we can go work it out. Matthew 18:15-20 is instructive, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (New Revised Standard Version)
What’s more, we have the capacity to build one another up. That is naming what God is up to in one another’s life. I had this amazing experience. The literal opposite of schadenfreude. I tasked myself with really seeing and appreciating every person in Vacation Bible School and telling them. If you have ever dolled out 40 compliments in a day, it changes you. I made some rules for myself- nothing based on what someone owned, looks like, wears or consumes. I told myself, I must find something in their character or abilities to appreciate. I must take time to tell them how I notice it and what I feel it does to make their lives and our communities better. Sometimes these appreciations fell short, the person seemed to brush it off. However, dear ones, sometimes the moment hit the mark. More to the point, I got to look into the face of a child of God and appreciate what God has done in their lives. Since I’ve had this experience I believe it was the inbreaking of the Holy Spirit. I was changed. Appreciation is a spiritual practice. I invite you to appreciate someone in your life today, you’ll be better for it.
God is here. You are loved. I am so glad to be working along with you for the reign of God.