Bear with One Another

August 16, 2008 Ephesians 4:2

Last week we looked at the admonition to “Carry One Another’s Burdens”. We examined this in the context of Galatians 6:1 where we are taught “if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

However we are encouraged to go beyond carrying the burdens of others! As believers we are to engage with one another to “bear with one another”.

Have you ever been involved with someone who has not responded to confrontation or is slow to change and grow?

Or perhaps there is no sin to confront, this particular person tends to rub people the wrong way. These people can tend to be hard to accept and love, Gene Getz gives an example of such a man:

This man was his own worst enemy – and still is. He has always been a odds with someone. ironically, he knows-and has admitted-that he has a way of rubbing people the wrong way But sadly, he just doesn’t change.

I remember one time he came into my office and unloaded on me personally-and several other people. I listened to his tirade without comment for about forty-five minutes. He then got up to leave. At that point, I informed him what I had listened patiently to his accusations and asked him for the courtesy to respond.

To his credit, he obliged as I took the next thirty minutes to answer his charges one by one. Fortunately, I had a fellow pastor with me, who also knew him well. When I finished, he picked up where I left off, confirmed what I had said, and then shared some" additional things this man needed to hear.

At this point, he became humble and submissive. Frankly I really believe he was sincere. He tore up his notes-and told me he would never bring up those issues again.

But, unfortunately, the change was temporary. He soon reverted to his old habits of being critical and judgmental. I believe I am "bearing with him in love”. And I truly hope he changes. I know for sure it will be a real blessing to his wife and his children. In the meantime, I readily admit I'm not unhappy to share the responsibility with, someone else to be used of the Lord to bring him to repentance and to help him reflect the fruit of the Spirit in his life.

I share this story not to dump on this man but to simply share that there are Christians who are difficult to love. Fortunately, few are as difficult to be around as this man. Most people respond to loving confrontation. They change. But when they don't, we are still to "bear with them in love', which may mean additional confrontations.

Dealing with Each other’s Weaknesses

To "bear with one another," then means being patient with each other's weaknesses.

When it comes to dealing with each other's weaknesses, Paul made our responsibility to one another even clearer in his Letter to the Colossians:

Colossians 3:12-13Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

In the above Passage Paul describes the believer’s new identity in Christ. In 3:12, Paul begins to tell believers what to put on. A righteous identity must issue in righteous behavior. Such behavior is the outward manifestation of the inward transformation, and it is the only sure proof that such transformation has taken place.

Several key words precede Paul’s injunction to “bear with one another”.

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience

However, a key word is "patience." The patient person does not get angry at others. William Barclay writes, “This is the spirit which never loses its patience with its fellowmen”.

Patience is also the focus of Paul's prayer for these New Testament Christians:

Colossians 1:10-12And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

No one of us is perfect. All of us fail, particularly in human relationships. How easy it is to expect more from other Christians than we expect from ourselves.

Bearing with one another is hard this is particularly true in our personal families.

  • Why is it so hard to “bear” with others?
  • Perhaps hardest, is to live your family? Do you find this to be true? Why?
  • We spend so much time with our families; they see us at our best and worst.
  • Parents often expect more from their children than they do from themselves.
  • Children often expect more from their parents tan from other adults.
  • This unique dynamic often erupts in anything but patience and forbearance with one another.
  • Our extended family, our church family is also a hard place to live. Why?
  • We get to know each other’s idiosyncrasies and faced with the challenge to bear with one another in love.

When we are tempted to be impatient with one another, we need to think about Jesus Christ and His attitude toward us.

  • Jesus and His attitude served as Paul's motivation. The Lord's longsuffering and patience toward this man marked his life and gave him unusual tolerance toward others

1 Timothy 1:15-17Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

  • Seeing himself as the worst of sinners and experiencing God's love and patience in saving him caused Paul to respond to others with the love and patience of Jesus Christ

A Forgiving Spirit

"Bearing with one another" has a closely related component that Paul reveals in Colossians 3. Note again how Paul made this clear in his Letter to the Colossians.

