We know we are called to love others, but this is not always easy. People are messy and therefore relationships can be messy. We all have those people who are “sandpaper” people in our lives, you know, the ones who know how to push our buttons or tend to rub us the wrong way. Many times we are sandpaper people in the lives of others. Even with those we love, we can experience sandpaper moments, which if left unchecked can destroy relationships. Sandpaper people and sandpaper moments are not an excuse to give full vent to our frustrations.
My husband and I have been married for over 30 years—and we are complete opposites in almost every way! There were years early in our marriage when our bickering over little “sandpaper” issues was becoming a habit. After a few years, when things began to get pretty rocky between us, his “sandpaper” ways became even more apparent, as I am sure mine did to him. We found ourselves sharing the same house and raising our kids together, but drifting further apart. It came to a climax after a series of events where divorce became a very real possibility. At the time, neither of us were believers and we certainly were not seeking to follow in the ways of Jesus! It was pure stubbornness on both our parts to not want to be separated from our children which kept us from pulling the trigger on a divorce. We continued to live together, but apart. A few years later, the Lord began moving in our lives and we both recognized we were sinners in need of a Savior—and His name was Jesus! After surrendering our lives to Christ, the Lord began to heal our marriage, slowly and often very painfully. But God redeemed and restored our marriage. Our marriage is now stronger and our relationship deeper than either of us ever imagined possible. Those “sandpaper” ways still surface from time to time, but we each know where to take them—to the feet of Jesus in prayer. As we do this, the Lord and His Spirit change our hearts and perspectives in the situation.
As we learn to walk in love, it will affect our attitudes, our actions, and our relationships!
Learning to walk in love is made practical through what is known as the mutuality commands or the “one anothers” in the Scriptures. This week we begin by comparing the famous love passage in 1 Corinthians 13 with the mutuality commands found throughout the New Testament. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:4a alongside Ephesians 4:1-3:
Love is patient and kind; —1 Corinthians 13:4a
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
LOVE is patient and kind so WALK bearing with one another.
Bear with, in the original language means to hold up or keep back from falling, to bear patiently is spoken of having patience with the errors of weaknesses of others. It implies the idea of giving another person/believer room to grow in their faith and their walk.
When I am impatient, my words and actions are rushed and rude. When I walk with an attitude of bearing with, my words and actions are to be patient and kind.
How exactly are we to bear with one another?
If we compare Ephesians 4:1-3 with a complementary verse in Colossians 3:12, we find the reminder that we are God’s chosen ones who are beloved. We see that bearing with involves compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness/meekness, and patience.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… —Colossians 3:12
These words in the original language give us further insight into how we are to bear with one another…even when it’s hard!
- Kind/Kindness in the original language means to show oneself useful, to show one’s self mindful, to use kindness, willing to help. Kindness is a grace that pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere. This kindness describes one’s disposition rather than acts of goodness.
Kindness is God’s grace that pervades my whole being. It’s about my inward disposition rather than acts I perform.
- Humility in the original language means esteeming ourselves as small; for the sinner it involves confession of sin and a deep realization of His unworthiness to receive God’s marvelous grace.
Humility is understanding that I am a sinner, who is unworthy of the marvelous grace and forgiveness God has provided, and so my life is characterized by confession of sin. In disagreements with others, humility is looking inward to see what part I have played in the situation and confession of that sin.
- Gentleness/Meekness in the original language does not denote outward expression of feeling but an inward grace of the soul, a calmness toward God in particular. It is the acceptance of God’s dealings with us as good, in that they enhance the closeness of our relationship with Him.
Gentleness/Meekness is an inward grace of my soul because of my relationship with Jesus, rather than an outward expression. It is resting in the assurance that any difficulty or trial I face is designed to draw me closer to God.
- Patience in the original language means self-restraint before proceeding to action; a quality of one able to avenge himself/herself yet refrains from doing so; it involves exercising understanding and patience towards others. (Note: there are two words for patience in the New Testament. One involves patience in circumstances and the other patience toward people. This word is the latter.)
Patience requires the grace of God and the Spirit of God to keep me from reacting in a situation based on my feelings or desires, but rather to exercise understanding and compassion toward another.
As I studied each of these words, I noticed some commonalities:
#1 Each of these characteristics begins within my own heart and mind.
#2 They all involve grace —God’s divine influence upon my heart and soul that is then reflected in my life.
#3 They each require I rely upon the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. They are the fruit of the Spirit and not something I can bring about through my own efforts and abilities. (Galatians 5:22-23)
In our relationships, we always need to look VERTICAL before HORIZONTAL. I need to humble myself before God and ask him to do a work in my heart and life first.
I have found that bearing with one another often requires that I simply PAUSE and BREATHE!
Pausing reminds me that I too am the recipient of patience and kindness. First and foremost, the patience and kindness of the Lord who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and faithfulness. (Psalm 103:8). I also have benefited and grown through the patience and kindness of other believers who have extended grace and love to me, pointing me to Christ, and giving me an example to follow as I mature in my walk.
Breathing allows me a moment to exhale that impatient spirit and refocus. Asking for the Lord to flood my heart and mind with His grace, reminding me of His Word which realigns my attitude and actions, so that I might reflect Jesus.
This idea of bearing with does not suggest that we are to become doormats or allow abuse using patience and kindness as a tool to enable. There are situations and times when we need to confront and speak the truth in love or just remove ourselves from the situation! But I find that most of my daily interactions, moments of impatience, and unkindness simply require I bear with another by the grace of God and His Spirit at work within me.
Who are the sandpaper people in your life? Who do you need to bear with today? Ask the Lord to give you the strength to walk patient and kind toward others bearing with their faults, weaknesses, or immaturity as you point them to Jesus.
Rejoicing in Him!
©2013 Walk in Love, Susan Cady, susancady.com