It has been 12 weeks since I last worshipped with my church and in that time many of them have experienced trials and have suffered loss. Many have wept over fears and concerns that have threatened to steal their joy. In this time of being apart I have been pondering Romans 12:15 which commands “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and wondering how that can be done when we cannot be together. While Charles Simeon offers little help with the social distancing, he does offer help with what it means to carry out the spirit of the command. (This is an excerpt from his Horae Homilecticae which, despite the intimidating name, is some of the most accessible and most consistently helpful material in my Logos library.)
As creatures, we have many duties to perform towards our Creator: and, as members of one universal family, we have duties also towards each other. We all participate one common lot. The present state is subject to great varieties of good and evil; and all in their turn experience occasional alternations of joy and sorrow, of elevation and depression. In these successive changes, we naturally look for some to sympathize with us. We expect, that they who are partakers of humanity, should feel some interest in our affairs: and, if we find no one that has a heart in unison with our own, we seem to ourselves as outcasts from the human race. Now the dispositions which we expect to find exercised towards us, we are called to exercise towards others. The joys and sorrows of others should, as it were by sympathy, be made our own: we should “rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
Sympathy is of the very essence of Christ’s religion: “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” says the Apostle, “and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Yes: he has taught us this both by precept and example: he bids us “love one another, as he has loved us.” And how has he loved us? He pitied us in our fallen state, and came down from the bosom of his Father to seek and save us. And during the whole of his abode upon earth, but more especially in his last hours, “he bare our infirmities, and carried our sorrows.” And at this present moment we are authorized to say, that “he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” and that there is neither a benefit nor an injury that we receive, but he feels it as done immediately to himself. Such is the effect which the Gospel produces upon all who receive it in spirit and in truth.
Let a sense of Christ’s love to us be duly impressed on our hearts; and it will immediately excite in us a love to all mankind, though in a more especial manner to the household of faith. See, with your own eyes, brethren; What is it that has given birth to Bible Societies, and Mission Societies, and to numberless other institutions that respect the welfare of men’s souls? It is the Gospel: the Gospel, faithfully administered, and affectionately received. Such ever was, and ever will be, the fruit of faith; for “faith worketh by love.” Seek ye then to become possessed of a true and living faith: and know, that the more entirely you live by faith on the Son of God, as having loved you, and given himself for you, the more you will drink into his spirit, and be transformed into his blessed image: nor will you fix any other bounds to your sympathies, than he has affixed to his.