The italicized heading tucked into the middle of Romans 12 within my Bible says, “Marks of the True Christian.” And then, just a few words below that heading is the exhortation to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
A cursory reflection on the meaning of the word “weep” suggests weeping as an indication of grief and pain—mourning. Moreover, it implies crying like a child and lamenting loudly. It is a deep pain, an internal suffering implying solidarity with another in his or her own pain.
It is the word used to describe the weeping over the children of Bethlehem killed by Herod’s henchmen (Matthew 2:18). It is the word used to describe Peter’s bitter grief when the cock’s crow convicted him of his denial of Christ (Matthew 26:75). It is the word used to characterize the repentant spirit sinners should have when confronted with their transgressions (James 4:9).
It is a word that suggests very deep hurt.
And it is the word that best describes my reaction to the shooting in Orlando—forty-nine fellow image bearers gunned down by an Islamic terrorist. It is the word that best describes my reaction to the ongoing violence within North Minneapolis, not far from my own neighborhood. It is the word that best describes my grief over the persistent pain too many of my African-American friends carry because of an historical and real-time experience that attempts to rob them of their God-given dignity. It is the word that reflects the angst in my spirit over just under 200 kids a week in Minnesota who need foster care. It is the word that reveals my ache over the bombings and other kinds of attacks that kill crowds of bystanders nearly every day throughout the Levant. It is the word that gives meaning to the sensation I feel when I think about the many persecuted Christians tucked away in places like North Korea or Iran or Nigeria. It is the word that best describes what I feel because my LGBTQ friends are literally hated by so many of those who claim to follow Christ Jesus.
It is what we Christians are to experience when humanity around us suffers. Yes, in the face of tragedy and terror, there is an appropriate need for righteous indignation and even real action that is meaningful and effective. Islamic terrorism must be confronted. Sacred justice must be realized for the precious people of North Minneapolis. Our LGBTQ friends and family should never have to live in fear. Neither should followers of Jesus Christ, no matter where they are in the world. And kids ought never be lost because of broken families and governmental red tape.
But in the midst of it all we must also weep.
We must lament.
We must grieve.
We must allow ourselves to suffer a bit more within.
To do so affirms not just our own humanity but the humanity of us all.
And to do so better reflects the heart of the Lord Jesus who himself was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, on behalf of us all.