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What does it mean to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15)?

rejoice with those who rejoice

Romans 12:15 encourages empathy, urging believers to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (NKJV). In this chapter, Paul switches from the teaching of doctrine to a discussion of practical living. He opens with the admonition, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1, ESV). It is within the context of living our lives according to the gospel that we are told to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

A poignant example of one who wept with those who wept is Jesus Himself, after Lazarus’ death. Despite knowing He would raise Lazarus again, Jesus joined Mary and Martha in their sorrow (John 11:35). Another picture of Christ’s empathy is given in Hebrews 4:15, which presents Jesus as the High Priest who understands our weaknesses.

To rejoice with those who rejoice is to appreciate their good fortune and find joy in their success. This counters envy. To weep with those who weep is to carry the burden of others and share in their sorrow. This counters apathy and disinterest. Christ wept with us, being “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). He rejoiced with us, being “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” at the disciples’ success in ministry (Luke 10:21).

The command to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep hints at the ups and downs of Christian living. Life has hills and valleys. We will not always rejoice, and we will not always weep. Life in a broken world means that there will be good fortune and daunting challenges. There is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

As believers in Christ, we shouldn’t be aloof to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, nor overly wary of their success. Scripture calls us to genuine empathy, seeing others through Christ’s eyes. We can share the ups and downs of life together.

The empathy required in Romans 12:15 can be counterintuitive, and the command can be challenging to obey. When going through the valleys, rejoicing in others’ success may seem unfair, especially when their success aligns with our desires. Similar to what Job’s friends did, we may rationalize someone’s suffering, forgetting compassion. Perhaps this is why Paul begins the epistle of Romans with a look at the gospel, emphasizing the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. The empathy required of Christians—as well as other ethical obligations—should be obeyed based on the gospel that saves us. Through the empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

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What does it mean to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15)?
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This page last updated: December 28, 2023