Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (NLT)
John Cleese once made a DVD titled “How to Irritate People”. It featured various scenarios in which someone would behave in such a way as to get on others’ nerves. It was not as if the person was doing anything wrong or sinful. They were just being irritating.
When someone deeply hurts us, we need to forgive. When someone just gets on our nerves, we need to forbear. I forgive someone who slanders me. I forbear someone who talks too much. I forgive someone who assaults me. I forbear someone who pushes ahead of me in a queue. We have to forbear a lot more than we have to forgive.
Forbearance, according to our text, is all about making allowances for one another. I put up with someone’s imperfections just as they have to put up with mine. I don’t jump down someone’s throat out of irritation because I don’t want them to do the same to me. Living in harmony requires that we make allowances for one another.
People leave churches and marriages break down not just because of serious abuse or disagreement. These things happen because we may idealise other people. When they inevitably fail to meet our expectations, we turn on them. Given we are all imperfect and at times irritating, this leads to a precarious existence.
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Putting up with people may not sound very inspiring, but it actually makes for better and more realistic relationships. Sometimes, putting up with someone is our most obvious and best way of loving them.