Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Another aspect of our 'modern' world is that we are self-absorbed. Almost every TV add tells us overtly or subtly that it's all about us. They praise us constantly so we will appreciate their product and buy it - because "I'm worth it" or because "I need it" Or because "I've worked so hard that I deserve it".
The question is, does this bible verse support that idea, or is Paul talking about something else? Is this verse telling us to be fake, to mimic those around us so we can help them? No, I don't think he is.
Paul isn't telling us to be fake. He isn't telling us to pretend we are happy or sad depending on the context or those around us. But on the other hand, he is telling us we shouldn't be so self-absorbed that we miss what is going on in the lives of those around us.
Practically I think this is actually both genuineness and selflessness put together. We need to be selfless, looking at the lives of those around us and seeing how we can empathise with them, because through empathy we can help and encourage them. We can rejoice with them when they are rejoicing, and we can mourn with them when they suffer. But we don't rejoice or mourn by forgetting how we are feeling. We don't hide how we are feeling, but we also don't force others to see our feelings above all else. We see what they are going through and we help them with it selflessly, but genuinely.\
A example of how this is selflessness is more obvious in this scenario. Say you and another christian work at the same place, and he or she gets a promotion that you've been working hard to get. Instead of becoming bitter about it, acknowledge that it would have been nice to get it, but then rejoice that they got it. Genuinely be thankful to God that they got it, love them enough that it isn't all about you, but that you are glorifying God for how he has worked in their life.
But how do we develop this?
- The best way to start to do that is to be honest with them ourselves. If we show fellow Christians around us that we trust them, then they will also trust us. From that point we can work together to encourage, challenge and help each other by empathising with them and by looking at God's word together in both good and bad times.
- We also develop close relationships by just being around each other. Go to church and spend time with fellow Christians around God's word and just in general life. Talk about both God and life - both are real, so be real and genuine in your conversations.
- Another way to work on this is to just be aware of the needs of those around, whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual, financial or anything else. When we recognise the needs of others we can encourage and help them by supplying those needs. Maybe this looks like talking to the older person at Church who doesn't usually have someone to talk to. Maybe it's cooking a meal for a family who is sick. Use your imagination and pray a lot about how God would use you.
So in summary: we aren't called to be fake with those around us. Instead we need to be honest and real - but also aware of their needs, so that we can help them by rejoicing or mourning with them, regardless of how we feel.