As words are used today, to «love» a person or to «bear with» them are attitudes which are mutually exclusive. I love a person who makes me feel good: if I bear with (= put up with) someone this isn’t love yet, or it is no longer love. To our surprise, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians to bear with one another, in love (Ephesians 4:2). Love isn’t just a feeling, it isn’t egocentric, it isn’t given conditionally. And to bear with a difficult person for a long time, because I am committed to him/her, may be an expression of pure Christlike love. I don’t give up on a person because he/she is stubborn or bad. C.S. Lewis said: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained”. Today the word «love» is used in a way that tends to reject moral restrictions. According to this way of thinking, if I refuse to consent in the sin my brother is caught up in, I am being «intolerant»: I am not being loving with him. But Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers to follow the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). So, he isn’t trying to set aside or relativize clear doctrinal or ethical definitions. And, if I call «love» my hesitation in being clear and forthright with a person who is in sin, this shows that in fact I may be «loving» my own feelings more than the person’s true interests. The unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) is a glorious gift that God has given to all Christ’s disciples for them to maintain. But the unity of faith (v. 13) is an aim to strive towards, ardently and persistently, even when my brother’s habits or way of speaking tend to put me off. The growth of the body (v. 16), in all its parts – is an aim for which Christ gave His life (cf. Ephesians 5:25-27).
- Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, through which we receive free salvation, in no way dependent on our works or our efforts.
- Thank you for the fact that the Church of Christ exists in the most varied localities and cultures of the world, with the common aim of announcing salvation through Jesus.
- Thank you for the fellowship we enjoy and live with our brothers and sisters from every kind of background.
- Forgive us for the social, racial and denominational barriers which have often prevented us from valuing and loving the brothers and sisters Christ redeemed by His blood.
- Help your churches to value more highly the essential truths of the Gospel, and not to allow secondary questions to divide them, and even to consider that these differences may be positive. (Thinking of an evangelical congregation in your locality which belongs to a different denomination and/or with which you don’t have much contact). Help, Lord, church x, with its pastor or leader, to grow in You and to fulfill the aims You have entrusted to it.