WALKING IN LOVE
‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion’.
We have been studying about walking in love with our brethren. Often, our interpersonal relationships are influenced by the circumstances and situations of our lives. A few weeks ago, we studied about how our reaction ought to be when we face persecution. We learned that instead of cursing our persecutors in anger, we must bless them by speaking good words regarding them to God in prayer.
Today, we are going to study about another situation that we come across in life and about our reaction at such times.
THE DILEMMA OF REJOICING
Verse 15 in the above passage says that we must rejoice with those rejoice and weep with those who weep. We may think that the first part of the instruction is easy to follow, and that the second part is difficult to follow. Don’t we all have fun, laughter, joy and celebration a at a friend’s birthday or anniversary? On the other hand, visiting a grieving person is quite difficult for many of us, right? Because we wouldn’t know the right words to comfort them with, it’s distressing to see them in pain, right? Well, if we actually think about it, we will be quite surprised to note that rejoicing with someone who is rejoicing is much harder than weeping with one who is sorrowing.
Let me explain it for us.
When someone is grieving, often we don’t have to say anything. We just need to be there with them quietly. There is no need to wax eloquent or say anything spiritual or intelligent sounding. We need to only quietly grieve along with them. Anybody can do that!
But when a person does well in life and invites us to celebrate his success with him, many of us will struggle to cheer him along wholeheartedly. That’s because deep down in our heart there is a twinge of envy that creeps up. We are all tainted and ruled by sin. The ugly face of selfishness in us insists that we must have preference and control over others in every area of life.Our self-centeredness in everything causes us to really become horrible to live with.
Do you remember the story that C.S. Lewis tells in his book, ‘Four Loves’? He says that a very hard working mother of a house used to be the boss of her home. Nothing happened without her knowledge and everybody answered to her and toed her line. She was the driving force behind her family. But when she died, her entire family breathed a sigh of relief. The mother’s overwhelming love was tainted by control and selfishness.
This same selfishness is what makes it difficult for us to rejoice with someone who is doing well in life. Pride and jealousy sweeps over us and we struggle to celebrate with them wholeheartedly. That’s also precisely the reason why Paul lists rejoicing before weeping. Rejoicing with someone in their success is more of a test of the profession of our Christian faith than weeping with those who are grieving.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
If we look at the world around us, we will find people dealing with envy and competitiveness in different ways. One such way is where people pretend to be happy for us and smile along while all the while they are boiling with dislike and envy for us. Their public behavior will be impeccable but inwardly they are hoping for a chance to see us topple down. Such kind of hypocritical behavior will make us suppress our feelings and give us stress and ailments.
The Bible on the other hand teaches us that when we become a follower of Jesus, our pride dies. Because, where once our ‘self’ ruled now Christ begins to rule. Romans 12:1-2 says, ‘I beseech your therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God’. At salvation, we are made a new creation, regenerated and transformed. We now become members of God’s family where we cannot afford to be self centered and self seeking. I remember as a young boy from a large family that I had to learn sharing with my siblings early on. I could not selfishly eat all the food on the table without considering my younger siblings’ needs.Let me give you another example. It’s like the members of a body. No single organ can pride itself as being more important than the others based on their positioning and size. Each one is important to ensure that the body functions well.
Similarly, when members of our family are rejoicing or grieving, how can we not rejoice or grieve with them? Their success or failure will affect us too because we are all from the same family of God. That’s why Paul does not instruct us to ‘stop being or feeling jealous’. Instead, he commands us to rejoice. That’s a positive reaction! Any other reaction besides this is negative. The reason is that it is not enough for us to stop envying; we must be able to rejoice. Only then can we be truly spiritually mature.
We can understand this better by looking at Paul’s example. 2 Corinthians 11:26-29 says,‘in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness. Besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak?Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?’
Here is Paul who has faced numerous perils in his ministry. But none of those personal struggles affect him as much as his concern for all the churches. He had been hearing that many of the early churches were being deceived by false preachers! It has burdened him to such an extent where he asks how he could be happy when he knows that one of the members of God’s family is suffering. In most cases, these members are in some other town but Paul burns with indignation thinking of their misguided walk. In other words, Paul demonstrates to us that we are all a new creation and connected to one another. So when one of our family members succeeds in life, we must rejoice with him and praise God. When another member stumbles, we must grieve with him and comfort him. That’s the positive reaction that God desires from us. Of course we can’t do this by ourselves. We need the supernatural power and strength of God’s Word and Spirit to help us.
