Bearing With One Another
If you’ve ever seen a kitten bothering a big, older dog, you may have wondered how the dog puts up with so much annoyance and irritation. It would not take much for the larger animal to lash out and harm or frighten away the little nuisance batting his nose or nipping his tail, but so often he doesn’t; he patiently bears with all the pestering and somehow the little critter lives to see another day.
Our next “one another” instruction is repeated in Ephesians 4:2 (“… walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love ….”) and Colossians 3:13 (“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.”)
The Greek word meaning to “bear with” something or someone is sometimes translated “endure” or “put up with.” Notice how Paul connects this idea with humility, gentleness, patience, compassion, kindness, meekness, and forgiveness. When Paul talks about the Christian life, he assumes that we are sinners living among lots of other sinners, and therefore it’s to be expected that in the church people are going to do and say from time to time all kinds of hurtful, thoughtless things. We are different from each other, and sometimes our likes and dislikes clash. Sometimes people rub us the wrong way or irritate us. And sometimes people will outright sin against us in ways that really sting. The question is, what attitude are we going to take when those things happen? Is our first instinct to get defensive, prickly, sullen, or standoffish? Are we going to justify our irritation and rehearse the reasons we are right and they are out of line?
So often when our feelings are hurt, our desires ignored, our preferences crossed, our thoughts contradicted, our first instinct is to withdraw, to avoid each other, to disengage, thinking that by doing that we’re keeping the peace. But that’s not really peacemaking; it’s what one writer named Ken Sande calls “peace-faking.” God is calling us instead to bear with one another—to endure patiently and humbly each others’ differences and even each others’ sins.
If you want to grow in bearing with others instead of lashing out or retreating inward, start by considering how patiently your heavenly Father bears with you. He is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6). “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). You are to bear with one another because your Father “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). The cross is the ultimate picture of Christ bearing with us—patiently enduring not only our sin, but even its consequences in His own body and soul.
Grace-Based Action Point
Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” On a scale of one to ten, how willing are you to “bear with” other people’s differences, foibles, mistakes, and even sins against you? The Lord’s patience with you is off the scale, and He will help you grow in bearing with each other.
Yours in Christ,