Is it wrong to have sympathy for the devil?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Is it wrong to have sympathy for the devil? 

Answer: This is an interesting query — one I remember discussing very early in my Christian walk with a trusted mentor. The thing is, we are human… and part of that gig is that we feel sorry for nearly everybody and everything that undergoes difficulty. For me, this includes roadkill… and for me, this includes the devil. But this doesn’t mean that I’m letting either of them off the hook physically, morally or theologically.

You see, God has many laws in place, and I support him in this. But this does not mean that I have to be happy when I leave the house without a coat and suffer under the second law of thermodynamics… or when I run over a squirrel and he suffers under the law of squishy dynamics… or when a recalcitrant criminal kills someone and he suffers under the law of moral dynamics. This whole world is in need of redemption, not just its people (Romans 8:19-23)… but certainly, it's people. So, what about Satan?

Satan can’t be redeemed because he is a different type of being from us. He is an angel — a spirit being. Now, like us, he has a free will and personhood that will last forever. But he is unlike us in two important ways. First, although he can affect the physical world, he has no personal physical component. Second, since he lives in the same spiritual realm as does God, faith is a non-issue with him.

By way of contrast, squirrels are animals. They are not human, so they have no eternal souls… but when they get squished, I feel bad — and I experience the same phenomenon with the devil. He’s a spirit being… not a human — and he’s soon to be roadkill (Revelation 20:10). But he is still one of God’s creatures. As such, I have an emotional bond with him… I mean… he may be the cause of much of our trouble, but he is still among “the lost” … and we should feel bad even when someone like a murderer dies. The thing is, although we love God’s justice, we don’t have to jump up and down and rejoice when he applies it.

God’s justice is necessary… but it’s not fun… and having sympathy for suffering creatures is a human thing to do. God made us in his image (Genesis 1:27), and the fact that we are relational and compassionate beings tells us much about him. But unlike God, we too are sinners… so we can identify with Satan in a way God can’t… but we can be redeemed — and that’s where the other shoe drops. Fallen angels cannot be restored. Their rebellion cannot be forgiven… and that’s the key to this answer.

We and the angels have many things in common… like free will, moral agency and eternal personhoods. But we have one key difference: we live by faith. But angels do not. Since they, like God, are spiritual beings, they communicate directly with God (Job 1:6) … so they are 100% certain that God exists! As such, faith is foreign to angels. They either obey God or they don’t. But whatever they do, they do it while looking directly at him in a way we humans will never do.

As such, an angel’s sin is more “in your face!” to God… and I believe this is why redemption is not available to them. All sin is rebellion on some level, but an angel’s sin is an overt rebellion against God.

So, let’s not anthropomorphize them as I do the poor squirrels. The fallen angels have a terrible fate… one I would not wish upon anyone. But they are on a different playing field than us humans — and God gives us a peek… but not an in-depth look. So, mentally I realize that Satan’s destruction is the ultimate manifestation of God’s justice — and I say, “Your will be done.” But emotionally, it’s still hard to look at.

As God’s children, we should strive to be in agreement with him in all matters. But since we are sinners, we can’t quite pull that off. So, although we should be in mental (or “official”) agreement with God about the hard things like his justice, it is not reasonable to expect that we should be in emotional agreement with his actions at every point.

This is a relatively common experience among people who are learning and growing. This phenomenon is sometimes called cognitive dissonance… and God-loving sinners should expect to have some ambivalence about God’s justice until Christ returns.

But I know that there’s a difference between having sympathy for the devil and having sympathy with the devil… and being able to walk such a line is proof that we are human. But also, it is proof that we are mature believers.

I pray that all this helped.

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