Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.
Andrew Peterson is a singer, songwriter with an unusual voice, and deep, thought-provoking lyrics. In “The Silence of God” Peterson sings, “if a man is forced to listen to the voices of the mob, who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got”. In our world, social media, and 24 hour news cycles have made the voices of the mob incredibly loud. You can imagine mobs from the old west, gathering with pitchforks and torches to see that someone is punished for their perceived crimes. Only instead of pitchforks and torches, mobs today wield keyboards and cameras. And they love nothing more than seeing someone fail.
Justice is important, but vengeance is toxic. If we are serious about loving others well, we have to not rejoice when they stumble. Our own insecurities and failures make us eager to see others fail as well, so we can feel better about ourselves. Most of us believe that others will love us only if we perform well. So, when we don’t perform well, our only hope is that others will perform poorly too. Maybe we can be loved, even when we fail, if our failures aren’t quite as bad as other people’s failures.
But love doesn’t work that way. In the words of William Shakespeare, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark” (Sonnet 116). Love is bigger than our performance, which means that our failures are not catastrophic. It also means that the failures of others are not either.
God has called for us to love the world, not catalogue their failures. If we are able to desire the best for others and to hope that they succeed in amazing ways, we are a step closer to loving them well, and to becoming more whole ourselves.