Rejoicing And Weeping

The more people I know and the longer I live the more sorrow I see in the world. Just today my church newsletter carried word about the death of an older member of our church. A week or so ago I learned of the sudden passing of our librarian’s father.

Weep with those who weep, Paul said in Romans, and I think we have that figured out. Many of us don’t quite know how to pull it off, but we certainly know we are to sympathize those who have lost a loved one or are out of work or whose house foreclosed. We’re not callous or indifferent, though we may not know what else to do besides expressing our deep caring. We pray, even weeping as we do so, because grief touches us.

Some people have the knack, or the gift, of reaching out to the hurting. They know the right things to say. They show up at the hospital bedside. They volunteer to provide meals–day in and day out. They even see beyond the obvious and do what no one has asked them to do.

Interestingly, before Paul mentions coming alongside the grieving, he says we are to rejoice with those who rejoice. In contrast to weeping, I wonder if we have figured out our place in rejoicing yet. Happily, there is much to rejoice about. Weddings and baby showers, job promotions and anniversaries, new cars and birthdays. (OK, I just had to work that one in, seeing as how today happens to be my birthday. 😉 )

The problem with coming along side those who rejoice is that too often there’s a twinge of envy attached with our rejoicing. When I taught middle school kids, it wasn’t uncommon to hear something like, “What a gorgeous dress. I hate you!” Seriously. I’m not making that up. The thing is, those twelve-, thirteen-, and fourteen-year-olds were perhaps just a tad more honest than adults.

How often does a writer hear of someone receiving a new contract and think, That should have been me. Or when sales soar for someone else, the response is something like, If only my publisher did what they were supposed to do to promote my book, I’d sell like that too.

How about the person who can afford to buy the new iPhone or the soon to release iPad? Are we rejoicing or grumbling about our out-of-date, archaic piece of techno junk?

There are so many ways we can undercut someone else’s cause for rejoicing by our own grumbling and dissatisfaction. For some reason, we have this idea in our culture, that withholding our rejoicing is OK. After all, the person who has experienced good news is happy already. They don’t need me to be happy for them, too.

Apparently that’s wrong thinking. The whole section of Scripture where the “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” passage is found, is about personal relationships–how to get along.

After urging Christians to use their spiritual gifts to build up the Body, Paul said this: “Let love be without hypocrisy.” The next twelve verses seem to explain what hypocrisy-absent love looks like. Tucked in between blessing those who persecute you and not being haughty of mind is the admonition to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

This is hardly a portion of Scripture we can take or leave. God doesn’t give us wiggle room–rejoice with those we like, or rejoice with those who are below us in power or prestige, or rejoice if we feel they have earned their good fortune. No, He simply says, rejoice with those who rejoice.

And suddenly, I see an image of the Prodigal’s brother standing outside the party, refusing to come in because, well, his dad hadn’t thrown him a party too.

May we, instead, rejoice with hilarity when another brother or sister has cause to rejoice.

Published in: on October 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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