Rejoicing and Weeping and Why it Matters

by Andy Wood on February 9, 2012

in Allocating Your Resources, Esteem, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle

Tucked inside a rapid-fire to-do list in the Bible is a simply-carved roadmap into the hearts of other people.  After Paul suggests how believers can get along with their persecutors, and before he suggests how we can get along with other believers (that’s a much longer suggestion), he gives this encouragement:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”(Romans 12:15).

A simple phrase.  But a world of meaning packed in these simple instructions.

No Distinction

Interesting.  There is no distinction made in this verse between believers and unbelievers.  Most people assume he’s directing his instructions to other believers for the sake of other believers.  But the only thing that distinguishes people in these words are those who rejoice, and those who mourn.

Jesus once said that God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust.  So a tornado rips through a place where we used to live.  People are rejoicing because they are safe and their kids are safe.  People are weeping because their homes are destroyed.  In either case, nobody’s checking the membership rolls of the area churches.  It’s just a community of weepers and rejoicers.  And what gives you access into their lives is your willingness to invest in their weeping and rejoicing with some weeping and rejoicing of your own.

We Have a Model

It’s notable that Jesus practiced this, to the extent that he was both praised and villified for it.  He went to weddings and feasts, and wept at the tomb of Lazarus.  He was moved with compassion over the sufferings of the multitudes.  As an expression of fellowship, as with his friends at Bethany, he drew them to himself by being fully present with their joy and pain.

As a witnessing tool, Jesus used this simple strategy to draw the lost to him in an unprecedented way.  Israel had demonstrated two extremes in its history – rejoice with the pagans and celebrate their sin, or separate from the pagans and hate the sinner.  Jesus entered into the joys and sorrows of the lost, yet without sin.  And in doing so, he won their hearts.

Beyond Yourself

This calls every believer to get outside himself or herself.  What do you do when you feel bad physically, and somebody calls rejoicing over some good news?  How do you respond when someone is selected for a position or prize that you wanted?  How do you come down from the stratosphere when you’re rejoicing and you encounter someone who is brokenhearted?

It’s the fundamental first step in discipleship – we deny ourselves (Luke 9:23).  We set aside our own feelings and opinions (without invalidating or abandoning them) to enter into the feelings of others.  Is there room in what you call love to make that happen?

A Call for a Choice

Contrary to the popular myth that feelings “just are,” Paul implies that you can choose what you feel and when – at least in a supportive or responsive kind of way.  And he calls you to make the choice to enter in to the emotional worlds of others.

Don’t preach to their feelings.  Don’t advise or scold or defend their feelings.  Feel them.  By choice.

I also appreciate the hint here that we don’t have to be great discerners in order to do this.  When it comes to rejoicing and weeping, I don’t have to scratch my head and try and figure out what’s going on in somebody else’s emotional world.

But hey, check this out:  if we can identify some of the other feelings in between, what say we try some of them on, too?  We can laugh with those who laugh.  Love with those who love.  Be (righteously) angry with those who are angry.  Be reflective with those who are reflective.

The Right to Influence

This idea doesn’t take place in a vacuum.  There’s a reason we rejoice with the rejoicers, and weep with the weepers.  By entering into their joy, we validate them and multiply the joy.  By entering into their pain, we also validate them as people, and ease the sorrow.

In either case, by validating them, we gain rapport with them.  We earn the right to speak truth into their lives.  We earn the right to preach the gospel to them if they don’t know Christ.  We earn the right, if they do follow Christ, to ask them to enter into our joy and pain when we need it.  In short, we earn the right to lead them and influence them.

A Warning

Guess who always makes sure that there is someone available to weep with the weepers and rejoice with the rejoicers?  It’s Satan.

There is an implied warning in this verse:  if we don’t, somebody else will. Okay so you have a drama queen for a teenage daughter.  Either you enter her drama, or somebody else will.  So your three-year-old is a whiney-butt who keeps interrupting you with his silly complaints.  If he can’t bring you his preschool pain, what gives you the right to expect him to bring you his teenage pain?

It would stagger you to know how many broken lives and relationships were greased on the skids of Christians who didn’t give a damn.  Or give a smile.  Or give a tear.  They were too consumed with their own crap or their own convictions or opinions (raise your hand if I lost you at “damn”).  Enter the cult leader.  The preying boyfriend.  The buddies at the bar.

There will always be somebody ready to rejoice with the rejoicers and weep with the weepers.  Why not you?  Who knows?  If you make this a lifestyle, you may just single-handedly turn hell into a non-profit organization.

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