Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
The second half of Romans 12 is exceedingly practical. You find statements about hospitality, love, perseverance, and then this – a command to rejoice, and a command to weep. There are a couple of things we should not miss about this simple but powerful statement.
First of all, this sentence, like all others in Romans 12, is set in the context of the church. That’s what chapter 12 is all about. So when we are told to rejoice and to weep, it is not specifically about the circumstances in our own lives, but rather a reminder that we ought to be so closely aligned with our brothers and sisters in Christ that not only are we aware of what is happening in their lives, but deeply feel it.
Secondly, this is a command. It is not a suggestion. This is a bit strange because we think of things like rejoicing and weeping in the emotional realm, and they are. But when we think of these things exclusively as emotional, we don’t see these actions as issues of obedience. They are, instead, things that we do when we feel like doing them.
If rejoicing and weeping are commands, then we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, give ourselves to obeying them rather than just waiting for the right feeling to hit us. We are certainly living in a time when there is an occasion to weep with those who weep, so we would do well to consider how we might live out this communal command from Scripture.
It might be helpful, then, to think about what stands in the way of obeying the command to weep with those who are weeping. Here are three of those obstacles:
1. Our fear
If we are going to weep with those who weep, it means we have to make the intentional effort to involve ourselves deeply with those who weep. That means hard conversations. It means being in and near the hospital. It means entertaining the pain that others are experiencing. And when we start to do that, we inevitably think that "this could happen to me."
This natural disaster. This persecution. This hatred. This cancer. This could happen to me. Many times we don’t emotionally involve ourselves with others because we are just too afraid of being confronted with the fragile nature of life.
2. Our busyness
Practically speaking, weeping with those who weep takes time. A lot of time. Time spent in conversation, time spent in prayer, time spent delivering meals or gutting houses or any number of things.
We’ve got travel ball teams and season premiers of TV shows to watch. Who has time to invest in these kinds of relationships? If we want to weep with those who weep, then we will have to take a hard look at our schedules to see if there is any margin left for tears.
3. Our faithlessness
Times like these – times of weeping – force us to ask ourselves the fundamental questions of life. It’s during times like these when we cannot afford any longer to be casually committed to our faith – we either believe God is good, or we don’t. We either believe that He is in control, or we don’t.
But as long as we aren’t too close to any situations like these, we can maintain the luxury of a sidelines faith that has never been forged and tested. The moment we start shedding tears with those in the middle of the storm we will have to reckon with whether or not we actually believe what we claim to believe.
Weeping is an issue of obedience. And if we want to do it, then we will have to commit ourselves to doing so. As we step out on that emotional ledge, the one that requires us to confront our fear, our priorities, and our insecurity, the good news is that the ledge, no matter how precarious it might seem when we are on it, is supported by the sure and certain love of God in Christ. And this love that will not let us go can start to flow through us as tears along with those who are already weeping.