Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:1-2
Did you ever hear the old joke church people used to like to tell about each other? It goes like this: To live above with saints we love; oh that will be glory. But to live below with saints we know; well that’s a different story! There is truth to the corny humor. It can be hard to live well with one another on this journey called life. When a crisis hits, it can seem almost impossible.
The Bible sets a high standard for the way the follower of Jesus interacts with others. In some Bible versions, it uses the words, “bear with” or “bearing with.” “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” Ephesians 4:2 instructs. This, of course, sounds perfectly fine in a Bible verse but in real life, with the people in your home, the people you grew up with, the people that you work with, the people in your community…not so simple.
Let’s face it. We irritate each other. On the positive side, that irritation can be used by God to shape our characters, much like sandpaper working off rough edges or the cuts used to release the brilliance of a diamond. The people that God has placed in your life, with their quirks and faults, can make up the perfect “toolbelt” that God has assembled just for you, to bring about growth in your life that would never happen any other way. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” Proverbs 27:27 puts it.
We, however, have to allow that work to take place in our lives, just as the piece of wood has to remain under the motion of the sandpaper and the diamond in the gem cutter’s vice. We have to bear with it, and with them, in other words.
Sometimes, you are living with another’s behavior, day in and day out, and you may reach a point where improvement of your character just isn’t enough to motivate you to stand that other person one more minute, let alone another day or the rest of life. You need a bigger “why,” and the verse before the “bear with it” verse in Ephesians 4 gives us a compelling reason. “I…beg you, writes the Apostle Paul, “to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2)
Maybe you know the saying, "When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you." When I remember that, I too, have irritating idiosyncrasies, am impatient, selfish (and the list goes on), I was offered grace when Jesus first called me to relationship with Him. The follower of Jesus has a calling that all started with grace. He saw us in our sin and loved us, when there was no reason for it. He gave Himself for us and gave us the ability to love through the power of the Holy Spirit, that the Bible says, comes to live in us when we surrender to God. (Ephesians 1:13-14) We have been given undeserved grace and remembering this, is what gives us the ability to bear with others. “Living apart from an attitude of continual grace,” says Pastor Craig Denison, “robs us of the joy of living without unrealistic expectations of others. When we are slow to offer grace for the sins of others, we step outside the realm of God’s kingdom and place our hope and security in this fleeting world.
In everyday life, and exponentially more so, in times of crisis, expecting others to be easy to live with will always end in conflict. “But to each one of us grace has been given,” declares Ephesians 4:7. We are called to be grace-givers, in return. Who, in your life, desperately needs that grace today?
Resource reading: Ephesians 4:1-16
Denison, Craig. “Having Grace for Others - Experiencing God: First15 Daily Devotional.” Experiencing God | First15 Daily Devotional, December 18, 2019. https://www.first15.org/08/26/having-grace-for-others/.