On Monday, March 11, 2013, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 of 30 counts against him for illegal activities while mayor. Most of the charges against him involved abusing his political power to obtain personal gains. His jury concluded that he diverted public funds into his private coffer. And for these charges Kilpatrick became an enemy to many. Those who saw him as an enemy—to politics or the people of Detroit—wanted vengeance. So when the verdicts were announced, many people rejoiced, but I was sad. For those who rejoiced, justice had been served and they were overjoyed that a public servant who swindled money from a trusting public got what he deserved. But the Bible commands us not to rejoice over our enemies’ fall so I was sad not only for Kilpatrick but about those who say they are Christians and celebrated Kilpatrick’s fate:
“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out” (Proverbs 24:17-20).
We are COMMANDED not to rejoice when our enemy falls. We are COMMANDED not to be glad when he stumbles. Our rejoicing can effectively nullify whatever punishment God has planned for the evil doer but above that, in my eyes, is that our rejoicing displeases God. And when God is displeased with our attitude, the scripture above says He will turn away his anger from the evil doer, but what else might be our consequences for displeasing God? Our goal should be to please God and to do what He tells us to do. Otherwise, our rejoicing not only can cancel God’s intended punishment for the evil doer but it also makes us akin to an evil doer:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
When we don’t love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we are not being like our heavenly Father. If we are not being like our heavenly Father, then we are being the opposite of Him—an evil doer. The Bible admonishes us to be perfect, which means one who has reached the proper height in virtue and integrity in mind and character” (Blue Letter Bible). So in relating to our enemies, as Christians our morals and reputation should be what the Bible prescribes for us. We are commanded not to rejoice at the downfall of others. In the verses from Proverbs 24 we see that “the evil man has no future.” So even though God says our rejoicing over his fall will nullify God’s anger toward the evil man, they also say the evil man “has no future.” These verses may seem to contradict each other, but let me offer you this: Even though, because of our rejoicing, God may turn His anger away from the evil doer (which may mean he won’t receive the full punishment God had intended), there are still natural consequences for bad choices. For the evil man, there is no future. We cannot determine what that “no future” looks like but, according to Scripture, his “no future” is guaranteed. This is why I believe the Scripture tells us not to fret or be envious of evildoers. They will be punished in time and our rejoicing doesn’t serve to hasten their punishment. Instead, we are told to love, pray and weep for those who weep (Romans 12:15).
And so I weep for Kwame M. Kilpatrick, my former high school classmate, former Leslie St. neighbor, parent of three boys and husband of a sister whose pain I can barely imagine. I weep for Kilpatrick’s losses that are mine: one brilliant mind not contributing to building up my community and society at large and a busted up family with the husband and father now absent. I weep for his “no future” in politics and as a present and contributing member of his family. Yes, these are consequences for Kilpatrick’s poor choices. He chose death and we cannot be surprised that death came to our community and his family as he knows it (Deuteronomy 30:19), but that does not give anyone license to rejoice over His fall. Kilpatrick’s tragedy should propel us all—biblical Christians—to follow God’s word and love, pray and weep for Kilpatrick and his family. We are commanded to do so. Otherwise, we are just evil.
Take a Risk Challenge: Actively love your enemies this week by doing something for them to overcome their evil with good (Romans 12:20-21).
My One Thousand Gifts List
Sharing my deliverance from anxiety and my submission testimony with my discipleship group and seeing their in awe of God faces and some that cried
Reading two chapters, one in One Thousand Gifts and one in Living in the Pink
Sharing my ability to breathe again testimony with Renee and Nichole and their both relating to what I said
Climbing in bed when I knew my nerves were more powerful than my will and not being disturbed
The bubbling sound of water in the fish tank
The warm feeling when reading Living in the Pink
Giving me a Memorial Day blog post about those women who died to their strong black women selves and walked out and exhibited 1 Peter 3:8-14—being troubled for Christ’s sake, not their own sake
Not being terribly bothered when an usher’s response to my “How are you?” was “Better than you. You got these kids weighing you down,” referring to Justus on my hip and Nate holding my hand