The truth about all community – secular or sacred – is that it consists of people, and people are flawed. Paul encourages the Colossian Christians to ‘bear with each other’ (3:13). The virtues he listed in 3:12 (compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility and patience) must express themselves in the act of forbearing. Each of us brings our flaws, struggles and weaknesses to relationships, giving others an opportunity to bear with us – as we do with them.
I used to think of this as a burden, and often wished that everyone would become what I wanted them to be – less rigid, less complaining, more outgoing…. I too wanted to be more transparent as a person but often failed to take the risk. If we are going to live in community we will have to learn to accept others as they are, not as we want them to be.
That does not mean that we simply accept the flaws and stop wanting people to change. What it does mean is that we welcome the opportunity to bear the burdens of others. It is a privilege to do so: when we bear with one another we experience genuine love and intimacy. It is an opportunity, not an obligation.
Bearing with one another is the only way to loved and be loved: to exercise compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility and patience. In Galatians 6:2, Paul wrote: ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.’ The way of Jesus is to bear the burdens of others. He has given us an example and a motive for bearing with each other. May we have his eyes of compassion, seeing the struggles of others as an opportunity to demonstrate real love.
The struggles, problems and weaknesses of those around me are not an obligation for me, but an opportunity for me to demonstrate the love of Jesus.
Gracious Abba, just as you have borne all my burdens with gladness, help me to demonstrate that love to the people I live and work with. Give me your eyes of compassion, and teach me how to see their struggles as an opportunity to demonstrate real love. Amen.
When have you been in a situation where it was difficult to get along because of the personal issues or struggles of those in the community?