Do you know how annoying people are? I mean have you seen what people do? The way that person talks drives me crazy. This person invades my personal space every time we talk. She is inconsiderate. He is thoughtless. He is like hugging a porcupine. She won’t stop talking.
At the beginning of each month we are going to be looking at our theme: Together. I hope the signage in the foyer is reminding you of this theme as we consider the scriptures that tell us what we are supposed to be. In our first lesson we looked at the scriptures that taught us that we are members of one another. We are joined together as God’s family in the household of God. In our lesson today we are going to examine Ephesians 4:1-3.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to 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, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV)
You will notice that the apostle describes another picture of what it means for us to be together in Christ. In the first three chapters of Ephesians the apostle Paul taught Christians about the calling they have in Christ. Ephesians 4 opens with the call for us to walk worthy of the calling to which Christ as called us. Consider the picture of what this walk looks like. We are to walk with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. We are to bear with one another in love. Looking at a couple other translations helps us get the picture more clearly in our minds. The NASB reads, “showing tolerance for one another in love.” The NLT reads, “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” The Greek word means to endure or to put up with difficult people or circumstances. The Baker Exegetical Commentary says the word means to put up with something annoying or harmful.
How many times we might have thought or might have said, “I don’t have to put up with this!!! I don’t have to tolerate this!” Actually, we do. We are to tolerate one another. We are bear with one another. We are to put up with each other. Now we might hear this and think that we are doing this all the time. “Oh, I put up with a lot! I put up with my neighbor. I put up with my spouse. I put up with my parents. I put up with my coworkers. I put up with my boss.” But are we enduring and tolerating one another the way God said to? We might be putting up with people but are we putting up with one another the way God told us to? Read what Paul says in Ephesians 4 again and notice how we are supposed to put up with each other. We are to walk “bearing with one another in love.” We are not to just put up with each other. Rather, we are to put up with each other in love. That is something very different.
When we put up with each other without love, then the result is grudges, resentment, hate, and a general dislike for others. Putting up with each other in love looks different. Our failure to bear with one another in love is why strife occurs in relationships, marriages fail, and churches split. Friends, we need to admit something. People are going to irritate us. I know this is hard to imagine, but sometimes I am going to irritate you. And I know it is just as hard for you to imagine but you irritate people sometimes too. We would like to think that everyone else is the problem. But we need to consider that the problem is you. Can you imagine living with you? Can you imagine being around you with all of our quirks and idiosyncrasies? We must stop living with unreasonable expectations of others. We do not place these expectations on ourselves. We must stop living with unreasonable expectations of others. We do not place these expectations on ourselves. We are all different from each other and we are going to irritate one another. You are going to be irritating to others.
The problem is also how we handle each other. Consider again what the apostle Paul said. We are to bear with one another in love. We will not cease to love others because of their faults! The problem is that another person does something irritating, whether intentional or unintentional, and we do not handle it with love. What we do is we get irritated back. The perfect solution to irritating people is to be irritating, right? No, the perfect solution that God gives us is to love in return. Bearing with one another in love means that we will not stop loving each other because of their faults. What I hope we are seeing is that bearing with one another in love is a two-way street. You think you are putting up with that person in love but, guess what, they are putting up with you in love just as much! There is always something that we are bearing with each other about.
The body of Christ must be a safe place where our offenses and mistakes with each other are quickly forgotten. How terrible it is when the children of God bear grudges and hurts toward each other! We cannot forget that all of us have rubbed each other the wrong way, made mistakes, done hurtful things, and said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Who has not felt like they have put their foot in their mouth on a daily basis? But we are to bear with each other in love. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that love “bears all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7) and “does not keep a record of wrongs (13:7). Love is not resentful.
Keys For Bearing With One Another In Love
So how can we bear with one another in love? What can we do to be successful at showing this tolerance in love for each other? Looking again at Ephesians 4:1-2 you will notice that there are three character traits that are stated which we need if we are going to bear with one another in love. Notice Paul says that we are to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience.” This is not by accident. Over in Colossians 3:12-13 the apostle Paul used the same combination before speaking about bearing with one another.
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…. (Colossians 3:12–13 ESV)
So we see three keys for bearing with one another in love. First, practice humility. Do not think much of yourself and about yourself. We cannot loving bear with each other if all we are doing is thinking about ourselves and how irritated we are by each other. Second, we need to have gentleness. The letter to the Colossians says kindness and compassionate hearts. The idea of gentleness or meekness is to have consideration for others, submissiveness toward others, and courtesy for others. We are not seeking retribution but considering others first. Finally, we need to have patience which is the idea of self-restraint. We are not hasty but longsuffering. So we are patient with each other’s weaknesses. No one perfect or even close to perfect. We must stop living with unreasonable expectations of each other.
To encourage this fully so that we will obey this command, I would like for us to consider 1 Timothy 1:15-17 as the game changer for life.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15–17 ESV)
How did Paul look at himself? He saw himself as the worst of sinners. Why did he do this? Was he just walking around beating himself up, telling himself what a bad person he was? No. By seeing himself as the chief of sinners he could appreciate the love and grace of God to save him. Christ came to save sinners. We are all sinners. We are all a mess. We must end this “I’m not that bad” thought process. Paul openly declares that he is not perfect but worst of sinners who received mercy. We cannot forget who we are. We are the worst of sinners who have received mercy. Notice what this shows: the perfect patience of Jesus. Jesus showed and continues to show perfect patience toward you. Now show patience, humility, and gentleness to others by bearing with them, with all of their sins, weaknesses, and irritations, in love. Jesus has shown great patience toward you. Other people are daily showing patience toward you. You bear with others in love.
When people say the wrong thing to you, just shrug your shoulders and let it go. You know you have said the wrong thing to others. When people are unkind to you, just shrug your shoulders and let it go. You know you have been unkind to others. When others are irritating, just let it go. You know you have irritating to others. Most importantly, let it go by looking to Jesus who has let go of your sins through his perfect patience and love.