Suppose you were God, and you had to live with a group of guys for three plus years; what relational characteristic would you need to demonstrate more than any other? Yes, you would need to be at peace with them; you would need to love them unconditionally; you would have to receive them without judging; and you definitely would need to serve them. Remember, you are God, and these are human beings, men, with all the weaknesses and idiosyncrasies that people have, particularly those of the male gender. What would you need to do in order for relationships within this small group of men to remain healthy, if you were God?
Maybe I’m underestimating God. Maybe I’m seeing God as being more human than He actually is, or was; but from a purely human standpoint, if I was God, and I had to live with a small group of men for three or more years, I think I would need to “put up with” them.
Can you see Jesus rolling His eyes from time to time when the disciples got into one of their frequent squabbles? When James and John wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans, do you think Jesus had to put up with them? When they told the man to stop who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, do you think Jesus may have had to put up with them? When their mother asked for the right hand and left hand seats in His kingdom, do you think He may have had to put up with them? When the disciples argued about which one of them was the greatest on the night before He went to the cross, do you think He may have needed to put up with them?
Of all the relational characteristics that are addressed in the New Testament, this one has a lot of religious people scratching their heads. In fact, very few versions of the Bible actually translate this phrase in this way. Let me give you a couple examples. Ephesians 4:2, New King James Bible, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love;” New Living Translation, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” God’s Word translation, “Be humble and gentle in every way. Be patient with each other and lovingly accept each other.” Of all the translations that I looked at, only one translated this phrase by its literal meaning, and that was the Bible in Basic English, “With all gentle and quiet behavior, taking whatever comes, putting up with one another in love.”
I don’t think people know what to do with such a common term. Does it really mean that we are supposed to “put up with each other”? Yep, it sure does. I believe that the Holy Spirit is well aware that we have personality differences and different ways of thinking that tend to drive each other crazy from time to time. I believe that when He directed Paul to write these instructions, He knew full well that there would be times in the body of Christ that we would need to lay aside our personal preferences and our singular ways of thinking and simply put up with each other.
Come on, let’s not get too spiritual here! Are you so compassionate and patient with people that you don’t find yourself from time to time needing to simply take a deep breath and go on, without making a comment, without correcting, without giving direction or insisting on your way? Sometimes people simply drive us crazy! Sometimes people do or say things that we don’t agree with, and it may not be significant enough that we need to confront or admonish the other person. Sometimes we need to recognize that baby Christians throw up and mess their diapers. Sometimes we need to remember that we are not all at the same place in our walk with God; and we simply need to walk on. Maybe we can come back and visit it later; maybe not. Either way, we need to recognize that putting up with each other is a personal dynamic that we need to practice in the body, if for no other reason than that we can’t fight over everything.