Paving a Way to Unity

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. – Romans 12:15-16

In this cultural climate where many are weeping and many others are calling for harmony, these have to be two of the most relevant verses in the Bible right now.

Weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they come hand-in-hand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one precedes the other.

The Greek word used for weeping here is klaio. It means any loud expression of grief, with an emphasis on the noise accompanied with weeping.

And we’re seeing it, aren’t we? We’re seeing pain and fear surface these days. It’s loud. And honestly? I think for most of us entrenched in white America, it’s uncomfortable. We don’t like to leave too much space for lament.

Yet, in this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us that part of our job as believers is to enter into the feelings of others. Even if they are louder than what we’re comfortable with. Even if they don’t make sense to us.

I love what Anthony Bushnell says in his post, Let’s Rise to Love Those Left in Fear:

“We don’t have to agree with the intensity of their fear in order to empathize with them. Compassion doesn’t require us to be convinced another person is entirely correct. It requires us to care about how he is feeling. Even if you think the danger won’t come to pass, the fear is certainly real.”

I immediately thought of my daughter, Salima, who has a deep-seated fear of dogs. It’s gotten better the longer she’s been with us, but when she first came home, she would crawl up my body at the sight of one, screaming like someone was about to saw off her leg. It was intense. It was extreme. And while I didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to it, it didn’t negate the fact that her fear was 100% real.

In this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us not to be like Elphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, three “friends” who tried to reason with Job when what he needed most was a sympathetic ear.

Weep with those who weep.

Because doing so ushers us closer to the harmony Paul talks about in the very next verse.

Interestingly enough, this harmony isn’t the setting aside of differences. It’s not the idea that we should all just get along. This harmony is talking about being of the same mind. It’s present tense, which means our same-mindedness should be an ongoing, continual process.

Being of the same mind means wanting for your brother or sister what you would want for yourself if you were in the same position.

The problem is, we don’t know what position the other is in. But the Lord. He is clever, isn’t He? He knows that when we step into another person’s grief and weep with them, our hearts start to go soft. Suddenly, we want to understand.

But just in case we forgot to actually do verse 15, Paul gives us a directive.

Do not be haughty.

Don’t think we somehow know better. Just because we may not be going through a thing, doesn’t mean our brother isn’t. And we certainly shouldn’t tell a person how they should feel when they are experiencing something we never have.

Don’t be wise in your own estimation.

I love how one theologian put it:

You don’t know what your brother is going through until you get down in the trenches with him.

And that’s where Jesus calls us, isn’t it? Into the trenches, so we can weep with those who weep. He calls us to put on humility. He calls us to listen well.

Instead of trying to silence the division that already exists, as if silence is somehow the same as peace, let’s step into the heart of it. Let’s do the hard work of healing, where true unity is born – the kind that makes the watching world take notice.

3 thoughts on “Paving a Way to Unity

  1. Lucretia Murphy

    This is one of the most eloquently stated expressions if empathy, especially from a white person about whites understanding (or not) black lament, that I have read. What a voice you have. Authentic, challenging, and still tender! I have appreciated your work in Guideposts, but this goes much deeper. From an African American sister in Christ, “thank you.” Also, as a mom through adoption, I am so glad to hear that Salima is home. With the delay in Guidepost’s being published I have still been praying!

     
     
    1. Thanks for being a Guidepost reader, Lucretia! And thank you for the encouragement. God’s really been opening my eyes to racial injustice these days. Learning a lot!

       
       
    2. Thanks also for those prayers, dear sister!!

       
       

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