Why Weep?

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). It’s the latter phrase I want to reflect on just briefly.

Paul’s command actually raises an important practical question. Why should Christians weep? After all, hasn’t Christ risen from the grave? Hasn’t he defeated sin and death on the cross? Isn’t he working “all things together for good” in the lives of those who trust in him (Rom. 8:28)? Shouldn’t we just meditate on all those problems and expect to eliminate all our grief and pain?

Certainly, these are towering, indispensable truths. The hope they offer is real and precious beyond our full comprehension. In fact, I really don’t know what I would do if they weren’t true.

But with all this, we should note one other important biblical concept, something theologians often call the “already but not yet” nature of the kingdom of God. Briefly put, the New Testament assures us that, with the life and work of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God has already been inaugurated. The “mustard seed” has been planted and grows apace (see Mat. 13:31). The tide of history has decisively turned. The kingdom has begun.

And yet, it’s not fully here. We don’t yet see what will one day be true. We don’t yet experience the sure hope of a completely renewed creation and an imperishable life unstained by sin and suffering, lived in perfect and joyful fellowship with God himself (Rev. 21:1ff.).

So while the Christ’s kingdom steadily advances, things are still—as Cornelius Plantinga has famously put it—not the way they’re supposed to be. The decisive battle has been won. Victory is inevitable, but many difficult struggles likely remain before we experience it fully and conclusively.

Yes, we still struggle with our own sin and often lose. We still feel the ripple effects of a creation cursed because of our first parents’ disobedience. Sickness, suffering, estrangement, loss, disasters, accidents, death—they are still all too real. And so we weep. We weep to acknowledge the reality in which we live, that both we and our world remain scarred and broken. Our tears function as our confession, our agreement with God that all is not right, that his redemptive power is desperately needed.

And yet, as the Paul is also clear, we don’t grieve as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13ff.). Christ has risen. His resurrection is God’s vindication of his suffering and death on our behalf and a picture of what all Christians will one day experience. It is also an example of the incalculable power that will set every bit of creation to rights, including ourselves. In that day, the weeping will cease at long last, for God himself “will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

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