Colossians 3:13: Bearing With One Another as a Lenten Discipline

February 19, 2015

A Facebook friend was fretting a bit that she had not yet decided what to give up for Lent. She brings up an interesting question. As a born and raised Catholic, my family of origin refrained from eating meat on Fridays. Nowadays, such a discipline is a daily and year-round practice among vegetarians, robbing the deprivation of its spiritual meaning. But being the consumer society we are, chances are pretty good that we are all eating, drinking, injecting, or inhaling something that threatens to get the upper hand in our lives. Something in this category would be a sharper focus of discipline during Lent.

On the other hand, rather than eliminating something, would it not also be Lent-worthy to adopt a new habit or practice instead? Yesterday’s verse, Colossians 3:12, suggested arenas for our thoughtful application: patience, kindness, compassion, meekness, and humility. What is something you could do that would exercise one of these virtue-muscles for spiritual strengthening?

Today’s verse is even more pointed, as Paul urges us to express that patience, kindness, compassion, meekness, and humility in the act of “bearing with one another.”

“Bear with each other and forgive
whatever grievances you may have against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

I can think of at least two ways “bearing with” happens:

  1. We help our [friend, family member, co-worker] to bear a particular burden, by our ministries of intercession, presence, and merciful action; or

  2. We “grin and bear it” when our [friend, family member, co-worker] errs, sins, or offends us, and follow up that tolerance with forgiveness in the same manner Christ has forgiven us.

Both interpretations offer possibilities for Lenten discipline.

This past week, one of our covenant group members experienced a confusing medical problem and had to be taken to the hospital ER. Three different brothers in Christ took turns staying with Tom and his wife Betty while the situation was sorted out over a matter of days. Just being there to share the burden and to help them know they were not alone away from home was “bearing with them.” In your life, is someone suffering a prolonged illness, requiring isolation from his or her community and yet needing it more? Can you take a meal? Drop off a little stuffed animal? Do a load of laundry or garden maintenance? Send a meaningful card with a verse worth re-reading and remembering? Your imagination is far more creative than mine is. What is important is that you show up in some way, as a sign that the burden is shared by the Christian community.

But then we come to the other meaning of “bearing with,” which is another way of saying Christian forbearance toward others while they work out the sin thing in their own life. Perhaps Lent is the time to stop nagging or being critical of someone close to you. The Christian discipline would be one of fervent intercession (pray for them!), openness to their humanity (listen to them!), active choosing not to be bothered by irksome behavior (forgive them!), and tending to their wounds with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Just today, a Christian friend was sharing frustration over a work relationship that seems to be going south. The Christian friend thinks the solution is to quit the job because he feels he is being discriminated against as a Jesus-follower. I do not know the details, only that he feels this way about the situation. But maybe for Lent, he (and I in similar situations) could choose to take the barbs and put-downs without losing sleep over them, and walk in Jesus’ footsteps toward the Cross. After all, isn’t that a point of reflection during Lent? We ponder how it is that Jesus took our sins upon himself and absorbed them. He did not return evil for evil, he did not displace any anger or frustration on others around him. No, he bore the sins of all people and carried them to the grave where they could do no more harm. He bore with us, and he forgave us.

There is escalating tension and terror on earth today. Perhaps giving up retaliation might just be the Lenten discipline that could change the world.


4 Responses to “Colossians 3:13: Bearing With One Another as a Lenten Discipline”

  1. Bruce Pope Says:

    Dearest Mary…you are really rippling today, see/hear: BBP

  2. emd5542 Says:

    Good morning, Mary. This is a most appropriate message as we begin the Lenten walk. I am one who chooses to do rather than give up. I had decided to contact, or attempt to do so, each household in my deacon parish group–perhaps more than one a day for the 40 days, perhaps by telephone, by USPS note, by email, and preferably face-to-face but certainly to “show up in some way” as you suggest.. God will lead and that may take me into bearing with others or rejoicing with them or just listening. Our Board of Deacons is becoming intentional about home or other-face-to-face visitation. Your blog is the perfect message for this time. And giving up “retaliation” is most fitting.

  3. Jodie Gallo Says:

    I think number 2.

    For me, this verse is the end all take-away of the Gospel.

    The day it became the motto of my life, it transformed me. It answered the end all question of “so what”? So forgive! Bear with each person I meet, and forgive them, not because he or she is sorry, or repentant, or didn’t really mean it, but because my Lord Jesus Christ went to all that trouble so that he could do it to me first. It became my going-in position in every dispute. And it saved my life.

    So simple a child gets it. So hard the most powerful person on the planet can miss it.

    I often wonder what the Church would be like if it adopted this verse as its motto. Or even our own denomination. I am sure it would save it too. But I am grateful that in spite of itself, at least it preserved this verse, much like the ark of the covenant was there to preserve the terms and conditions of the Covenant. So that unsuspecting Bible students could come along and trip on it every once and a while,

    and be transformed by its power.

  4. John Erthein Says:

    Thank you for this, Mary. It’s a huge challenge that I am still working on. I’ve made progress but have a way to go … and I’ll never get 100% there while in this earthly life. But God would still have me, and all of us, strive towards that goal.

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