15. Identifying with Others

Meditations in Romans, Ch.12: 15:  Identifying with Others

Rom 12: 15   Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

We said in a previous meditation that there is the temptation sometimes to push people away, people who for one reason or another don’t ‘fit’ with us or perhaps where we are at the moment. We’ve just seen in the previous meditation the tendency to push away those who persecute us and now when we come to this verse, I want to suggest that although this is a very different group of people (or two groups perhaps), there can still be that same tendency – if we re being honest with ourselves – to want to avoid, shun or even push away these people.

Paul’s next mini-exhortation(s) begins with something, Rejoice with those who rejoice”,  so mundane that we might, at first sight at least, think it is so easy, but the truth is that in both of these little exhortations there is a requirement to bring your heart in line with that of the other person and that isn’t always easy.

There are times when it will be easy for we will find a unity in also being blessed by a person, a thing or a circumstance in the same way as others around us, but supposing the cause of the rejoicing is not something particularly close to my heart. I have sometimes heard believers who pray for people in a particular part of the world, giving testimony on their behalf of things that have happened that appear blessings from God. Well yes, God does bless people all over the world, so what? But these blessings have blessed someone nearer to me, someone with whom I fellowship. It has meant something to them and they are rejoicing in it and if I come along like a little dark cloud, it can quench their pleasure which, at the very least, is a miserable thing to do! Rejoice with them!

Then there are those happy-go-lucky Christians who live in a make-believe world and for whom nothing ever goes wrong – or at least they would deny that it did – and so whom life is always wonderful and every time there is an opportunity for giving a testimony at church, they stand up and the rest of us groan. But hold on, they are rejoicing and as childlike as their faith may appear to be, it is faith and they are blessed (for the moment at least – next week they may be in the depths of despair!). But, hey, why rain on their party now. They are blessed by God, they are rejoicing and so why not join in and rejoice with them.

This leads us to face the horrible truth that actually people who are more blessed with God and life generally are sometimes sickening to be with. I was once going through a down time with God though did not realise it at the time. I had been filled with the spirit, exercised spiritual gifts, knew the joy of the Lord and then for some reason or other took on board teaching that denied these things, and so shut down. A little while went by before the Lord gracious dealt with me and in the same day, at intervals, put three ‘frothy Christians’ across my path (that’s how we see them don’t we). They were all people who I knew had been filled with the Spirit. By the end of the day I went before the Lord and said, “Lord, I have been stupid. I had your joy and rejected it. I know I can argue from both sides of the theological fence, but these three you have sent across my path have something I haven’t got and I would rather have the lives that they have than the way I’m feeling now. Please forgive me.” And He graciously restored me, filled me afresh and I knew again the joy of the Lord. So come on, do these ‘frothy’ people who cause you aggravation have something you don’t have, and is it time to do something about that?

But then comes the question of mourning: “Mourn with those who mourn.” It sounds simple at first sight but it’s not. The problem (from my point of view) is that people mourn in all different sorts of ways and you have to let people be the people they are. I have lost my parents and my wife’s parents and I have mildly regretted their going, but they have all gone to heaven which is a gloriously better place, and knowing the difficulties with health they each struggled with, with that reality firmly in my heart and mind, my mourning was of a shallow emotional kind.

But I have taken funerals where the mourners come in sobbing their hearts our and although the service serves to bring a measure of comfort, afterwards I see them sobbing again – and they’ll probably carry on sobbing for weeks or month to come. For goodness sake, get over it, they’ve gone and there’s nothing you can do about it, live with it! Well no, that’s not empathising with where they are and it is not mourning with those who mourn. We may want to bring comfort but we cannot hasten the natural progress of these things.

I was always impressed with Job’s three friends when they first arrived. They just sat with him for a week, saying nothing, and that’s all he wanted, and often in these situation it is all we want. Comforting words, although well meant, don’t touch the awful ache in our hearts; only time and the Lord can deal with that. He is, after all, the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3). Sometimes people just want you to be there for them and that means standing with them and sharing what they feel without denying what they feel. A hug and a tear can often be more helpful than lots of well-meaning words.

So there we are, we are called to put aside what we’re feeling and join in with those around us who are either rejoicing or mourning. It means empathy and it means unity. In putting aside ‘self’ we bring into being an opportunity to build unity, love and acceptance of others. May it be so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s