Sharing the Pain and Joy
One mark of genuine relationships is that pain and joy are felt when others are sad or glad. That true empathy is a God-given quality of human beings. It helps to bind marriages and families: it is celebrated at births, weddings and deaths; and felt in the unexpected circumstances of life. That empathy is also evidence of the close bond between the members of the Body of Christ, the church (Acts 12:1-5).
An injured toe or finger, although minor in comparison with the rest of the body, focuses the whole body's attention on the suffering part, enabling it to be protected and comforted as it heals. In the same way, the Body of Christ feels the pain when one believer is suffering, and the church is motivated to do whatever is necessary to comfort and protect, seeking the Lord's grace and healing (James 5:13-16). Joy is also shared (Romans 12:15). It is a proper part of our fellowship, and joy over answered prayer affirms the goodness of God to the whole church.
This is particularly true in times of persecution, when individual members of a church are ill-treated, when whole churches are oppressed, when pastors are taken away, when families are separated, and when people lose their jobs or homes for believing in Jesus. Paul was preparing the church in Corinth for such times, but the self-centred, loveless competition in the church was getting in the way of true fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:10) - which is one of God's tools to apply love to any hurt and joy to any display of His grace.
In Christ we are blood brothers and sisters, all sheltering from evil under the blood of Calvary. None of us is any better than a sinner saved by grace. Apart from Christ we are nothing but with Him we have all we need (Romans 8:32). We are born again into the family of God (John 1:12) and we need to practise loving each other and allowing the Holy Spirit to move us to empathy and action to care for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25). Rapid global communication also means that we can know about believers we will never meet before heaven: and our hearts go out to them (2 Corinthians 9:14). This is the normal way for Christ's Body to respond to any insult to any part of it in the local or global church. Let the Lord stir your heart, pray and then act with Christ's love.
© Dr Paul Adams