“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans could be called the pinnacle of Paul’s teaching about the Gospel. For eleven chapters he waxes eloquently about sin, righteousness, judgment, death, substitution, justification, and the peace with God which comes through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But in chapter twelve Paul begins to move from talking about the “indicative” to speaking of the “imperative.” He gives direction about how Christians should live out their lives together as a part of Christ’s church, and in the middle of a long litany of commands we find the following sentence, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Paul’s command reminds us that at any particular time, if you are a member of a church of any size at all, that you will find people on both ends of this continuum. There will be people who will be on the “top of the world.” All will be rosy. There is money in the bank. Their cars don’t seem to break down and their tires wear evenly. Their kids will be healthy, have straight teeth, make good grades at school, be elected to student council, have good, solid friends, and their service provider will never, ever drop any of their cell phone calls. I have been there. I have sat around the open fire and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

However, at the same time, there will be people who will not be “experiencing their best life now.” They are a part of that group that Henry David Thoreau said “lead lives of quiet desperation.” They may be battling sickness. They may be battling financial disaster. They may be “walking in the valley of the shadow of death,” or, even worse, wishing they were “walking in the valley of the shadow of death.” Like an Alaskan winter, the sun never shows its face but for a moment here or there. The Psalms of lament seem to be the passages of Scripture that they read again and again. I have been there, also.

Furthermore, Paul says we are to minister to each of these groups of people. The first group is easy, “Rejoice with them.” Don’t be jealous of them, but be truly thankful that they are experiencing some respite in this fallen world in which we must learn to make our way. Pray for them to appreciate the blessings of God, and not forget Him during their times of exuberance.

Ministering to the other group is a little more challenging. Sometimes we don’t even know who they are since people are so adept at hiding their pain. (That is why it is important to pray for everyone because we may not know what dragons they are attempting to slay away from that Sunday Morning worship service.) However, when we find someone weeping; we should “Weep with them.” They may not want advice. They may not even need someone to fix their problem. They just need someone to cry with them, and feel the pain that they are feeling, because as the old Swedish proverb says, “A joy shared is a double joy, and a sorrow shared is half a sorrow.”

And, never forget the words of Jesus, our Lord, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

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