The Christian faith must be lived and experienced in community. We learn and grow from being around each other. It is in the community that some of the greatest lessons of our faith are worked out.
Paul the Apostle wrote these words: “As a prisoner in the Lord, then, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”.
These words were written to a community of believers. His reminder is powerful; you must live by what you believe and profess! He indicates that this is done by being completely humble and gentle. In this context the word gentle involves being courteous and considering others. It speaks of a willingness to waive one’s rights and preferences. Gentleness is listed as a fruit of the Spirit. This is the fruit that is grown in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul pairs humility and gentleness, certainly something that is needed in our world today. There is a reason humility and gentleness are mentioned together: humility makes us willing to learn, gentleness helps us listen to the promptings of the Spirit as well as assists us in listening to and valuing others. Without humility and gentleness, living in a community becomes difficult if not impossible. People are willing to hear from a gentle person. Gentleness is not weakness; it is our strength under the control of the Holy Spirit. Remeber that Jesus said we should come to Him and learn from Him: because He is humble and gentle of heart. Matthew 11:29
Paul states further that we must be patient. Patience is likewise a fruit of the Spirit; it is not something we try harder to achieve on our own. As believers, we are patient because we know that our lives are in God’s hands. We understand that He has redeemed us and our perspective is now broadened and deepened with an endless, eternal time horizon. Because God has been patient with us, we must offer patient understanding to our families and friends. I become more patient with others as I mature in Christ, and understand that I may be wrong in a particular assessment and am willing to admit when I am wrong. This attitude is a tool the Lord uses to teach us patience.
Paul says that we must bear with one another in love. Many read this I believe as “be a bear with one another.” There are people who through clenched teeth proclaim “I have to bear this person.” That is not the message of Paul in this passage. Bearing with is something you do with humility and kindness even if the person never changes and the things the person does is indeed annoying. I love the way the great fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom defined this, “bearing with one another in love” is having “a wide and big soul.”
My prayer is that I will have a wide and big soul. I am sure this will only happen as I am empowered by the Holy Spirit and continue living in community with God’s people!
Have a great and blessed week.