Romans 12:9-15
Love must be free of hypocrisy. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Paul described himself as a “bondservant of Christ” (Romans 1:1). People imprisoned him often, beaten “times without number, often in danger of death,” received thirty-nine lashes five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked three times, hungry, thirsty, tired, and cold (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). He goes on to recount the emotional and spiritual pressures he faced of “daily pressure” of concern for the churches, a weakness for those who are weak, and “intense concern” for those led to sin (2 Corinthians 11:28-29).

Paul calls the church to love, hate evil, and cling to what is good. He pushes the church to honor one another and not to lag in diligence. He reminds the church to not get lazy but to remain fervent and caring for your duties and work. He teaches you to persevere when things are hard. To keep praying. To help those in the church with their needs and to invite people over so you can practice hospitality.

Even still, Paul knew that the church would be persecuted. So, still he pushes the church to bless those who are out to harm them. He tells the church not to curse others.

Blessing others in the middle of hardship is…hard! It takes great emotional intelligence and strength of mind.

Then he goes on to say, weep with those who weep. This is often the one that comes naturally. When a friend's beloved child is gone, crying with them comes easy. When someone you prayed with remains sick, crying over a difficult diagnosis just seems to happen. Crying when a home is foreclosed on, a divorce is imminent, or a parent passes, the tears can’t be held back.

But. In the middle of all of this, Paul admonishes those in dire straits to also rejoice with those who rejoice. It takes spiritual growth to relish someone else's blessings when you feel left behind. It takes deep prayer and a move of the Holy Spirit to joyfully celebrate with a brother or sister when they get what you want. In the middle of deep persecution, many difficulties, weeping, and stress rejoicing with those who rejoice is a spiritual discipline.

These days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). Depression, anxiety, and fear consume our overworked, overscheduled families, children, and even the church. Yet, Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 11:15) and “rejoice in hope” (Romans 11:12). He repeats it in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always!” In Philippians 4:4 Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice!

You find the same spiritual discipline in Nehemiah 8:10, where Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you find nothing and no one to rejoice with or for, the mighty word of God tells you what to rejoice in. Luke 10:20 says, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Zechariah wrote, “Rejoice greatly…your king comes to you, righteous and victorious” (Zechariah 9:9). Paul writes love, “rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Habakkuk wrote “rejoice in the Lord” and “be joyful in God” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Habakkuk wrote that when there was no produce, the crops failed, there was no food, and no cattle. Still, he said, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord."

So, on this day, the word of the Lord says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” And if there is no one to rejoice for, rejoice in heaven, in the king, in truth, and in the Lord.

Even so, Amen.