12:15-16—Mutual care and sympathy.
Never be wise in your own sight.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Which one of these commands is easier to fulfill? We must avoid envy to do the former, and indifference to do the latter. Only genuine love can do both. Charles Swindoll recalls an old Swedish proverb that hung in his childhood home: “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”
Earlier, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul regarded mutual suffering and rejoicing as an expression of the unity of the body of Christ: “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).
Live in harmony with one another (NASB: Be of the same mind toward one another). The verb is phroneō—to think, give one’s mind to, set one’s mind on—and recalls Paul’s threefold use of this word in verse 3. Paul does not require uniformity of thought. Rather, he wants believers to have the same mindset, one that is humble, that values others as more important than ourselves. Whenever we discuss our differences on nonessentials of the faith, we must do so with an attitude of genuine love, preserving unity (see the similar command in Philippians 2:2).
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Paul confronts pride, perhaps the biggest disrupter of unity. Salvation history shows that God brings down the proud and elevates the humble. Marvin Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament says this about the Greek word translated associate: “According to the original sense, the meaning will be, being led away with lowly things or people; i.e., being drawn into sympathy with them. Farrar suggests letting the lowly lead you by the hand.”
When we see someone of low status, someone on the fringe of society, a lone figure standing at the back of the room, genuine love draws us to that person. There are many examples in the Gospels of Jesus associating with the lowly. His love for us led him away to the cross, where he hung between two criminals.
Never be wise in your own sight. Here again Paul employs the Greek word for thinking, now using the adjectival form (phronimos) to characterize a person as “thinking” and therefore “wise.” It is good to be wise; it is not good to think of ourselves as such. Leave it to others to make that judgment, and they will be more inclined to do so if they observe us to be humble, considerate, patient, selfless, and slow to speak.