κλαίω (klaiō) to wail, lament
A Clever Verse for Context
For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears (klaiō). (Philippians 3:18)
We have this assumption that somehow disciples of Jesus get to put their feelings away. As if the love of Jesus just fills every corner of our hearts and suddenly we don’t need coffee in order to be decent human beings anymore. But feelings are persistent. Love, compassion, and hope are just as much a part of being human as frustration, rage, and jealousy. I have a hunch that the Apostle Paul was someone who had very big feelings and becoming a follower of Jesus did not make those feelings any less overwhelming. But here he is, proclaiming the gospel even as he cries (klaiō). What is Paul feeling? Frustration at the difficulty of his work? Despair that for all of his preaching and teaching so much is not as it should be? Fear at what is to come? Regardless, the magnitude of his feelings does not discredit his work. Jesus calls us to follow even and especially when we are mad, sad, crabby, and hopeless. Sometimes the most faithful disciples have the biggest feelings.
Different languages are not just different sets of vocabulary with the same underlying structure - they have distinct modes of expression. Modern English tends to favor the use of nouns and noun-phrases, whereas ancient Greek uses more verbs and verbal constructions. So, for example, the phrase “with tears” at Philippians 3:18 is communicated through a verbal construction in Greek: “and now I tell you this even as I am wailing (klaiō).” Near the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey, we find Penelope “weeping” or “wailing” (klaiō) for her “dear husband Odysseus,” who has been gone for twenty years (see Odyssey 1.383).
Clever Questions for Further Reflection
What are your big feelings? How do they contribute to your ministry and how do they get in the way?
When have you had to work while crying?
A Clever Prayer to Close
Here my cry oh God.
Listen to my prayer.
Listen to my song.
Singing praises all day long.