Romans 12 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Coming out of Romans 11, Paul instructs Christians to give themselves wholly to God. He tells us to be transformed by God, not conformed to what’s going on around us. He goes on to give some characteristics of the truly transformed, of the mature believer.
vs. 4 – We are all one body and belong to each other
vs. 9 – Don’t pretend to love others. Really love them.
vs. 10 – Love each other with a genuine affection
*vs. 11 – Don’t be lazy, but work hard in serving God.
*vs. 12 – Be patient in troubling times and continue praying
vs. 13 – When God’s people need you, be ready to be there for them and help you
vs. 15 – Be happy with those who are happy, but weep with those who weep
I put an asterisk next to three of those verses, because we tend to separate them from their context. But they were written in the context of loving other Christians. The verses surrounding them, written in the same paragraph, are clearly about loving other Christians well. So why do we separate them out? What if God wants us to not be lazy in our relationships with other Christians? What if He wants us to put in a full effort, knowing that loving and serving other Christians is loving and serving Him? What if He expects us to be patient and prayerful in times of trouble for other Christians, because they don’t always pass quickly? I believe He does want that from Christians, as Paul wraps up the section by telling us to be weep with those who weep. I believe these verses are all talking about loving other Christians well, because they were placed together, in the same paragraph, in the same context.
I think Christians have a long history of being really good at living out Romans 12:15a, but Romans 12:15b is much harder. Someone has a healthy baby? We love to rejoice with them. Two Christians get married and start their lives together? We love it. We celebrate it. Someone is in an extended time of pain and struggle, be it from mental illness, betrayals, other physical, long-term ailments? We’re not as good at that. We say pithy things, we offer “solutions,” and we hope to fix the situation. When the situation is ongoing and beyond our ability to fix it, a lot of us tire out. We slowly give up and walk away, telling ourselves, “well, I tried.” But we weren’t told to try at this point. We were told to weep with those who weep. There’s no talking in weeping. There’s no advice. There’s just loving someone so much that their hurt hurts you.
I had the opportunity to listen to Rick Warren speak last week. He shared about his grief and loss when his son Matthew took his own life. It was emotional, but it was also powerful. It was also life-giving and hope-inspiring to listen to a prominent Evangelical leader discuss depression and how to care for the hurting. I didn’t grow up hearing pastors and Christian leaders talk like that. I grew up hearing depression, anxiety, any other mental illness described as sins and a lack of faith. Although I haven’t heard anyone say that out loud in a long time, I have witnessed behaviors that reveal hearts that believe it. I’m encouraged that the truth of grief is being taught. Rick Warren made a number of salient points that I want to share, as one of my deepest desires for the church is that we would care for our hurting, not step over them when we cannot fix them.
- The deeper the pain, the fewer the words.
– Sometimes there isn’t anything you can say.
– “Do you ever think that, sometimes the reason why you don’t have the words to say until after you leave someone is
because God doesn’t want you to?” Sarah Selph, not Rick Warren
– Show up and shut up.
– People need the ministry of your presence.
- There is no expiration on grief.
– People’s grief shows up in different ways, in different amounts, for different amounts of time.
– Don’t expect people to just get better.
– Don’t talk someone out of an emotion. If you love them, feel it with them.
Mature believers care for others. The transformed believer hurts when other Christians hurt. Being happy with the happy is the easiest thing you’ll ever do. Even babies laugh and smile when others laugh and smile around them. It takes a mature person to sit silently in someone else’s pain and feel it with them regardless of how long it takes. That is being the body of Christ.