Nobody is perfect. We all have bad days, and all appreciate others bearing with us when we are not at our best. Extended periods of isolation, sick loved ones, death and financial loss can contribute to fear for our health and safety. All these things can make many of us stressed and irritable. Many people are privately struggling in these areas and are in need of our love.
Bearing With Difficult People
We need to remember that difficult people are often hurting people. So we should look out for one another and show an extra measure of love and grace. Paul directs us “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" (Ephesians 4:1-2, ESV).
We are to relate with other people with a humble attitude, with a gentle disposition and with patience. Cultivating these virtues helps us to become more like Christ and enables us to bear with those who at times are difficult. Such self-control, when tested under difficult circumstances with difficult people, shows the power of God’s love in us.
We often notice people getting impatient while waiting in line at the grocery store. We encounter inconsiderate drivers on the road. If we are honest, those impatient and inconsiderate people are often us, so this is a concern we need to face.
Unity and Peace in Our Homes and Churches
Verse 3 continues with our hope: “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, ESV). Although we may occasionally have to deal with petulance among strangers, our biggest challenge comes when we find it in our homes and churches - the two places where there ought to be unity and peace.
Such peaceful unity is the work of the Holy Spirit as we yield to His influence and power in obedience to His Word. All the more reasons to remind ourselves of this simple admonition, “Be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, NIV).
Love Is the Key
The real key to this passage is the short prepositional phrase, “in love” (en agape), which is a theme that occurs six times in this letter. God chose us in love (Ephesians 1:4), that we should be “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17), “bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2), “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), "building up the body of Christ in love" (Ephesians 4:16) and "walking in love" (Ephesians 5:2).
Learning to love is one of our major tasks in life, and it is tested and thereby strengthened when it does not come easy. Here is a powerful statement that is often read at weddings: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).
This was not intended just for couples loving each other, but that we would be so inspired and empowered by God’s love that we would develop that same love for all people; yes, even very difficult people.
We Christians are called to love as God loves us, which of course would be impossible without God’s love flowing through us by His Spirit (1 John 4:11). Even evil people love those who love them. Of course, we are referring here to minor issues and not serious sins or injustices. So we also must be discerning, not naive to those who may be truly malicious.
Finally, if love is not enough to inspire us there is also the call to duty: “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Romans 15:1-2).
We need to give people the benefit of the doubt, assuming the best and dealing with them according to the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), that they would see in us the love of Christ and be drawn to Him. So, let’s remember: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.