Scripture: Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (NKJV)

Observation: The commentators of the “Andrews Study Bible” write, “This verse describes in concrete terms what it means to be compassionate; the opposite of compassion is a spirit of competition that finds pleasure in the misery of others.” (Andrews Study Bible Notes. 2010 (J. L. Dybdahl, Ed.). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press)
Utley, in “The Gospel According to Paul” adds, “These two PRESENT INFINITIVES are used in the sense of IMPERATIVES. Christians are a family. Believers are not in competition, but must treat each other in family love. Because of the context of vv. 14–21 it is even possible that this reflects the believer’s response to the unbelieving community using cultural opportunities or circumstances for evangelistic opportunities.” (Utley, R. J., 1998, Volume 5: The Gospel according to Paul: Romans. Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.)

Application: The words sympathy and empathy are closely related, so it’s best to define them to better understand them.  Empathy means understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes.  Sympathy, on the other hand, means acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.
     Here are a couple of examples of empathy:
– I understand what you are feeling and empathize with your situation. (Using the word empathy)
– I understand your pain; my mother too passed away last year. (Expressing empathy)
     In contrast, here are a couple of examples of sympathy:
– I have never lost a pet, but I sympathize with your loss. (Using the word sympathy)
– I was sorry to hear about your father. Is there anything I can do to help you during this difficult time? (Expressing sympathy)
     The apostle Paul encourages us to sympathize and empathize with others.  We cannot take the feelings away from the other person; they are their feelings.  Nor can we negate, minimize, or devalue those feelings. . . again, they are their feelings.  What Paul says is that when the love of God is in our hearts, we rejoice with those who rejoice – we are not envious of them nor will we want to throw a wet towel on their fire or rain on their parade.  At the same time, when others weep, we don’t need to try to get them to “pull themselves by their bootstraps” when we think they should, or stop crying because it makes us feel uncomfortable.  Instead, we are encouraged to explore their pain and feel it with them when bad things happen as much as we should rejoice together when good things happen.
     In marriage and in family relations, let’s be sympathetic with our spouse, our parents, or our children, and be empathetic with the feelings they are experiencing and expressing.

A Prayer You May Say: father God, help us to feel with others as well as to feel for others, and may we openly rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.



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