Christian Community; Bearing With One Another in Love
Being a Christian is hard sometimes, and being in Christian community can be excruciatingly hard part of being a Christian. (Can I get an Amen?)
Don’t get me wrong – living the Christian life with at least a handful of other Christians you can learn from and grow alongside is often a great gift. However, this past year has been a year of many emotional ups and downs for my faith family, and there is nothing quite like crisis to bring up all the emotions in myself and those around me. Everything has been tested: my faith and trust in God and my desire to persevere with the people of God.
What I’ve learned is, with all the good intentions of love and compassion, we can lose sight of Jesus in the midst of each other’s emotions.
When you’re mad – I get mad.
When you’re sad – I get sad.
When you’re hopeful and expectant – I am too.
This can start out well but end up in some unhealthy places. Instead, maybe we should look to God’s Word for wisdom on how to handle these issues.
The Bible says in two important places, Ephesians 4:2 and Colossians 3:13 to “bear with one another” and to do so “in love.”
Ephesians 4:1-3 says: “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.” (ESV)
Colossians 3:12-14 says: “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; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (ESV)
Loving, leading, living and serving with others in the church is not easy, and “bear” seems to be a vital word in these instances. Here are some definitions of “bear” along with some things I’ve been learning:
- To hold up and support. When you hold an object up in the air, you can’t always see it with complete visibility. It’s less about me and more about the object I am holding up or Who I am holding it up to. My sole purpose in holding it up is either to show it or to keep it from whatever may be threatening it below. All energy goes into holding it up to God and not necessarily fixing it myself. To remain firm under a load. The load might be getting too heavy. You might be getting weary and your triceps might be shaking. As in exercise, when you can withstand the pressure, those muscles get stronger and can endure more.
- To bring forth; give birth to. Anyone who has experienced birth knows that this kind of bearing is painful, sometimes long and very messy. You sweat, you bleed and do other things we don’t need to get into. What gets you through it though is patience, lots of breathing in and out and someone by your side remind you that you were made for this and can do it. What comes forth eventually out of this kind of bearing is life. Something most people classify as the most beautiful and beloved thing they have ever held. It’s worth it.
- To produce by natural growth. This is produced by God and not us. We need to be constantly checking the soil, making sure there is nourishment and water, patiently waiting for God to give us growth and an eventual harvest.
- To press or push against. When you press or push against something, you draw nearer to it. You are not divided from it. Pressing and pushing against forces us to deal directly with conflict and keep pressing in until it is resolved.
Here’s what I’ve learned as I have experienced “bearing with one another” in this season of faith.
We can have unity in Christ. Unity in the midst of disagreement. Unity because Jesus is all about unity with us but more importantly with the Father and Holy Spirit. The people of God have been scattering and dispersing since the beginning of time. Sometimes he separates people to further his purposes, but division brought on by sin is not awesome.
Also, we cannot bear with one another in love without the help of the Holy Spirit. Both passages in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3 encourage people who have heard and received the gospel to bear with each other. The Gospel is God and Jesus’ ultimate display of bearing with us in love and reminding us that it is only by walking in the strength of the Spirit of God that we can bear with one another in love.
Have you ever had the experience of “bearing with one another in love”? What did it teach you about the Body of Christ?