Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. — Colossians 3: 13
The love that the Lord expects of us begins by bearing with one another and being willing to forgive.
The unity in the congregation of Colossae was threatened by foreign teachings. There were differing views on how a true Christian was to conduct himself. However, these opinions were nothing but “commandments and doctrines of men” (Colossians 2: 22).
Apostle Paul endeavoured to restore and reinforce the unity of the congregation. To this end he used his epistle to focus on Jesus Christ as the example, measure, and guide for all.
The basis for unity in the congregation
At that time as today, the principle that helps the members to come to unity in the congregations despite all their differences is and remains our orientation to the Lord. “But, speaking the truth in love, [let us] grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4: 15).
Internalising the attitude of Christ
In the double commandment of love the Lord calls upon us to love both God and our neighbour (Matthew 22: 37–39). But He went even further and gave a new commandment, namely that of love for one another. He even defines this love as an identifying characteristic of His true disciples (John 13: 34–35).
This does not always come easy to everyone all the time. Apostle Paul once confronted this reality at the time, and very pragmatically encouraged the congregation to start by simply tolerating their neighbour and bearing with him in the endeavour to arrive at a loving kind of unity. For him this is, in a certain sense, the lowest common denominator of oneness.
Bearing with one another
Even in the endeavour to bear with others, Jesus sets certain standards. He shows that bearing with others means not rejecting or marginalizing them even if they conduct themselves poorly, but rather remaining kind and benevolent toward them. An example for this is Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s denial of Him: He continued to trust Peter. And the Lord even interceded on behalf of His tormenters and murderers, and asked the Father to forgive them!
It should be our constant endeavour to learn from this example and to grow, or as Paul expresses it in another passage: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2: 5).
- “Bearing with one another” is only possible if we are prepared to forgive our debtors. Those who have truly forgiven will no longer bear any grudges and will no longer make any reproaches, but will turn to their neighbour without reservation.
- We very consciously draw the power to forgive and reconcile from every celebration of Holy Communion, where the entire congregation takes in the same food: the body and blood of the Lord. Thereby Christ lives within us all and helps the “new creation” that has been planted within us to grow until we all come to perfection together.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 31 January 2016, at Midrand Congregation.