The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Paul may have meant the first part of verse 16—“Be of the same mind toward one another”—as the same subject. For example, when a companion has a mind to rejoice, try to have that same mind.
Romans 12:15 is not a mere suggestion.
Of those two commands, which of them is generally more natural to do? Before I thought much about this question, I assumed the rejoicing would be easier. But typically not so. For many people, sympathizing with the sorrowful is more natural and automatic. Keep in mind that Paul is not referring to our own joys and sorrows. The issue is this: How do you react to another person’s joys and sorrows?
What initially changed my thinking? It was reading the following in one of my Bible commentaries: “Of the two [commands], however, it is more easy to sympathize with another’s sorrows than his joys, because in the one case he needs us; in the other not” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown).
Because of human nature, we could think of other possible factors. Because of selfishness, we can lack the interest and patience to listen another’s good news. Because of jealousy, we might even feel self-pity rather than joy when hearing of another person’s good fortune.
Of course, true Christians are called to replace selfish human nature with “love your neighbor as yourself.” In 1 Corinthians 12, the members of the Church are compared with the interdependent “members” of the human body to illustrate our critical need for a team mindset and mutual support for one another. Verse 26 says “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
You not only encourage a person when you rejoice with him, you actually increase his joy, so it is an act of love! Trying to celebrate alone is never much of a celebration. This is one reason why Sabbaths and Holy Days and other opportunities for church fellowship and group worship are so important! We can better celebrate God and His blessing when we are together! Many scriptures tell us to gather together and “rejoice before the Lord” and “rejoice in the Lord!”
God dearly loves us and sets the example—He rejoices over us! Zephaniah wrote, God “will rejoice over you with gladness . . . He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
In return, we must continually express our gratitude and joy to God for His countless blessings. Jesus told His disciples their greatest reason to rejoice: “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
To rejoice means to express joy!
The word “joy” is in the New King James Bible 158 times and the word “rejoice” is there 199 times! Thus God has made it clear that having joy and expressing our joy (rejoicing) are super important! That’s partly because joy is contagious. Happy people are uplifting and edifying—they influence others to be positive and happy. Daily news is largely depressing. We need to cheer one another up.
Joy greatly depends on gratitude. A contented and joyful person is one who focuses on what he has rather than what he does not have. He has a positive attitude of looking at a glass as half-full rather than half-empty. A joyful person gives other people a lot of credit for his blessings and he especially gives God the primary credit. Remember that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights!” (James 1:17). Paul wrote, “Rejoice always . . . give thanks in all circumstances” (Romans 5:16, 18, English Standard Version).
Sadly, some people even neglect to express joy and gratitude for their own blessings. On the other hand, many not only celebrate their special occasions, like a wedding or baptism, but also invite others to join them in those celebrations. These are delightful experiences!
God clearly wants His people to genuinely rejoice over the blessings of other people, especially our families, fellow church members and friends (see Galatians 6:9-10). Be supportive! Be glad! Enjoy what they are enjoying! Don’t “rain on their parades.” Applaud and promote their parades! Be a cheerleader!
And, parents, be sure to teach your children all about these principles and practices! Be sure to be joyful role models and establish happy family traditions. Some stories and songs are helpful for children. Some examples: If You’re Happy (“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”), When You’re Smiling (“When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.) or Don’t Worry—Be Happy.
Actions are more important than feelings
God’s Word makes it clear that actions are more important than feelings and emotions. Love is to be expressed with action, and joy is to be expressed with action. Rejoicing and celebrating can include conversing, reminiscing, singing, playing or listening to music, praying, clapping, laughing, dancing, decorating, etc.!
In fact, consider looking up all the scriptures that have the word “rejoice” or similar words. It is fascinating how often they suggest literal actions! “Shout joyfully to the Lord . . . break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises . . . with the harp . . . with trumpets and the sound of a horn” (Psalm 98:4-6). “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!” (Psalm 150:4).
There are many ways to congratulate someone. Say “Congratulations,” or shake hands. Give a thumbs up, a pat on the back or a high-five. Consider sending your friend a congratulations card or a congratulatory email.
In some circumstances, you can offer to help a companion celebrate by suggesting you go out to eat together. You might offer to pay for the meal. For special occasions, you and others might arrange a party to celebrate in a big way.
How do our attitudes compare with those in Luke 15?
Luke 15 is a very inspiring chapter about God’s amazing grace and forgiveness.
In verses 1-10, Jesus tells two important parables to emphasize how much God wants to forgive and save every single person. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
The two parables are logical and excellent illustrations, but, very sadly, they seem quite unrealistic in this 21st century. The two stories portray people as having close relationships with their neighbors and as having confidence that their neighbors will have enthusiastic interest in their successes and blessings. But today’s society is different in many ways. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3 that that “in the last days . . . men will be lovers of themselves . . . unthankful . . . unloving, unforgiving . . . brutal . . . haughty . . . ” (verses 1-4).
First, compare Luke 15:3-7 with how a sheep rancher with the wrong mindset might react if one sheep strayed away. “That really irritates me that that sheep wandered off! Well, I still have 99 sheep so I can afford to lose one once in a while. I’m not going to waste my time searching all over it! And if I did find it, I would still be in a bad mood. And if I found it, I wouldn’t tell my neighbors about it because they wouldn’t care about what happens to my sheep. And I wouldn’t even bother to tell my friends because they would regard my contacting them about this as uninteresting and wasting their time.”
Regarding the second parable in Luke 15:8-10 about a woman searching for and finding a lost coin, we can easily imagine a very different mindset today that what Jesus described.
What is the main point of analyzing these two parables? The more selfish, self-centered and self-pitying we are, the less likely we are to sincerely rejoice with those who rejoice. As this world strays farther and farther from God, people’s attitudes and reactions are less and less like those that Jesus described.
So as God’s people, we must continually resist the constant bad influences surrounding us and stay close to God! I have to examine myself. Would I look diligently for the lost sheep and do it with a patient, caring and compassionate attitude? Do I strive to have a close relationship with my friends and neighbors? If my neighbor found a lost sheep, would I want to hear about it and rejoice with him?
Consider the instructive parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. If I had a wild and wasteful brother who finally came home, would I wholeheartedly rejoice and want to celebrate? Or would I be like the brother in the parable who was unforgiving, jealous and self-pitying? We can apply these lessons to many different situations today. We also have to be on guard against being self-satisfied and self-righteous because we are making the mistake of judging ourselves by how we compare with others instead of God’s perfect standards (see Luke 18:9-14 and 2 Corinthians 10:12).
In summary, what a monumental blessing that God’s Word teaches us to love—and how to love! Jesus teaches us to be God-centered and other-centered instead of self-centered. And if we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will rejoice with them when they are rejoicing!
This is the second in a two-part series covering Romans 12:15— "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” The first article, Weep With Those Who Week, can be found here: ucg.org/members/united-news/weep-with-those-who-weep.