Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.—Romans 12:15
It isn’t the perfect example, but remember Ben Stiller’s character from the movie Heavyweights? He’s an annoying guy who is so sold out on his “mission”—starting a fat camp in order to sell an infomercial—that he becomes totally detached from reality. He is unkind, tortures others, and, at his very best, is completely annoying. (Here’s a sneak peek for those who weren’t kids in the 1990’s.)
I bring the character up because it is the one so many Christians dupe themselves into playing. In the name of “mission” or faith, we wear plastic smiles to go along with our caffeinated giddiness. And the result? People around us think us crazy, medicated, indoctrinated, and, at our very best, annoying.
But the truth is, true Christianity doesn’t produce an out-of-touch, ongoing happiness, as much as it transforms us ever closer to the genuine self we were made to be. It is not all prancing and posies through the frolicking fields. No, it is a truer connection—one rooted in joy—which is so secure in its own identity in Christ that it becomes perfectly real. A true believer, growing in Christlikeness, no longer is “acting” but is living. And in this way, that true believer is filled with an overwhelming empathy for his or her fellow human.
This is why we see Christ cry in the Gospels. It is because tears are of this world. Death and pain exist. They cannot swallow our joy—certainly not!—but they can cause sadness, deep, deep sadness.
We are to walk in Christ, and out of that walk, we are to walk with others. In that, there will be times of rejoicing, and we should join that rejoicing without envy and jealousy poisoning such moments. Also, there will be times of immense sorrow—many of us know this all too well—and in those moments we are to grieve and to weep and to speak the hope of light into the grave darkness.
The ability to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn is our charge, and it is only possible when we are rooted deeply in who Christ is and who we are in Him.