Just when you think a Bible verse is pretty cut and dry, the Holy Spirit makes you really think about it. That’s what happened on first glance at this week’s focus verse from Paul.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.*
It really doesn’t seem like such a directive is needed for people who are learning to live the transformed life. I mean, isn’t it obvious that when someone’s happy you’re happy with them and when someone’s sad, you’re sad with them? Right?
That’s when I think about the times when a colleague or acquaintance has been so excited about something in their lives, and what did I do? I got jealous. Yep, even though my face showed a smile in public, my heart was doing calculations on the cause for them to be so blessed when I wasn’t.
And if you think believers are immune to this, think again. Think about yourself, because it doesn’t take me long to remember times in church youth group or in the choir, when someone got chosen for a part in the church play or musical. They were so happy. I was not.
Yet, Paul says that if we’re really to live the life that’s transformed because of Christ, we are to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
I see now that it’s not as easy as it looks. Why? Because it takes some self-denial, humility, and love. We don’t come by that naturally, but the Holy Spirit can sure help us in those moments when the little green-eyed monster would like to have his way.
I can see why it might prove difficult to rejoice always with those who rejoice, but what about mourning? Surely there would be no cause for me to be happy when someone else is sad, would there?
Actually, it becomes pretty easy to see, when I flip the rejoicing scenario on its head. What if it’s me who gets the part, but my friend had been practicing for weeks and her dad was coming to church for the first time to see her perform? Wouldn’t that be a reason for her to mourn her loss? Do I need to be rubbing my victory in her face and jumping up and down in joy? No, because the Holy Spirit wants to prick my heart to see her disappointment and move me to ask if she’s alright, and to see if there is anything I can do to ease her pain.
Mourning with the mournful takes on another dimension when I think about my own hurts. Sometimes, when I’m so deep in my own loss, I find it hard to sympathize with others. Yet, God is calling me to mourn with them, whatever that may look like — a hug, a visit, a card, an act of kindness, a listening ear.
The person living the transformed life is one who gives value to the feelings of others. We don’t just overlook them or trivialize them, but come alongside them and empathize with them.
Holy Spirit make me aware of the feelings of those around me, that I may be one who rejoices and mourns with them in a way that draws them to Christ.
Grace and Peace
*Romans 12:15 (NIV)