Friday, August 10, 2012

Bear With Each Other

We all have those people in our lives that we find it hard to show love to. It may be someone who has hurt or betrayed us. It could be someone who hasn't met our expectations. It could be a family member we're tired of putting up with. It could be an authority that we are tired of submitting to. It could be someone who is super annoying. And sometimes, we can even chose to not show love to someone just because we know their past.

The reality is that it's in our human nature to pick and chose who we love. We naturally only want to show love to those who love us back. There's less risk, less pain, and less effort when we do that. The truth is that we don't want to forgive those who have wronged us, and we don't want to love those who don't love us. And we do it because of pride. We are so quick to hold others' sins against them, yet so fast to expect the Lord to forgive us for our sins. But that's not how it works. We can't hold grudges and not forgive others and expect God to treat us differently. 

I know that as hard as it is, we have to be able to forgive others when they sin against us. In Matthew 6, Jesus says, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." And that's what we have to keep our focus on. I want to be forgiven for every sin that I have ever committed, but I need to be able to forgive others when they sin against me if I want that to happen.

It's also worth noting that just like we should forgive others for their sins, we should also not judge them for their sins. It's important to not judge others for their imperfections, but instead to love them through their mistakes. We are imperfect ourselves, so what gives us the right to judge others for their imperfections? I love how Paul puts it in Colossians 3:13: "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." I love how he says to bear with each other, and I love how he says to forgive people for whatever it is they did and move on. 

But that's rarely an easy thing to do. My flesh is always sure to put up a fight. Bearing with each other can get messy and uncomfortable. It's so much easier to just pass judgment on their failures and to not put up with them. But that's not what Christ calls His children to do. He calls us to put up with each other when we go through highs and lows, ups and downs. I'll be the first to admit that I am not very good at that. I am so quick to judge a brother or sister in Christ for the sin that's in their life. And when it comes to evaluating my own life, I tend to be much slower to judge. It's funny how that works, isn't it? I am much more forgiving and understanding towards myself than I ever am towards other people. Of that, I am deeply ashamed. I wish that I was better at loving people despite their failures. I want to be better at forgiving people instead of holding grudges against them. But that is something I have been working on and praying about lately.

See, I know that people will sin against me. I know they will let me down and disappoint me. The will hurt me. They will betray me. And that's part of life. But I think we often forget that. We tend to forget that we are imperfect humans who tend to make pretty big messes. And I am not innocent of that. I've made more than my share of mistakes in life. And that's why I chose to forgive others: because I want them to forgive me, and because I want God to forgive me. If I want to be forgiven for my sins, I have to be able to forgive others their sins against me. It only makes sense, doesn't it? If I can't forgive my own Christian brothers and sisters, why should I receive forgiveness myself?

I am reminded of Matthew 7, where Jesus says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." I am always so convicted when I read this passage. It's just such a blunt truth that Jesus doesn't event think about coating over. He delivers His message with frank honesty, and it never fails to hit home with me. In the same way I judge others, I too will be judged. And the measure I use for others, it will be measured to me. In other words, if you are gracious and forgiving, then you will see grace and forgiveness. But if you cannot forgive others, and if you unashamedly judge others for their shortcomings, or even what you see as a shortcoming, then so you will be dealt with in the same manner.

And so, the option given to us is to judge and hold a grudge, or to show grace and forgiveness. And how we treat other people is how we will be treated, both by men and by God. And that's why we are called to "bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another" and to "forgive as the Lord forgave you." So bear with each other. We aren't perfect people. We will make mistakes, we will be stupid, we will hurt each other, we will let each other down. But the Bible says to love each other unconditionally and to love each other from the heart.

So instead of putting up walls, instead of judging, instead of holding grudges, instead of ending friendships over stupid disputes, can't we learn to get along? Can't we learn to bear with each other in our weaknesses? Can't we learn to love each other unconditionally? None of us are perfect, and if we can't learn to bear with one another, we will all end up alone.

     "Love bears all things..."
     ~1 Corinthians 13:7

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