"Bear with each other," he said, "and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13).

Bearing with one another and having a "forgiving spirit" are connected in God's sight.

Some Christians carry grudges for years. How miserable! How tragic! And how out of character for a follower of Jesus Christ. How ungrateful for a Christian to hold a grudge against a fellow believer when Christ has canceled our own debt of sin.

Dr. Getz recalls

Recently I received a letter from a fellow pastor who admitted that he had been carrying feelings of bitterness toward me. He asked forgiveness-which I was quick to give. In actuality, I was ready to forgive him long before but it was a great blessing to see that God had convicted him for his attitude. To his credit, he was preparing a message from Scripture on the subject of forgiveness and responded to conviction from the Holy Spirit. What a relief to let him know I forgive him and would continue to pray for his ministry.

A Powerful Story

One day Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many rimes shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

“Jesus answered, 'l tell you, not seven times, but seventy, seven times’” (Mt. 18:21-22).

Jesus then told a story to get his point across:

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35)

Make Every Effort!

Immediately following Paul's exhortation to "be patientbearing with one another in love" he said, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph.4:2-3)

  • Patience, forbearance and forgiveness are not automatic actions that follow conversion to Christ.
  • They are deliberate acts of the will. Every person l know who has an unforgiving spirit chooses to do so.
  • I know this is true in my own life. It is easy to fall into sinful patterns of letting the other person know how we feel by avoiding that person, by using cutting and sharp words, by talking behind a person's back.
  • On the other hand, Christians who really care about each other, who are really concerned about doing the will of God at all times, will make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. This is Christianity in action.

On one occasion, someone told me I deeply offended another brother in Christ. He believed I had purposely passed by him without "saying hello." Frankly, I was shocked' I know myself well enough to know that I didn’t do this on purpose. In fact, I have difficulty even avoiding people I know don’t like me, let alone someone I love and respect-which is how I felt about this brother.

However, even though this person had moved to another part of the country I picked up the telephone, called him, and asked for forgiveness. I told him I had heard via the grapevine that he felt that I had snubbed him. I let him know that sometimes I get preoccupied- which is not an excuse - and inadvertently pass by people without speaking. I'm confident that's what must have happened. He quickly forgave me and admitted his own super sensitivity thank God I was able to restore this relationship even though I didn’t know it was broken. I'm thankful that someone cared enough to alert me to this problem.

Practical Steps For Bearing With One Another In Love

Step I

Take a good look at yourself

In all honesty, make a list of your weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. These questions will help you.

  1. What do I do (or not do) at home that irritates my wife and children (or my parents, my apartment-mate)?

2. What do I do (or not do) at church that irrigates my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?

3 What do I do (or not do) at work and / or school that irritates fellow employees and / or teachers and fellow students?

4 What do I do (or not do) that irritates my friends?

Step 2

Evaluate your weaknessesin the light of your attitudes and actions toward other Christians.

The following questions will help you:

Do you expect more from others than you do from yourself?

Do you criticize others in the area of your own weaknesses?

Step 3

Make a list of all Christians you have difficulty relatingto.

lf you can't think of anyone, praise the Lord! Don't drudge up names just to have something to write about but make sure you're being honest

Once you have made a list, ask yourself why you can't relate to these Christians. Are you angry at them? Is it because of something they have done to hurt you? Are they aware of how you feel? Is you perception accurate? Or, are you feeling the way you do simply because of your own vain imagination and an oversensitive response on your part?

Step 4

Consciously and deliberately search them out and seek to make right your relationship

This step is the most difficult to take. But you must do it. Then, one by one, talk to these people.

Confront them is necessary.

Galatians 6:1Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Ask for forgiveness is necessary.

Psalm 32:5I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

Bear with them in all situations

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Take care of your own attitudes and eventually God will take care of hearts.

If a Christian has sinned against you (and others) in such a way that it demands a repentant response, and if you have approached that person in love without receiving a response, then you will need to follow the procedure Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:I5-I7. Make sure, however, that your approach is characterized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Col 3:12).