Paul is not asking us to be stoic, to simply shake off the evil done to us as if it doesn't matter. Hatred cuts deep, and the wounds can linger for years. But if we are going to follow Jesus, we have no choice. We will either curse or bless when we are mistreated. Our only hope of not cursing is to bless instead. We must bless others in order to keep from cursing them. As long as we curse our enemies, we are trying to do God's work for him. God can take care of his own work without any help from us.

Here is the fourth and final principle. True love leads to...

4. Gut-Level Friendship.

The New King James says that we are to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (v. 15). Eugene Peterson offers this version: "Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down" (MSG). Here we have the extremes of life.

Sometimes we are on top of the world.
Sometimes we are in the pit.

When your friends are happy, rejoice with them. If your friend gets a good score on his SAT, if she celebrates a birthday, if he gets a promotion, if they have a baby, if their daughter graduates from high school, if their grandson scores two touchdowns, laugh with them, cheer with them, smile with them. Share their joy. Don't be a party pooper or a Negative Nelly or a Sulking Sam. Life is hard enough for all of us. When those moments of victory come, share their joy. And don't mutter under your breath, "They don't deserve it." Of course they don't. None of deserve any of the blessings we receive from the Lord. It's all of grace. But oh, how sad to go through life as a crotchety, mean-spirited grump who douses water on the happiness of others. Rejoice with those who rejoice.

When our friends weep, take time to weep with them. I remember reading an interview Frank Sinatra gave shortly before he died. "What do you do when the woman you love is crying?" "I cry with her," Sinatra replied. That's certainly a wise answer. Often the tears of others frighten us. Real emotion, raw emotion, scares us so we tend to run away from it. Or we offer empty platitudes ("Things will get better." "God will take care of you." "Everything is going to work out.") It's certainly true that God will take care of those who suffer, but even a verse like Romans 8:28 can seem like cold comfort when the doctor says, "I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do." Sometimes the best we can do is simply to weep with our friends in the hour of great sadness.

To do this rightly-to both rejoice and to weep-requires that we not keep the world at arm's length. As long as we don't let anyone get too close to us, this verse won't apply to us. By definition you have to walk close enough with people so that we know when they are rejoicing or weeping. If we keep them on the other side of the street, we can wave in the distance, and keep on driving while listening to our favorite music on our iPod. We can't obey this verse long-distance. And we can't do if we stay super busy.

We all need someone to laugh and to cry with us. So greatly do we need this that we will do almost anything to get it. If we can't find this sort of friendship in the church, we'll go somewhere else. That's the point Chuck Swindoll's friend was making about going to the bar. We will go anywhere and pay almost any price to find someone who will care about what we are doing through.

That's what brotherly love is all about... being there! Just being there.

"Ahh, I've Made It."

When I pastored in California, I became friends with a man who had been a policeman for seven or eight years. Pretty tough cop. Got himself into and out of a number of jams. Ended up retiring from the force because of physical injuries suffered on the job. He told me stories that back then I found hard to believe. Now I have come to understand that he wasn't exaggerating at all. When he came to Christ, his life was transformed.