Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Continuing with Paul’s instructions in chapter 12, we see our close identification with one another in that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Our first reaction to this imperative could be, “Oh, I can do that. It’s got to be easier than blessing my enemies, right?”
Well, the rub comes when someone else, for example, gets the promotion at work we thought we had deserved. Would it be a snap to rejoice with someone who “took your place?” The flesh easily springs up in such circumstances.
“…when another person’s blessing and happiness is at our expense, or when their favorable circumstances or notable accomplishments make ours seem barren and dull, the flesh does not lead us to rejoice but tempts us to resent,” (John MacArthur commentary on Romans, vol. II, p. 197).
A good example in Scripture of this type of resentment is Cain (Gen. 4:3-8), who resented God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering but rejection of his because of disobedience. His envy and jealousy drove him to commit the first murder, that of his own brother. The power of these emotions of jealousy and envy and hatred should be dealt with carefully, like nitro, and given over to the Lord!
“The bond of tears,” comments William Barclay, “is the strongest of all. And yet it is much easier to weep with those who weep than it is to rejoice with those who rejoice. Long ago Chrysostom wrote on this passage: ‘It requires more of a high Christian temper to rejoice with them that do rejoice than to weep with them that weep. For this nature itself fulfils perfectly; and thee is none so hard-hearted as not to weep over him that is in calamity; but the other requires a very noble soul, so as not only to keep from envying, but even to feel pleasure with the person who is in esteem.’ It is, indeed, more difficult to congratulate another on his success, especially if his success involves disappointment to us, than it is to sympathize with his sorrow and his loss. It is only when self is dead that we can take as much joy in the success of others as in our own.” (Barclay Romans Commentary)
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, etc. A general truth is in the third place laid down — that the faithful, regarding each other with mutual affection, are to consider the condition of others as their own. He first specifies two particular things — that they were to ‘rejoice with the joyful, and to weep with the weeping.’ For such is the nature of true love, that one prefers to weep with his brother, rather than to look at a distance on his grief, and to live in pleasure or ease. What is meant then is — that we, as much as possible, ought to sympathize with one another, and that, whatever our lot may be, each should transfer to himself the feeling of another, whether of grief in adversity, or of joy in prosperity. And, doubtless, not to regard with joy the happiness of a brother is envy; and not to grieve for his misfortunes is inhumanity. Let there be such a sympathy among us as may at the same time adapt us to all kinds of feelings” (from Calvin’s Bible Commentary).
Alternately, we must not rejoice in another’s misfortune. Proverbs 17:5 directs: The person who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished. Rather, Mac comments, “It is distinctively Christian to rejoice in the blessings, honor, and welfare of others—especially fellow believers—no matter what may be our personal circumstances,” (p. 197).
“rejoice”-“Share the happiness of those who are happy” (Phi) The Christian should be able to share in both the sorrows and joys of others. Why is it that some Christians can never be happy and others can never be sad? (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)
‘Is there anything more refreshing than the absence of jealousy in one who sees the good fortune of another? Our world is so full of envy and the grudging spirit. The world is so full of heartache, broken promises, failures and despairing people. Shouldn’t we be glad when someone wins? Don’t detract from the joy of the occasion by a cross face.’ (McGuiggan p. 372; Dunagan Commentary).
Weep with those who weep.
We believers have a responsibility to others, especially brethren, to be empathetic, sympathetic, and sensitive to their suffering. One of the tenants of the counselling profession is that we should be subjective enough to identify with another’s pain while remaining objective enough to help with the solution, if one is called for.
Many times, identification is the solution. Talk to them, listen to them, reassure them of God’s love for them. Don’t just observe stoically from the outside, but get into the sinking boat with him and bail water.
Mac observes, “Compassion has in the very word the idea of suffering with someone. God is called a compassionate God (Deut. 4:31; Neh. 9:17; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).
“He is so compassionate, so tender toward His people, that His compassions never fail (Lam. 3:22). James speaks of Him as being full of compassion (James 5:11). We see this compassion, sympathy, and tenderheartedness of God in the tears of Jesus over the grave of Lazarus. He mingled His tears with those of Mary and Martha (John 11:35),” (Mac p. 197-198).
Paul directed, So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col. 3:12).
One of the sweetest verses of Scripture to illuminate this is Psalm 56:8: Put my tears in Thy bottle. God keeps our tears in a bottle, like treasures. “If we are to be like our Father and His Son, we, too, must enter into the sorrows of others,” (Mac p. 193).
One of the most poignant moments in Jesus’ ministry is when He wept over the holy city: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Look, your house is left to you desolate.…, (Matt. 23:37). It is a call filled with pathos, lament, and almost unbearable pain for His people, who were about to be left desolate because of their unyielding sin.
We are to feel for and identify with the pain of others just that deeply. Filled with His Spirit, we can. We can also rejoice at the good benefit of another, no matter what it may cost us personally. This is what God equips us to do and what we must do.
Until next time, Lord willing, glad tidings to you of exceedingly great joy in the gospel of our God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…mike.