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"Put Up With Each Other"

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Ephesians 4:2

By Drew Zuverink

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

The commands for Christians to be humble, gentle, and patient make sense, but what does it mean to bear with one another in love? The greek word ανεξομαι means "to put up with, to sustain, to bear, to hold up, or to endure." In 1 Corinthians 4:12 Paul uses this word to describe how Christians ought to endure persecution. In 2 Timothy 4:3 Paul uses it to predict a time when people won't tolerate sound teaching anymore. And in Matthew 17:17 the author uses this word to describe a time when Jesus said, "You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I endure you?" I think it's safe to say that Ephesians 4:2 is a command for members of the church to, quite literally, put up with one another.

The world is filled with somewhere around 8 billion annoying people, and you and I are 2 of them. All of us can think of a few people that just rub us the wrong way. Maybe it's something as trivial as the way they chew their food or the way their voice sounds. Or maybe what annoys us is something more serious like their obviously wrong (sarcasm intended) political views, the way they speak in a way that seems condescending, or how they just don't listen very well. Whatever the reason is, we all get annoyed, offended, and even hurt by other people.

Because churches are comprised of a fairly large group of people with various personalities, temperaments, and maturity levels, we will all experience times when our fellow congregants annoy us, offend us, and even hurt us. I wish this wasn't the case, but because we live in a fallen world, even the church is subject to these things. Acknowledging this is important but what should we do about it?

I think if we met with the apostle Paul for some pastoral counseling on this issue he would say something along the lines of, "We can't control other people and we can't always control our feelings, but what we can control is how we respond." In fact, I imagine Paul might have been addressing these same questions when he told the Ephesian's that sometimes they just need to endure one another. The world often teaches, "If someone offends you, cut off that relationship, and if they wrong you, you don't need to forgive them." Basically the world gives the opposite of Paul's advice. Just consider how often we hear the phrase, "I'm just done with them." The normal thing to do when someone is offended, especially if it happened more than once or in a pretty big way, is to just be done them. However, as people who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us in a supernatural way, Christian's are anything but normal.

The Holy Spirit brings life changing power with him, and once we've received him we are capable of doing things that we weren't before. To use an analogy it's like two people who are competing to see who can hold a boulder above their head the longest. One of them has been taking steroids while the other is all natural. Which person will be able to endure the weight the longest? Of course it's the person who has the help of the steroids. In a similar way, God tells everyone, "Listen, sometimes you just have to endure other people out of love." However, Christian's are like the dude on steroids, we are supernaturally equipped to endure each other's failures for a very long time.

The natural man without the Spirit is capable of stomaching someone who annoys them a little bit, but the Christian is supernaturally empowered to stomach someone who annoys them a lot. The natural man is also capable of overlooking a minor offense, but the Christian is supernaturally empowered to overlook a major offense. Similarly, the natural man is capable of forgiving someone who hurt them a little bit, but the Christian is supernaturally empowered to forgive someone who hurt them in a very big way. All of this is true because the Holy Spirit makes people different.

Everyone is looking for something different than what the world has to offer, because what the world offers can't truly satisfy. None of us, Christian or not, want to join another community of people who cast each other aside, who slander one another, or who won't forgive. Even with good preaching and sound doctrine, a group of Christians who act the same as the rest of the world just isn't attractive. What we're all looking for is a group of people who act like Jesus.

In a world where the new normal is division, Christ commands his people to be different. And when his people actually obey him, it is a beautiful taste of what heaven will be like one day. We have the commands to overlook an offense, to forgive, and to put up with each other. We also have the Holy Spirit who gives us the supernatural ability to do those things to a whole other level. The only question for each of us to ask ourselves is, am I obeying?

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1 Comment

Joseph Adams
Joseph Adams
Dec 07, 2023

Thanks again for a good word.

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