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There are a lot of times the word "bear" appears in the Bible. We're told to bear fruit, bear witness, and bear burdens. But what did the Apostle Paul mean when he told us to "bear in love" with others?
"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
If you're like me, you struggle with the idea of "bearing with one another in love" because, well, it's hard to love others. It's hard to walk alongside others. It's hard to empathize and sympathize and become weak for the sake of strengthening someone else.
The Apostle Paul knew this when he was writing to the Ephesians.
Notice he didn't say "it'd be good if you..." or "I suggest doing..."
He gave a command. Just as Jesus did before the Last Supper:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
— John 13:34-35
If it wasn't a command, we probably wouldn't do it, would we?
It doesn't mean “tolerance” for the sake of tolerating bad behavior. To bear in love with one another means to bear with the weaknesses of others. It's about being mindful that you are not the center of the universe. And it means being aware that everyone is struggling with their own burdens, wrestling with their own conflicts.
It's easy to think about my own stress, my own problems, and my own needs. But that's self-centered, shallow, and untrue. Isn't it ironic that when we give in to our selfishness, we often end up more irritable than when we started?
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to bear in love with friends and family. There is someone in your life dealing with a job loss, or financial problems, or the passing of a loved one, or a friend who is sick. It's less important how you bear in love and more important to actually bear in love. The key is that we aren’t doing it alone.