Do you ever get frustrated with other Christians? I do. There are so many Christians out there who profess Christ but don’t follow Him. There are so many Christians who’ve been in church for years who have no concept of what true service is. There are so many Christians who know the Bible but haven’t figured out how to apply it to their life.
And I get frustrated with them. So today’s verse is really, truly aimed directly at me.
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
Ouch. Do you ever read verses that step on your toes? This is one for me because I really struggle with this. I’m usually quick to point out the faults of other Christians, and I’m not always gentle about it. And I know I’m not patient either. I don’t know if it’s because I keep thinking that if they would make the obvious choice and do what the Bible says, their struggles will be over or what. But it’s very easy for me to criticize and it’s very easy for me to be impatient.
I have high expectations for God’s people. Not because they’re superheros but because they have access to God, because through Him they can do everything, and because they don’t have to settle for ordinary. People talk about the mission’s trips and the experiences I have gone through as though they can’t do anything similar. Well, yes, they can. There’s nothing I have done that someone else can’t do–and do a better job at! But other Christians convince themselves that great things are done by great people, and that’s not true. Great things are done by God, and if we ask, He’ll let us tag along.
And I lose my patience easily with those sorts of comments (and with those sorts of Christians) because they insist on putting God in a box. But this verse says that’s now how a Christian is supposed to act.
Even if a Christian gets off track, although it is my job to try to set them straight, I need to do it gently and humbly. And even if another Christian isn’t off track and they’re just driving me crazy, I need to be patient with them. Why?
Well, beyond the obvious answer of “the Bible says so,” God has also been patient with me. I’m not perfect. Far from it. And when I make mistakes, God is always there waiting to pick me up and set me back on my feet again. And if God can be that patient with me, why can’t I be that patient with my brothers and my sisters in Christ?
I need to be patient with other believers because I love them. Love is what sets us apart, makes us stand out in the crowd of inscrutable religions. And traditional Christians aren’t very good at it, let’s just be honest. The Christians I’ve met who grasp this concept are radical, revolutionary thinkers who break every mold they come across.
I truly believe that many people won’t have chosen not to follow Christ have done so because of their experience with Christians. Let’s be real here. The Jesus many Christians paint of picture of with their lives isn’t very flattering. He either has no moral standards at all or He hates everyone. And if that’s the Jesus we are trying to introduce people to, it’s no wonder that the world doesn’t want anything to do with Him. And what sort of family are we asking people to come into? A family that has impossible expectations? A family that demands you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps while they throw rocks at you? A family that demands perfection from you every moment of every day and doesn’t allow for any faults or weaknesses?
Is that truly an alluring concept? Is that really the kind of family we want to belong in?
I’m not saying look away from sin. Sin needs to be addressed when it appears, and it needs to be addressed with gentleness and humility because without God’s grace you could end up in the same situation.
But I’m not talking about sin. I’m talking about everyday relationships. When a Christian you’re around slips up and isn’t acting very Christiany, what do you do? Do you yell at them? Do you call them a fake? Do you puff yourself up and tell them what’s wrong in their lives?
Yeah, none of those options sound gentle or humble.
When that happens, apply this verse. Be patient because you love them. If you feel you need to mention it, be gentle and humble about it. And after the conversation is done, don’t hold it over their heads. Let it go. Forgive them for not being perfect because you’re in the same boat.