Question: "What does it mean to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15)?"
Answer: In Romans 12:1–2 Paul explains believers’ responsibilities to present their bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice, to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, and to avoid being conformed to the world. One specific way we express the transformation of a renewed mind is to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). God is great in mercy, and He intends for us to live lives that reflect that mercy. Believers should walk humbly, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3), in part because we are all members of the body of Christ. In a sense, we are all part of each other (Romans 12:4–5)—we are family.
God has given believers various ways to express His grace to others (some call these “gifts” or “spiritual gifts”), and Paul explains how we should carefully and faithfully express His grace to each other, using the tools God has provided (Romans 12:6–8). There are some ways we can express grace uniquely—we may have certain gifts, skills, or tools that someone else might not. But then there are ways that we are all expected to express His grace to others, and Paul discusses some of those in Romans 12:9 and following, all the way through the end of Romans 15.
One way that we express God’s grace to each other is identified in Romans 12:15—we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Paul adds an instruction that we be of the same mind with each other (Romans 12:16). If a brother or sister is rejoicing over something wonderful that has happened, we should share in that joy. We are members of the same body—we are family. We should take joy in that which brings our brothers and sisters joy.
Conversely, we need to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). There are times of sadness or heartbreak. There are times of grief, and when others are encountering those difficult times, we can come alongside them and share that burden with them. Consider how in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17 Paul explains that, when a loved one who is in Christ dies, he or she will one day be resurrected, and we will be together with the Lord. Because of that truth, we don’t need to grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Still, there is grief. And when a brother or sister encounters grief, we shouldn’t tell him or her to “get over it” or even remind the grieving one that he or she should always rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16). On the contrary, Paul helps us understand we should be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10), and we need to weep with those who weep. While it is certainly true that we should always rejoice and that we don’t ever have a hopeless grief, we need to express grace and love and weep with those who weep.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful examples of weeping with those who weep is found in the shortest verse in the Bible—“Jesus wept” (John 11:35). When Lazarus died, Jesus traveled to Bethany with the intention of raising him from the dead. Given Christ’s knowledge, it would seem there was no reason for Him to grieve, but when He was around those who were stricken with grief, Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33), and He wept. In the same way, even though we know that God always designs a positive outcome for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), it is still right for us to share the burden of grief and help each other through the pains of life. To weep with those who weep is part of being family in the body of Christ.