We’re doing a little series at church at the moment on the ‘one-anothers’ of the New Testament. On Sunday evening I spoke on ‘bear with one another.’ You can listen to the whole talk here. In conclusion I gave five practical tips on how we can live this stuff out. They are as follows:
- Be real. Paul’s instruction presupposes that we will be wronged, and we will wrong each other. No, it’s not OK, but since we’re not in heaven yet, it will happen and we shouldn’t be surprised when it does.
- Be suspicious . . . of ourselves. Often our own reaction toward others says more about us than someone else. Steve Midgley uses a really helpful illustration of a cup that gets knocked and as a consequence spills water on the floor. Steve asks, ‘why is there water on the floor?’ Answer: because it got knocked. True. But also: because there’s water in the cup. If stuff keeps spilling out of us every time we get knocked we might need to deal with what’s inside us, rather than keep blaming external circumstances.
- Be vulnerable. Perhaps one key to ‘bearing with one another’ is ‘baring with one another.’ Sometimes our facade of competent self-sufficiency combined with an unwillingness to be open about our weaknesses means we make it difficult for others to cut us some slack.
- Be charitable . . . toward others. There’s a great J. C. Ryle quote which goes as follows: “A growing soul will try to put the best construction on other people’s conduct, and to believe all things, and hope all things even to the end. There is no surer mark of falling off in grace than an increasing disposition to find fault and pick holes, and see weak points in others.”
- Be quick to sort things out. C. S. Lewis speaks of the pleasure of a grudge – how it draws us back to nurse and fondle it, yet in the end it eats us up and does great harm. Matt 18 encourages us to be quick to sort things out with others.
It strikes me that all of this is undeniably hard work, and requires much practise and intentional effort. Yet, as is clear in the context of the command (Eph 4-6 and Col 3-4) unity, maturity, and mission is at stake. We simply cannot afford not to learn to bear with one another.