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A Godly Person Weeps
by Philip Owen

 

 
            I must admit that had I been compiling a list of qualities manifested by a godly person weeping would not have been one that would have occurred to me. But Thomas Watson was correct to include this quality because the Bible has much to say on this subject—only a sampling of which we have space to treat here. It should be pointed out at the beginning that the weeping commended by God is not that of superficial tears or mere emotionalism but a genuine expression of repentance, burden, empathy, or love.
 
            Repentance. David—he who was a man after God’s own heart—reminds us of the value of this quality. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:17). The king penned those words after committing adultery with Bath-sheba and confessing and repenting of his sin. The idea that sorrow for sin is an expression of godliness is not unique to the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul, addressing the Corinthians, asserted that “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (II Cor. 7:10). In other words, sorrow that is in accord with God’s will results in a repentance that is never regretted. A godly person is grieved by his own sin and turns from it to righteousness.
 
            Burden. This expression of weeping is attended by a precious promise. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psa. 126:5, 6). Effective soul-winning is the result not so much of knowledge, experience, eloquence, or skillful argument but of a burden for those on the threshold of hell. Tear-stained intercessory prayer and tear-drenched witnessing will carry the day with the lost where all else fails. A godly person weeps for lost loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. John Knox is famous for praying: “Give me Scotland, or I die.”
 
            Empathy. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” is how Paul expressed it (Rom. 12:15). A godly person does not live in his own world, to himself, and for his own personal benefit. He feels the suffering and sorrow of others as if it were his own. Christ was our perfect example in this, for, regarding Christ, the writer of Hebrews observes that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (4:15). The shortest verse in the Bible is a testament to this truth. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), we are told as He stood at the grave of Lazarus. He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, so He could not have been weeping over the loss of Lazarus. Rather, He had empathy for those He loved and felt all the pain that sin and its consequences had brought upon them. Just as Christ does not sit in some marbled palace aloof from the burdens of His body, so godly people are deeply touched by the needs of those around them.
 
            Love. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that “many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (3:18, 19). Perhaps there is a better word than love to express the nature of this kind of godly weeping, but if so, I don’t know what it is. Here is an all encompassing love that weeps—weeps in love of the truth that is being endangered by false teachers, weeps for the safety of believers who may fall prey to them, and even weeps for the lost souls purveying error. In this world, true godliness will often be manifested by a weeping spirit.

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