Daily Encouragement Net
“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews ).
"Bearing with one another"
(This teaching follows my teaching on tolerance and diversity and the "putting up with" must have limitations. Certainly Paul is not speaking of putting up with heretical doctrine or immoral living. In fact he denounced both!)
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1). "Therefore, 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" (Colossians ,13).
Church unity is a wonderful thing. Our Lord prayed for unity for His church (John ), in the Acts we find God's people experiencing unity just prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1), and the writers of the epistles often urge their readers to practice unity. Note that in each case in Acts and the epistles the unity referred to was to be among a group of believers in a particular locale, not a unity of what we now call the 'church universal'. Sadly man's pursuit of unity in the church universal has lead to doctrinal compromise and apostasy as evidenced in the National and World Councils of Churches. When Jesus prayed for His church to be "one" it is unthinkable that he was thinking of the present ecumenical "unity at any cost".
These thoughts are primarily intended for application in the local church, but are easily applied to family life as well. It is the nature of our enemy to divide as we see from the very beginning. We need to pray for and pursue unity among ourselves.
Among the greatest of New
Testament appeals for unity is Paul's passion-filled appeal to the believers in
I've often pondered on a church
dispute between two women in
What are some areas that we may very well have to "bear with one another"? As I developed this list it got longer and longer and even now I make no claim that it's exhaustive! For many of the situations I have included a Scriptural example.
We all have inconsistencies, idiosyncrasies or oddities. We just may not recognize them! Some may actually deny that they have these inconsistencies, oddities etc. This is particularly difficult and a sign of pride! Or others may have justified them, feeling that their situation is different. Yet how quickly we can find the inconsistencies in others!
An interesting pastoral dilemma: When I bear with your mistakes, oddities, inconsistencies, shortcomings, etc. it is the mark of being caring and understanding. But when it's somebody else it's playing favorites or making exceptions. I want to be careful with this one, but you must recognize that as a pastor I may very well be aware of circumstances that will affect my handling of a matter that you are not.
Examples of bearing with:
Some are instantaneously delivered from an addiction or problem, for others it's
a battle. Some are convicted immediately, for others it takes a period of being
in the truth. Paul wrote, "We who are strong ought to bear with the
failings of the weak and not to please ourselves" (
Different convictions regarding gray areas. When Scripture clearly forbids a particular behavior we should also clearly forbid it. However tradition has laid many areas of forbidden conduct in areas in which the Scripture does not speak. These I refer to as gray areas. Perhaps the original intent was well meaning and even served a purpose. These prohibitions vary by generation and region. An example in Scripture was the New Testament conflict regarding meats sacrificed to idols. (1 Corinthians 8-10).
Emotional instability. Some folks just have a harder time "keeping the victory". I remind these friends that the Holy Spirit can bring emotional stability, but will continue to patiently help them through.
Failed expectations. Sometimes a fellow believer will really let us down. We've all let people down at one time or another, probably a lot more then we realize! Paul and Barnabas had a sharp dispute regarding John Mark who had earlier deserted them (Acts ). I'm sure glad Barnabas who appeared to lose the fight (after all we don't have the rest of Acts chronicling his ministry!) gave Mark another chance (see the Gospel of Mark). Paul was also grateful (see 2 Timothy ).
Believers still sin. We may forget to define sin Scripturally and do so legalistically, seeing sin merely as certain prohibited actions. When we get victory over these actions we may be quick to judge those that still struggle. "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians ).
We may have different understanding on secondary doctrinal matters. Absolute agreement on every single detail may be a good pursuit but we will have to wait for heaven to have full light on every matter. There are many interpretive areas we may thoughtfully disagree on. We must not confuse unity with uniformity. A mark of cults is absolute uniformity.
Practical matters like finance and church business matters. You've probably heard of the church split over carpet color. I've never seen it documented but I've heard of sillier stuff that believers will argue over. A phrase I heard many years ago is "don't confuse taste or personal opinion with values or Biblical convictions".
We have different expressions of spirituality. Some are more emotional or demonstrative then others. We should all seek to be spiritually minded, but I've learned this will be expressed in various ways. Actually I've observed that some of the most outwardly spiritual may be no more stable then others.
We may have political differences. Within the ranks of the twelve disciples careful Bible students will recognize divergent political interests and backgrounds. Yet Jesus knowingly and purposely chose these twelve men. I believe great caution should be used in regard to the mention of specific candidates or political parties. Politics is so full of rhetoric and deception that we can easily be misunderstood. However there are political issues that are fundamentally moral issues. The true Church must speak out on evil matters such as the murder of children and sexual perversions. If this is offensive one should find a liberal leaning church where these views are held; there are plenty of them.
Cliques in the church. The establishment of friendships in the church is encouraged. However when friendships become closed or exclusive to others this is detrimental to the unity of the body. Although there will be groupings based on similar interests let us always keep our focus on Christ. Groupings based upon race, social standing, or economic position are particularly rife with the potential to be counterproductive to the unity of the body.
Gossip. That is talking about another Christian (or anyone for that matter) out of their presence in which you are neither part of the problem nor the solution. Many churches (and families) have suffered great harm due to people meddling in matters that did not concern them. "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends" (Proverbs ). John had a major problem in regard to a man named Diotrephes; "So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church" (3 John ).
Believers, the pursuit of unity in our relationships is a great goal. Bearing with and forgiving one another is an essential part of developing and maintaining this unity. May we truly be a body of believers where each member is accepted and loved.
My prayer for our church and for each family is well expressed by the Apostle Paul "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:5-7).
Stephen C. Weber