Wounds. Unless they are physical, we often don’t see wounds in other people. What we do see is the negative expressions that are effects of the internal presence of their wounds. For a hypothetical example, maybe my dad was verbally abusive, could never find anything right or good enough in me growing up, never gave me affirmation of a job well done or loving critique of how to do better, never told me he loved me or hugged me, but instead tore me down, met me with dissatisfaction or criticism. Some people have even worse wounds, and some may not have wounds per se, but have a lacking in certain areas simply because of the conditions in which they were raised: maybe I am an only child, whose parents thought loving me meant spoiling me, and through the course of my growing up, I got used to generally having things my own way, not needing to share space or things, and generally having whatever might be happening in the home that included me, revolve around me.
In either of these scenarios, the way I interact with you will likely be difficult for you to deal with. And that’s not your fault—you didn’t have anything to do with how the sin nature of humanity has affected me. However, we have been called to love as Jesus loved. Which puts you in a sticky situation, because I’m not easy to love! How can we as Christ followers, in accordance with our theme, learn to love such a Christ follower with abrasive imperfections that are still being worked on in the fire of sanctification?
First, a warning about seeing problems in others. Jesus once asked a burning question: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the plank that is in your eye?” While it is often clear to us that others have problems, it can be somewhat of a shock to find out that we ourselves have problems! Oftentimes, our own imperfections, or planks, exasperate (or even cause) what we perceive coming from others. This is important to be aware of with what follows.
Paul wrote a letter to Christians in the city of Colossae. In it, he talks about how the Christian dies with Christ and is raised with Him, and therefore we are to put to death the worldly things in us and put on the new self, in which we are united with all believers: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). He doesn’t simply drop this truth of unity and leave, but immediately applies it to the Colossians’ relational lives. He lists some qualities to clothe the inner being with, including patience (v. 12) by “bearing with one another” (v.13). It’s an interesting word that is translated “bearing with.” Literally, it is formed from the Greek words meaning “up” and “to hold.” Imagine your attention acting as a mechanism that holds someone up in front of you. For you to bear with that person, you won’t just drop them at the first sign of annoyance or offense or discomfort. It can be understood as “putting up with.”
This doesn’t mean “put up with” as we Americans may understand it: enduring by keeping our opinions to ourselves (and all our friends when the problem person is out of earshot). It does mean, however, staying with the person (at least figuratively and often literally) when we initially don’t want to. Overlooking the abrasions for the sake of loving the person and building a connection through which we can begin to speak toward the issue. If you read last week’s thought, it means looking at the person and allowing them to be complex instead of caricaturing them. Additionally, bearing with someone gives you the opportunity to check for any planks you may have which are contributing to the situation.
In our pursuit of learning to love, let’s endeavor to put into practice the concept of “bearing with,” that we may be able to sustain the journey learning to love requires us to make.
—Cameron Peters, Director of Communications