I’ve been preaching a lot on relationships these past months. I’ve been amazed at how realistic the Bible is about relationships within the body. You don’t get an unrealistic view of what it will cost to live together, as evidenced by this command:
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (Romans 15:1)
…bearing with one another in love… (Ephesians 4:2)
…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. (Colossians 3:13)
How unglamorous. Paul is assuming that, at times, we’ll just have to put up with each other, doing the best we can to stay in relationship despite the challenges. This is, and always will be, part of ordinary church life until Christ returns.
I love what Charles Simeon wrote:
However meek and lowly we are in ourselves, it cannot fail but that we must occasionally meet with things painful from others. The very graces which we manifest will often call forth the enmity of others, and cause them to act an injurious part towards us. But, if this should be the case, we must be long-suffering towards them, not retaliating the injury, nor harbouring resentment in our hearts, but patiently submitting to it, as to a dispensation ordered by Infinite Wisdom for our good. But, where this is not the case, there will still be occasions of vexation, arising from the conduct of those around us: the ignorance of some, the misapprehensions and mistakes of others, the perverseness of others, the want of judgment in others, sometimes also pure accident, will place us in circumstances of difficulty and embarrassment. But from whatever cause these trials arise, we should shew forbearance towards the offender, from a principle of love; not being offended with him, not imputing evil intention to him, not suffering our regards towards him to be diminished; but bearing with his infirmities, as we desire that God should bear with ours. (Horae Homileticae)
We need a lot more of this ministry. When someone asks me what ministries are successful at my church, I want to say that we’re getting really good at putting up with each other with love. That’s an accomplishment, actually. It’s the unglamorous but important ministry of bearing with one another.
And while I bear with others, I’ll try to remember that they’re exercising the same ministry of bearing with me.