January 2023 GPS
This month, as we continue to study what the Bible says about how we are to treat one another as believers, we will look at our responsibility to “bear with one another” and “forgive one another.” These two responsibilities are addressed in three passages. The first one is in Ephesians: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV) This passage reminds us that a “walk” or behavior that is worthy of our calling as Christians will include “bearing with one another in love.” If we do not walk/live that way we are not walking worthy of our calling as Christians. Furthermore, it remind us of the kinds of attitudes (humility, gentleness, and patience) that are to be the atmosphere in which we bear with one another. Finally, it tells us that a goal that is to be in the minds of such believers is that they will be eager (not just willing) to maintain the unity produced by the Holy Spirit. That unity is damaged when we do not bear with one another. Clearly, bearing with one another is an important responsibility. Exactly what does it mean “to bear with” one another? One New Testament dictionary defines the word translated “bear with” as meaning to “have patience with in regard to the errors or weaknesses of anyone.” It is to be done “in love” not bitterness or resentment. We see an example of Jesus doing this very thing in Matthew 17 when He came down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John. “And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”” (Matthew 17:14–17, ESV) Jesus was saddened by the lack of peoples’ faith. Still, He cured the boy, explained to the disciples why they had not been able to produce a cure in this case, and continued to work with them.
The second passage, also in Ephesians 4, deals with the responsibility to forgive one another: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV) Similar to the case with the previous verse in Ephesians, this one notes that the kind of heart out of which the responsibility being commanded flows is characterized by kindness and tenderheartedness. Furthermore, the example which is set before us to follow in forgiving others is the way “God in Christ forgave” us. That should lead us to consider what the Bible says about the way God has forgiven us. In David’s description of God’s love for us he wrote, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12, ESV)
Immediately after a verse in which God describes the sins of His people, He says through Isaiah, ““I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25, ESV) In Jeremiah’s beautiful elaboration of the terms of the New Covenant, the LORD says through the prophet, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:34, ESV) Our Lord applied this same principle to the way we are to forgive when He answered Peter’s question. “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21–22, ESV) In essence Jesus was saying, “Forgive by forgetting.” If we keep track of wrongs done to us, we are not forgiving as God in Christ has forgiven us.
The third passage addresses both our responsibilities to bear with one and forgive one another. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12–13, ESV) Here, Paul calls us to behave as people who have been chosen (called) by God. That will mean “putting on” hearts characterized by kindness and humility and meekness and patience. Hearts with those qualities will be recognized by the fact that they bear with one another, and when they have a complaint, they forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven us. If we do not forgive in this way, it shows something about the condition of our hearts. Humility, gentleness, patience, kindness, tenderheartedness, compassion, and meekness are at least to some degree missing. One more thing should be said about this general topic. Although we are called to bear with one another and forgive one another, that does not mean we are to ignore sin when we encounter it. What are we to do? We will look at that responsibility in next month’s installment. Although I suppose one could bear with others or forgive them via electronic media, it is hard for me to believe that the kind of a relationship that is being described by these actions could be carried on without real personal contact.
-Pastor Robert Spicer1 Zodhiates, S. (2000). In The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). AMG Publishers.