Ephesians 4:2 …with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love…
Colossians 3:13 …bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
A grandmother celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she said.
A guest asked the woman to share what some of the faults she listed. She replied, “To tell you the truth, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself: Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!”
“To bear” with someone literally means “to hold one’s self up”. I shouldn’t react to irritation or provocation, rather I am to wait patiently until the problem has passed. Can I do this in my own strength? Perhaps, but not without physical or emotional consequences to myself.
Paul is not directing us to simply “suck it up” and “gut it out” when someone offends us; we are to bring positive responses to the relationship. Paul encourages us to bear with one another in a way that is marked by humility, gentleness, love, kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness! What an awesome assignment!
How can I do this? Paul answers “even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do” and “even as God in Christ forgave you.” These phrases remind me that God’s forgiveness of my sin is:
- Undeserved – I really offended God. Forgiveness was granted to me when I deserved punishment. He could have “chewed” me out and been absolutely right to do it –but He didn’t do it to me — and I shouldn’t do it to a brother or sister who sets me off.
- Unrestricted – He included each and every offense in His forgiveness of me. He never says “that’s it, I’ve had enough! I’ve had all I can stand!”
- Unending – He never changes His resolve to forgive. I am not forgiven, then later reminded of all the things He has overlooked. He will not give forgiveness then retrieve it at some time in the future.
Only the Spirit of God can empower me to do this with others. Since He has the willingness to do this for me — I should stand ready to do this for the ones who offend and wound me in my world.
Like the grandmother in our story, I can decide ahead of time that every offense made against me is already on the list – “one of the ten!”