Most Christians know that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8) and “love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Pt. 4:8) but do we know that as Christians we are to “bear with one another in brotherly love” (Eph. 4:2) and further more do we know what that means? I have to say that I fail miserably at this sometimes, as we all do, but when we do it correctly it has the unifying effect on the body that God desires (Eph. 4:3). It has the ability to create strength within the whole body and to create growth in love (Eph. 4:15-16).
So what exactly does it mean to bear with one another in brotherly love? Some would argue that it means simply to stand by one another and give them encouragement and help when they are struggling, but it goes so much further than that.
Colossians 3:12-17 says,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Paul listed attributes of one who bears with another in brotherly love as someone who is compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and thankful. He also stated that the “message of Christ” should be living inside of us and around us as we teach and admonish one another with wisdom. We are to “teach and admonish” one another bearing with one another in brotherly love. Paul’s message to the church denotes relationship within the body. It requires commitment to one another and to love one another as we would love ourselves. There are many who say that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sins, which I whole heartedly agree, but it is the duty of the Christian brother and sister to walk with their fellow Christian teaching and admonishing them along the way while expecting the same thing in return.
Teaching and admonishing is a difficult pill to swallow for many of us today because we lack true relationship with people. In the United States we are busy people and we are self-centered. Our focus is on ourselves and our families the majority of the time and it is causing great damage within the church. Most of us do not have enough relationship with others or a deep enough relationship with others to care so greatly for them that we would have the courage to teach and admonish as is necessary. For the most of us we present ourselves to be perfect and hide the dark parts of our lives so that no one will know our struggles and will never truly know us.
If you don’ t believe me take a moment and try to think about how many times abiding in Christ, Christ’s love, your personal sin, your prayers, etc. were talked about with others this past week. Is there someone in your life who knows these things that would help correct your path if you started to veer off and would you listen? Would you be willing to do the same thing for them in order to save them from allowing Satan into their lives? How many times have you sought the Bible for wisdom and direction this week? How many times have you called a fellow Christian to encourage them or to help them work through something they are going through?
Certainly in our society there seems to be a place for everyone’s opinion with social media, but does the message of love really come across when we make posts out of frustration or discouragement? What about hatred? I know that some of you are thinking that it is your duty to let people know that they are sinning against God and I would agree to some extent, but probably not in the way that you are thinking. If you are in a place of frustration, discouragement, fear, hate, or anything other than love then you are wrong first and foremost and nothing that you say or do will bring unity within the body of Christ nor will you draw people to Christ who do not know Him.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had to delete posts that I have written because of these things. Sometimes when I look at the world I become so consumed with all of the evil that I cannot help but to feel this way and I want to let the world know, but the reality is that as Christians we are strangers in a foreign land (1 Pet. 2:11). “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me [Jesus] before it hated you. ‘If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you’” (Jn. 15:18-19).
The end times are coming, just as they were foretold, and in the end there will be wars and rumors of wars and Christians “will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and will be hated by all nations because of me [Jesus]. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Mt. 24:9-14).
I point out these things not to scare you, but to help you realize that when we look upon the world and see war, and persecution, and rampant sin we know that things are progressing the way that they have been foretold to progress by Jesus. Notice though that He said that many will grow cold in their love and they will turn away from their faith, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
It is not our job to “fix” the world. It is our job to abide in Jesus, to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and to trust God. This means that we must know the Word of God and hold fast to it, we must use it to teach others and rebuke others when necessary. This all is to be done in brotherly love. It should also be noted that we cannot hold non-Christians to the same standard, because unfortunately they have chosen to abide in Satan rather than God. Our duty to the world is to show them love and that to follow Christ means actually living a different life. We have an obligation to share the Gospel message of hope to the entire world as we live our lives according to the Word. We must unite as a body of believers in all that we do. We must encourage each other to stay on the straight path and help each other get back to it when they turn way. We must encourage always and strive to live in a way that is holy and pleasing to God.
God sent His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us while we were still sinners. Jesus paid the ultimate price for you and me thousands of years before we were even born. Through the intervention of loving Christians and the prompting of the Holy Spirit we have come to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and because of this we share in the honor of presenting the Gospel to a lost and broken world. We cannot force people to accept God, we cannot manipulate them into believing what we believe, we cannot guilt them into saving their own lives by given them up. All that we can do is be there and love on them and share the truth out of love and respect for Jesus who died so that we could do even greater things than He did. We are to be a light in a dark world (Mt. 5:14-16).
May God richly bless your life and the lives of those you encounter. May He guide you and direct your path in a way that you seek Him in all that you do and in all that you say.