INTERRELATION BETWEEN FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS
Let’s move on to Romans 12:16 that says, ‘Be of the same mind toward one another. Don’t set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion’. This verse is closely related to Paul’s previous instruction about rejoicing and weeping. Let me show you how.
We cannot feel the happiness and joy without really setting our mind straight. Feelings cannot be isolated from thoughts. In fact, thoughts are the basis of our feelings.
That implies we need to firstly be of the same mind towards one another. We need to stop our quarrels and fights. Let’s look at some Biblical passages that talks about it.
- 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, ‘Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment’.
- 1 Corinthians 11:17-19 says, ‘Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it’. The church is meant to come together and enjoy worshipping God and fellowshipping with one another. But instead Paul had been hearing that there were strife and quarrels at their meetings.
- Philippians 1:27 says, ‘Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel’. Paul emphasizes to the Philippian church about how he wishes they would be of the same mind.
- Philippians 3:15,16 says,‘Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind’. Paul once again exhorts us to be of one mind with each other.
HOW CAN WE BE OF THE SAME MIND?
If we are not of the same mind then we cannot rejoice with those who rejoice and grieve with those grieve. Paul goes on to tell us how we can be of the same mind.
Do not be high minded
Firstly, we must not be high minded. That means we must not be carried away by things that inflate us or lead us to arrogance, pride and haughtiness because of our knowledge.
- In Psalm 131, the psalmist says, ‘Lord my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me.Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me’.Knowledge is good, but it can sometimes lead us to arrogance and pride. Here we see King David who is mighty and powerful, humbling himself before God and acknowledging that He needed God’s help.
- In 1 Corinthians 8:1 we read about Paul addressing the Corinthian church. He says, ‘Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge.Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.’Most believers of the Corinthian church used to worship idols in the past and eat food offered to idols. But some members of the church now ate food offered to the idols saying that all idols were lifeless and could do them no harm. Their knowledge was correct but it bothered the new believers who had just come out of such a background and were afraid of eating such food. It caused them to stumble. Knowledge without love leads to pride and causes people to falter.
Sometime ago, I bought a new car. When I went to the showroom to pick it up, I realized that the staff there had already performed some rituals over the car and were waiting for me to do some more. I politely thanked them and asked whether it would be alright with them if I prayed instead. I gathered all of them together and prayed for God’s blessing on each of them. They were all surprised and grateful! The thing was that I had already prayed and thanked God for the car and wasn’t bothered by their prayers to the idols. But I shouldn’t be condescending in my response to a weaker believer. I need to season my knowledge with lots of love.
The importance of this truth is especially true when we are probably the only Christian influence among our family and friends. If we sit in judgement over them and condemn their lifestyle and actions, we will only put them off from the Christian faith. We may be absolutely right in our knowledge, but our attitude will discredit Jesus and the Gospel. Instead, let us speak God’s truth into their lives with love, grace and sensitivity.
Associate with the humble
The second part of Romans 12:16 says that we must ‘associate with the humble’. A better translation would reads ‘do not allow yourself to be carried awayby things that inflate you and lead you to arrogance’.Instead allow yourself to be carried away in a different manner – associate with the humble’.
Let us look at a Scripture passage to understand this clearly. Galatians 2:11-13says, ‘Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy’. Peter had been hanging out with the Gentiles. But when the Jews from Jerusalem came, he began to act self-righteously. He separated himself from the Gentiles and associated only with the Jews. His attitude led even Barnabas to be carried away and lead astray. Paul was upset by this attitude and rebuked Peter. It is this same context of being ‘carried away’ that Paul uses to describe Romans 12:16. He says that we must be sensitive to not just the poor but even the new Christian believers who are probably different from them and weak. We must be gracious and loving towards them. Instead of showing off our spiritual arrogance, Paul exhorts us to lovingly embrace and reach out to them.
If we adopt such an attitude of humility and love for our brethren, there will be much peace in our families and relationships. Soon people will want to follow Jesus, fall in line with the Word of God and live by the truth of the Gospel.