Paul says, “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” (Eph 4:1, 2). What does he mean by bearing with one another? It doesn’t excuse or justify anyone’s sins or errors, but it does cover them.
Notice what Paul tells the Galatians near the end of his letter to them. In Galatians 6, he writes:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1, 2)
What’s most surprising about that exhortation is that it comes on the heel of a long scathing rebuke where Paul strongly expresses his anger over what has happened among the Galatian churches. What happened? False teachers of the worst kind had crept in and persuaded them to believe a false gospel. They had adopted a theological framework that essentially denies the Savior. It was an issue so serious that Paul says anyone teaching such a corrupt doctrine should be accursed. He should be cast away for utter destruction.
He then turns his attention to those in the church who have been misled by this teaching. False teachers deceived them, and Paul understood that, so he tells those who were not deceived, “You who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:1, 2).
Think of it this way. Imagine you’re following someone on the highway who’s distracted while driving. Maybe he’s texting or playing with the radio when his car goes crashes into the ditch. It’s his fault, you think as you consider driving past him, going about your day. You’re right. It was his fault, but refusing to help is not the right thing to do. We are to bear one another’s burdens, so you stop your car to see whether he’s okay.
When you stop, maybe you scold him for texting while driving. He deserves at least that much. He could have killed you or someone else. A good tongue-lashing will do him good. Then again, Paul says, “You who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:1). Why? Because you’ve probably done the same thing or something similar. Have you never been distracted while driving? “Keep watch on yourself,” Paul tells the Galatians, “lest you too be tempted.”
We have no excuses or justification for refusing to be humble, gentle, and patient with others, especially the church. God has called us to bear with one another in love. Your problems are my problems. My problems are your problems. To bear with one another is to take those problems upon ourselves even when they’re not ours and even when they cause us difficulties.
Peter says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1Pe 4:8). Again, we’re not to hide sins. Nothing is loving about pretending not to notice that someone else has a problem. Read what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5. He was upset with them for sweeping their sins under the rug, refusing to do something about them.
No, loving forbearance is about supporting one another. It’s about coming alongside someone who has a problem and gently, patiently leading him or her back to the right path. It’s about loving others unconditionally despite the challenges they impose on you.
J.C. Ryle once said:
Our Lord has many weak children in his family, many dull pupils in his school, many raw soldiers in his army, many lame sheep in his flock. Yet he bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to do likewise with his brethren.
Let’s not forget that every one of us has been that weak child or dull pupil at times. Frankly, we all begin as lame sheep in need of Christian love and support. Have enough humility before God and before your brethren to lose that harsh tone of voice and uncaring spirit. We do not honor Christ when we discourage and crush his people under the weight of our impatience and harsh words. Love is the prevailing commandment of the Bible, which should rule our every action.