Rejoice With Them That Rejoice
What Are We To Do?

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 66a of 83

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15).

God’s people are redeemed not to walk alone or to dwell alone—whether today or in eternity. We are redeemed to be part of the family or citizenry of Christ.

Therefore, as soon as Paul completes his exposition of the doctrine of salvation, he proceeds to explain what our reasonable response ought to be as God’s people, and not merely as individuals.

This is why almost every instruction in the present chapter has to do with our relationship with one another.  Our text is just one of more than dozen imperatives to that effect.

“If you want to build the bond of love in the church,” Paul is saying, then you must “rejoice with others in the church who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping.”

This instruction seems so simple that it is difficult to talk about it.

But what exactly does the apostle want us to do? How do we do so? Why should we do so? These are the questions we must tackle in this study.

1.  What Exactly Are We To Do?

What is it to rejoice with them that rejoice and to weep with them that weep?

In the first place, let us understand that Paul is not talking about mere emotions. Paul is not saying you must feel what others feel; you must be happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad. The fact is: mere emotions cannot be commanded. God has made us in such a way that in general we are sad or happy depending on the circumstances affecting us. There is no switch in us that we can operate to make ourselves sad or happy at will. Mere emotions cannot be commanded. But Paul is here commanding us.

But neither is Paul requiring us to make ourselves appear to be sad or happy. We can do that. Actors and actresses do that for a living. But if we do that, we would be pretentious and hypocritical, and our actions would be abominable in God’s sight (cf. Mt 15:8).

So, Paul is not requiring mere feelings; nor is he requiring mere doing. What Paul is requiring of us, must be something within our control. It must be an act of the will. But at the same time, it must be an act that flows from a heart of sympathy for our brethren.

Let us bear this in mind as we consider what exactly Paul wants us to do. Let is bear in mind that God is concerned not only about our feelings; nor is He concerned only about our doing.  He wants us to bind together our emotions and our will in our obedience to Him. This is especially evident in His call to rejoice with them that rejoice and to weep with them that weep.

But what does it mean to rejoice with those who rejoice? Well, simply stated, this means showing genuine gladness when someone shares with us his joy. How do you show gladness? By your words and by your actions!

Therefore if someone says to you: “I have found a job! I have finally found a job after years of waiting! I am so happy!”

How should you respond? A nonchalant “Ok, that’s good”? No, no; should it not rather be and enthusiatic “Praise the Lord! I am happy for you, brother!”

So, if someone invites you rejoice with him at his wedding. “Come,” he says. “Come and rejoice with me!” What should you do? Sheepishly excuse yourself? “I bought a car. I must go and test drive.” Or “my children have common tests this week. I cannot come”? No, no; you should do your best to make it even if you do not like to attend weddings for one reason or another. Unless you really cannot make it, you should make it a point to go. Even if you cannot stay late, you should make it a point to go for the sake of your brother in Christ. You should go cheerfully because it pleases the Lord when you do so.

Conversely, we are to weep with those who weep. What does this mean? Well, it means simply that we must be compassionate towards those who are sorrowing, and show our concern. Does it mean that we must actually cry with those who sorrow? I am not sure. Some of us cry more easily than others. I think the emphasis is rather on our attitude and the way we relate to those who are suffering. It is about our words and our actions towards those who are sorrowing for one reason or another.

Therefore, if you know someone in the church who is sad because he just had a quarrel with a good friend, what should you do?

Well, do not simply mind your own business. And neither should you go up to him and admonish him to go and seek reconciliation. That can come later. But what you should do as the brother is sorrowing, is to go lend an ear and share his sorrow.

Or if you know someone who is going through a bout of severe depression and he finds himself having difficulties coping with his life. What should you do?

Well, do not ignore or worse, avoid him. And certainly, do not go to him and say: “Snap out of it!” Those who are suffering depression often cannot snap out of it. To tell a depressed person to snap out of it is as cruel as telling a man with a broken leg to stop pretending but stand up and walk!

You must rather go to him and listen to him, and seek to understand and comfort him. You must lend a sympathetic ear, and you must use your tongue sympathetically to manifest your care.

You must weep with them that weep and rejoice with them that rejoice.

The church father, Chrysostom tells us that it is easier to weep with those that weep, than to rejoice with those that rejoice. He says this is so because nature itself prompts weeping in sympathy, but envy stands in the way of the rejoicing in sympathy.

I am not so sure. I think both have their difficulties. Unless, we are as easily excitable or can genuinely empathise with others, we will find it hard to rejoice with them that rejoice. Unless we have gone through similar crisis and have genuine compassion in our hearts, we will find it hard to weep with those who weep.

But in so far as we are instructed in the Word of God to do these things, I believe we have a duty to do them even if we find it difficult to do so. Indeed, I believe that we have a duty to prayerfully improve ourselves to do these things. We must not say, “I find it hard to do these things without hypocrisy and therefore, I will leave it to others to do.” No, no, in so far as Paul gives these instructions without qualifications, we know that it is all our duty.

If we want to grow in the bond of love in the church, then all of us are responsible to seek to weep with them that weep and rejoice with them that rejoice. We are to seek to improve ourselves if we find it hard to do them.

But how do we improve ourselves to do these things? Well, the command to weep with them that weep and rejoice with them that rejoice is essentially to exercise sympathy in the joy and sorrows of others. So, to do these things well, we need to cultivate genuine sympathy!

But what can we do to cultivate a genuine sympathy in the joys and sorrows of others?

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim