Normal Christianity is Radical

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:14–17 ESV).

Success and Sorrows

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

Our natural selves more easily connect with people in sorrows than in successes. When people suffer a loss, a loved one or life-altering event of some kind, our hearts naturally relate to them. Funeral homes are found everywhere as gathering places to weep with those who weep. What is more Christian than entering into the pain of others and sharing that pain with them?

Shared Christian weeping is a powerful experience. Think of a painful time in your life. I hope God brought someone to join with you in that pain. Perhaps they shared counsel, but the greatest blessing is simply presence. I remember somewhere in my training for ministry being admonished to not feel the need to always say something. We pastors feel a duty to have the right word to say. Reality is when the trial is over, very little of what was said will be remembered. But people never forget that you were there for them.

When people are weeping, we don’t have to say something. Give them an embrace. Sit with them in the room silently. Quietly help behind the scenes. These are powerful when people are weeping. It doesn’t say, speak to those who weep. It says, “weep with those who weep.” Enter into their pain. See the word “with.” Weep WITH them. Show up. Show you care. I personally think this part is a legacy strength of Bethel Church and thank you to so many who practice a ministry of presence and weeping with those who weep.

The struggle in this verse is not the weeping, it’s the rejoicing. “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” This is joining with other’s joys in the successes of their life. The wins. The unexpected blessings. The happy stuff. Rejoice with others. No problem, right? Except, there is this thing in the human heart that goes all the way back to Cain’s jealousy that God accepted his brother’s sacrifice and not his. He didn’t rejoice with Abel, he murdered Abel.

We may not murder, but how do we feel when a sibling has some financial windfall? Or the coworker is honored above us or gets the promotion we hoped for? How about our best friend’s bumper sticker, my child is an honor student? Or the new kitchen proudly displayed on our sister’s Facebook page? Or the trophy wife your 44-year-old brother married in 2012? (Sorry, Scott.) Or the dandelion-free yard your neighbor has while yours looks more like a dandelion farm? Whatever it is. Is it easy to rejoice when others rejoice?

Envy and jealousy so easily creep in. We congratulate and fake our smiles, but inside, we aren’t that excited. We often reverse this verse. When they rejoice, we weep. When they weep, we rejoice. Such is the sinful brokenness of our hearts.

Envy wants what others have. Jealousy doesn’t want them to have it. How do we break this cycle? The gospel. The gospel is God giving us what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve salvation, forgiveness, love, or adoption. Go back to chapter 8. What in there do we deserve? Envy wants to return to the “deserve” currency, but Christianity celebrates having what we don’t deserve.

Whether I think my sister deserves the new kitchen or my neighbor deserves his boat, in view of God’s mercy to me I realize that I don’t deserve anything but hell, yet I rejoice in my rejoicings. It’s a small step to see other people’s successes like I see mine. If I’m free to rejoice in my rejoicings, the gospel sets me free to rejoice in others’ rejoicings too.

When I find in my heart a lack of joy in others’ success, it’s not that they don’t deserve it, it’s that I have forgotten I don’t deserve it. Ask God to help you with this. God help me rejoice with those who rejoice and give me the heart of compassion that weeps with those who weep.

I got thinking about Mother’s Day on this point. In your whole life, who embodies this more than your mom? When you cry, she cries. When you hurt, she hurts. When you rejoice, she dances with you. Why? Because she loves you and a mom’s love looks a lot like what Christian love should look like. Ask yourself, what would Mom do?

Persecution? Bless. Rejoicing? Rejoice. Weeping. Weep.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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