In 2012 a controversy rocked Kansas City. The home team, the Kansas City Chiefs, had been performing poorly that year, and the Chiefs’ dedicated fans were frustrated. As the season drew on, criticism mounted about the Quarterback Matt Cassel’s performance, until one game the tension came to a head. One fateful mid-season game, Cassel was tackled and knocked unconscious. When they came to take him off the field in a stretcher, something unexpected happened. Arrowhead Stadium erupted in cheers as fans felt that finally with Cassel out their team could perform like they always wished it would. Their cheering sparked a national controversy.
Looking in from outside, most people could see the error in cheering for your own team member’s suffering. Though some could sympathize, not many could approve of the Chief’s fans actions. Paradoxically, Kansas City is known for having good football fans. How was it that they cheered their own quarterback’s concussion?
Theirs something in human nature that makes us capable of tearing down even those closest to us. Some might call it capacity for frustration; I would call it sin. This attitude pervades beyond the world of sports, in workplaces, governments, and families. Rejoicing at another’s downfall even has a name we loaned from German, schadenfreude, but its not an emotion that fits into the mold of Jesus. Yet for some reason, the church can be a veritable schadenfreude hub.
Have you ever been satisfied when a leader you don’t like fails? Have you ever delighted in the downfall of a Christian leader of different theology or denomination than you? Have you ever been satisfied when someone above you in leadership shows him or herself to be unsuited to a position you wish you had? Maybe your haven’t, but the temptation to these things are in our nature. But the Bible paints a different picture of how we are to relate in the church. Colossians 2:9 describes the church as a body attached to Christ the Head:
from Whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
The body is us, the people of God, held together by ligaments of covenant to Christ, and also, crucially, to each other. If the toe is stubbed, the body experiences pain. If the lungs are filled with a virus, the whole body experiences sickness. Suffering is not solitary in the body of Christ, but we “mourn with those who mourn.”
The other side of this coin is that the victories of anyone in the body are your victories, and your victories are the victories of everyone in the body. There is no space for envying the success of another, because their success is your success, their victory is your victory, because we all trace back to the same Head. Ultimately the victories of any part of the body, as well as the sufferings, belong to Him.
As the church, let us carry that identity of being one body, one team. Let’s rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Let’s spur one another on to victory so that we can all share in it together. Let us live as we are, connected to the Head and two each other with the inseparable bonds of the mercy of God.