[All Bible verses quoted are from the English Standard Version.]
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
The second part of this verse almost surely takes you to a memory of loss, the death of someone you were close to. Even most people have already experienced the death of a grandparent or school friend by the time they have become young adults and many possibly the loss of a parent or sibling. There are as well other types of loss that can break our hearts evoking pain and tears, but death is where our hearts and minds usually turn to first and what I will address now.
What do you say to someone who has just suffered that loss? There are no perfect words. Consider what had been said to you when you were the one receiving sympathies from others. People made an attempt to say something helpful. It is often just as awkward receiving the expressions of sympathy as giving them. Even we, the clergy, who have more experience than most have not found the right things to say. Talking rarely helps much at the time, but knowing that people are trying to show that they care can provide some comfort.
The Lord Jesus is the only one who knows what to say, how to say it, and when to speak. I have learned to seek him for guidance each time and to lend my ear to receive instruction from the Holy Spirit.
I present to you a simple and by no means complete summary of the chapter Romans 12. As is said in verse 1-2a, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
Our Roman brethren and we who have accepted Jesus as Lord are exhorted to, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. Without the lordship of Jesus in your life, you are centered-on-self. When Jesus is Lord of your life, He is to be on your personal throne. When Jesus is not lord, then you are lord, and you are sitting on the throne of your life and in control. (In the New Testament, an individual recognized and yielded to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and thus he became their savior.)
Romans 12, was written to those who had yielded to Jesus as their Lord. At a glance, chapter 12 seems to be disconnected individual thoughts. But instead, all the verses inspire a different mindset than that which we had without Jesus’ lordship. They were exhorted to present their lives sacrificially, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice”, as Jesus, who is our example, had done. “…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Again, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
One of the most quoted verses that addresses death is, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalms 116:15) No one has ever died because God was mistakenly distracted and looked away. The passing of a believer is very important to God and is described as precious; that is highly esteemed and heavy. It is a crucial event and cannot happen before it is time. When a believer does pass, it offers a treasured opportunity for we who are left behind to honor the Lord in our speech and with our actions. 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27,)
Now, how do we honor the Lord? How do we “weep with those who weep”? Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was to, “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31). Let me share some very practical means of walking that out; how you may help. Of course the personal closeness you have with the survivors, will limit your manner of helping. If you have only experienced loss while you were a child, you may not understand the range of practical difficulties that occur when an adult has suffered a loss.
You may be able to provide transportation for the survivor(s) and family and friends. This could include making funeral arrangements, travel to and from the airport, and to hotels or housing. There are always the ongoing needs that never change, such as, feeding and watering pets, mowing the lawn, and gathering the mail. Death is never convenient and appointments, bill-paying, and jury duty don’t take care of themselves. Somethings can be put-off and some can’t, but helping a survivor remember and address them means a lot.
When a child has lost a parent, with the Lord’s guidance and the surviving parent’s permission, you may be able to help the child transition by taking him or her to a ball game, attending a recital, or taking them out for ice cream. You aren’t replacing the one they lost; you are just showing the love of Christ.
House sitting and pet sitting are often needed. A survivor may have to travel away from their home for days and the additional cost of a kennel may be too much. Returning home to a burglarized house or apartment would be costly materially and emotionally also. It is common for thieves to survey obituary listings in the media. Calling-hours, wakes, memorial services, and funerals indicate an empty house to a burglar, unless someone is kind enough to house-sit.
How you dress when you attend a function associated with a person’s dying, holds a lot of meaning. As a believer, you are representing the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:6 says, “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Even if you do not have very nice clothing, you need to dress respectfully. Jesus would not dishonor the surviving family and you should honor him by giving them respect.
Many years ago, when I was doing home construction, the father of one of my customers died. As I was preparing to go to the funeral, I was speaking to my daughter on the phone and she asked me if I was going to wear my kilt, seeing that the family was of Irish descent. This had not been something that I had considered, but I was spurred to pray. The Holy Spirit told me to do so. Before the burial, there was a service at the funeral home. My seat was out of sight from the family. The director asked everyone to pass by the casket on the way to the parking lot for the drive to the cemetery. As I passed, the family saw me.
There was a reception and meal at a church after the burial. I approached the family to give my condolences. The eldest daughter, now matriarch of the family, told me how dark and heavy things had been for the family, for two weeks. But, when they saw me in my kilt, the heaviness passed and some joy returned to their hearts. She said that it had been if a great light had just shown back into their lives. They were so thankful for the respect I had shown for their father and to them.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18
Rev. Steward E. Murphy September 2, 2018
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