Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”
Any church concerned about right teaching and holy living easily comes under suspicion of a “better-than-thou” attitude at work. I have assured guests and visitors, “I can tell you from experience that all the members of my church (including its pastor) will have to be saved by grace alone.” A deep concern for the truth of God’s Word doesn’t make us better people.
I need to take no time demonstrating to active Christians that we are all sinful. Every one of us has been hurt by a Christian brother or sister at some time or another. An honest inventory of our own behavior reveals that we have been just as guilty of dishing it out as we have been imposed upon to take it.
This is not “good,” but it is “normal” for a Christian congregation. That we can expect this kind of behavior teaches us something about the way we relate to each other. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Colossians, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” (3:13).
You and I have no choice but to belong to an imperfect congregation. There is no congregation of perfect saints on earth (at least not apart from the forgiveness we receive from Jesus). If we were to find one, our own presence there would spoil it.
That means that, all our lives, all our fellow members will be afflicted with the sickness of sin. That does not mean God wants us to accept sin. He doesn’t. Nor do the sins that others commit against us give us an excuse to “pick up all our marbles and go home.” Rather, it is an opportunity to “bear with each other.” It calls for us to practice our love for each other even more fervently. We need to apply the antidote to the sickness—gently and lovingly confronting sin and applying large doses of forgiveness.
Consider how we might treat a sick friend or child. His or her sickness may impose upon us in some way. It may be so debilitating that this friend or child was unable to do anything kind or good for me. But is this a reason to abandon our dear one? Isn’t it at such times that our love and help are needed most of all? Wouldn’t we be moved to try to take care of the person in time of weakness?
When others have sinned, especially when they have sinned against us, they need our love most of all. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” is the Apostle Paul’s prescription.
Don’t forget that this is the same medicine God has graciously given to you. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” is how verse 13 ends. God isn’t happy with our sins, but he hasn’t turned his back on us either. He has patiently born with us time and time again. For as many times as we have hurt him, he has come to us to lead us to repent, to forgive us, and to win us for himself.
May God’s grace to us make our neighbor’s shortcomings a bit more bearable.