Ephesians 4: 1-2
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
1 Thessalonians 5: 14
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Proverbs 14: 29
Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
So far this week we've looked at humility and gentleness. Next Paul encourages us to be patient in how we relate to one another. The word literally means 'long-tempered' and is the practical outworking of humility and gentleness.
In a culture that undervalues commitment and treats relationships as disposable, we are to be a people who 'go past the quitting point.' We don't give up on each other easily, we 'bear with one another' when we are disappointed or frustrated. We choose to see beyond the imperfections and faults that every person has, we seek out the best, we focus on the good, we don't allow one bad experience of someone to negate everything positive we have known of them up until that point. We refuse to be offended easily. We confront if necessary and forgive quickly.
The truth is that we all want people to bear with us, in spite of our own faults and failings. We expect people to be patient with us as we work through our own 'stuff'. However, often we make excuses for our bad behaviour while we accuse and judge others for doing the same thing. In fact, I've found that the things that frustrate us most in others are frequently a reflection of our own biggest struggles. We dislike how someone always seems to be seeking attention because deep down, we want the attention on us. We get annoyed when someone doesn't show appreciation to us, but often we forget to say 'thank-you' to someone else.
At the heart of such a lifestyle, says Paul, is love - 'agape', unconditional love, that expects nothing in return. Such love covers a multitude of sins, failings and mistakes. (1 Peter 4:8) In other words, it throws a blanket over them, not to excuse them, but to keep them from becoming more known than necessary. This is the same love that Paul describes in another letter like this: "It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Cor 13: 5-7)
Why not make a decision in your own relationships that, instead of exposing other's weakness, you will call out their greatness? Instead of drawing attention to the clay pot, point others to the treasure hidden within. Prophesy people's potential over them, gossip about their goodness, speak about their successes, bring life with your words, lift others up with your love.
Relationships aren't always easy, but they are worth the effort because they are central to our future. They will become a barrier or a launchpad into our destiny. Paul Scanlon says it like this: "Our resources are in our relationships. If you build a relationally rich life you will never be short of resources. Because your resources are in people and everything you will ever need will come to you through people."
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm.