In Romans 12:15, the apostle Paul urges Christians to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep.
To rejoice is “to feel happiness or joy,” and to weep is “to cry aloud.” These words express emotion.
Paul is urging us to have empathy for one another. If our brother or sister in Christ is rejoicing in God’s kindness to them, we ought to rejoice with them. If our brother or sister in Christ is weeping, we ought to weep with them.
But this isn’t even a remotely controversial idea. After all, even our non-Christian co-workers will rejoice with you when you have a baby, and our non-Christian neighbors will weep with you when tragedy strikes your family.
So, how are these two commands, “to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep,” how are these two commands distinctly Christian? Let’s ask ourselves these two questions.
First, what are some things for which Christians should rejoice? And second, what are some things for which Christians ought to weep?
Since the Word of God tells us that we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, we should know when we should be rejoicing and when we should be weeping in the first place.
When should we rejoice?
First, we should rejoice when we face persecution for the cause of Christ.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said these words,
Matthew 5:10–11 (cf. Luke 6:23)
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Most of us don’t like being the object of persecution. That’s not our default setting. Our default setting is that we like people to like us. We want to be likable people—at least most of us feel that way. But Jesus tells us that we’re to rejoice when we’re persecuted for righteousness. We’re to rejoice when people say all manner of things falsely against us on account of Jesus.
We see this example carried out in the lives of the apostles. Early in the book of Acts, Peter and John and been put into jail for telling people about Jesus. When they got out of jail, this is what happened.
41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
So, we should rejoice when we suffer persecution for the cause of Christ.
Second, we rejoice in the cross.
A bit of cultural understanding is helpful and important here. When the writers of the New Testament mentioned a cross, none of them had on their mind a pretty piece of jewelry that was worn around one’s neck. That would have been the furthest thing from their minds.
The cross was a symbol of shame. It was a symbol of pain and suffering. It was a symbol of death. The cross wasn’t pretty, but as Christians, we rejoice in the cross, because it’s through the cross that we have life.
It’s through the cross that God removes the penalty of our sin. It’s through the cross that our sin is covered in the righteousness of Christ.
8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus went to the cross. He went to the cross and he bled and he died to pay a penalty that we owed. And then his body was laid in a tomb. But his body didn’t stay in the tomb. On the third day, God the Father raised his Son, Jesus, from the dead and victory was declared over the curse of sin.
If you believe this, you can have eternal life. If you turn from your sins and turn to Christ, you can have eternal life. And this is why Christians rejoice in the cross. Because it’s through the cross that Jesus bore our sin and gave us new life.
Third, and closely related to the previous point, we rejoice when others embrace Christ.
It’s one thing to rejoice in our own salvation, and, yes, that is something we ought to rejoice in. We ought to rejoice in our own salvation. But we should also rejoice when we see others embrace Christ.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a series of three parables. All of the parables have the same message—the central message is this. Rejoicing when what had been lost has now been found.
In the first parable, a man has 100 sheep, but one of his sheep has gone astray. One of his sheep is lost. He searches everywhere for that one sheep, and when he finds it, he comes home and says this.
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
In the second parable, a woman has 10 silver coins, but one of them is lost. She turns the house upside down to try and find the one coin that was lost. When she finds it, she says this.
9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’
In the third parable, a man has two sons, and one of his sons goes astray. He lives a life of sin and rebellion. When he finally gets to the end of himself, he repents of his sin and returns to his father’s house. This is what the father had to say.
23 ‘And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
It’s good and right to celebrate when someone turns from their sin and embraces Christ.
Fourth, we rejoice in our sufferings.
This is different than rejoicing in our persecutions. With persecutions, we’re referring to suffering specifically for the cause of Christ. Here, with sufferings, we’re just talking about any run of the mill sufferings. We’re talking about the suffering that comes to all of us because we live in a broken and sinful world. We should rejoice in those sufferings.
Paul writes this in Romans 5.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
In the middle of this broken and sinful world, we WILL experience sufferings. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. Don’t listen to any false teacher who’ll tell you that by the word of your faith you can speak these sufferings out of your life. That’s neither biblical nor true.
We WILL have sufferings in this world. But listen to this—this is important—our suffering in this world isn’t pointless. Our suffering isn’t pointless. God uses our sufferings for our good and for his glory. Our suffering produces endurance, which produced character, which produces hope in Christ.
So, we rejoice in our sufferings.
Fifth, we rejoice when someone walks in obedience to Christ.
We rejoice when people repent of their sins and walk in obedience to Christ. Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 7.
2 Corinthians 7:9
9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
In this passage, Paul’s writing to Christians in the church at Corinth, and many of these Christians are living in a way that would bring shame on the gospel. So, Paul decides to write a harsh letter to them. He wants to confront them in their sin. And he does just that.
And as a result of this harsh letter, the Christians in Corinth grieve over their sin and they repent of their sin. So, Paul says, “I rejoice that you repented.”
Genuine repentance is a good and godly thing. It’s something we should rejoice over. It’s a good and godly thing to walk obediently in the truth.
Sixth, and the final “rejoice,” we rejoice when the gospel is preached.
In Philippians 1, there were some people who were preaching the gospel to make a name for themselves. In other words, they weren’t preaching the gospel for the correct reason, but they were preaching the gospel.
Their gospel content was correct, but their hearts weren’t where they were supposed to be. So, what are we to make of that? Should we be happy that people are using the gospel to make a name for themselves?
Now, let me be clear, this would be different than much of what we see on TV in America today. Many—not all—but many of today’s TV preachers preach for the wrong motivation AND then to top it off, they ALSO get the gospel wrong. Paul’s not talking about that.
Paul’s addressing people who have the wrong heart motivation, but they have the gospel right. This is what Paul has to say about those people.
18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
So, we too rejoice when the gospel is preached.
These are 6 reasons Christians ought to rejoice, and we ought to rejoice with one another about these things.
My next post will explain why Christians ought to weep.