Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
We believers are each members of the family of God. We have brothers and sisters around the world. Our churches exist amid sister churches that are spread all over the planet. We are part of something bigger than just ourselves. We are the redeemed of the Lord who are brought into relationship with one another under His Lordship, and are called to work together for the advancement of His Kingdom. We do not stand alone. We stand in fellowship with our brothers and sisters around the world to give a witness to the goodness and grace of God.
Sometimes it is a simple thing to remember this. Often the family of faith shows its gracious and gentle side, and we sense the common love and compassion from Christ that we share with one another. But it is not always this way. Sometimes the family of faith can be difficult, frustrating, and disappointing. Instead of feeling the family love of God, we often feel the sharpness of unkind words, threatening acts, and judgmental accusations.
But the Lord calls us to do the same and to be the same regardless of whether our spiritual family is easy to live with or not. We are to be “completely humble and gentle” and “patient.” It is interesting in the German translations that these words can share the same root - Mut¸ or courage. “Mit aller Demut und Sanftmut (”soft-courage”), mit Langmut (”long-courage”)” is the way the Elberfelder Bibel translates this - literally, humility, soft courage, and long courage. In the Greek there is no connectedness between roots of the three words used, but it still gives helpful insight into the application of this command in our lives.
Courage is that ability from within that is able to go forward in the face of discouraging circumstances. It takes a type of courage to be gentle and patient with people who are not gentle and patient toward us. It requires us to look beyond the outward circumstances and see the heart of God and His love for people, and to act toward them on that basis, and not on the basis of how they have treated us.
The goal is to keep the bond of peace, to preserve the unity of the Spirit of God among the people of God. Today, might this simply be a reminder to us each, a means to encourage us all, that if we feel like giving up on a brother in Christ, if we are discouraged in our sense of unity of the family of Christ, might we each lean on the strength of God and not react according to the desires of our sinful natures? Now is the time to exercise “soft-courage” that goes another mile with an unkind and difficult brother or sister. Today is the day to exercise “long-courage” that can see past the circumstances and see the potential in the mind of God for His children.
And if we will think, I believe we can all remember a time when someone did as much with us - when someone loved us when we were not very lovable.