May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you
to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:5-6 ESV
As I read this Bible passage, I was reminded that living together in harmony with others, even other Christians, takes both encouragement and endurance. It takes the encouragement that only God and our Christian community can give us to love when it is inconvenient and uncomfortable. “Yes, you are doing the right thing when you don’t seek revenge.”
It takes endurance as well. How often do we need dogged patience and endurance with someone. It may be simply a habit they have that is irritating. Or it may be something much more difficult like their barbed comments that they insist are only jokes but always seem to be at our expense. It is difficult to be around people like that. We would rather run the other direction! But often, God places them right in our path on a regular basis for His good purposes. To us, it feels like we are running a marathon as we endure through this difficult season.
As time passes, we may find that we find we learned to live in harmony with them. It wasn’t easy. Endurance and encouragement come from God.
We have to find a way to get along with them, to live in harmony with them. It is rarely easy. But according to this benediction, we are promised that if we endure and follow God’s encouragement to live in harmony with that person, we will find ourselves in one voice, glorifying God. Isn’t that amazing? There is actually a reward for doing it in the here and now.
Endurance is not stoicism. It might look like is sometimes. It is enduring, yet living in a vulnerable way, understanding this person may still be able to hurt me.
Endurance does not look like stoicism where I just gut it out. As I describe it, it may sound that way. That’s why I am wanting to clarify. Endurance means hanging in through the difficulty but also admitting that it is hard. It may also means telling the person that their barbed comments cause pain—whether they are joking or not. You may not tell them everytime. But there will be times you need to let them know.
Does it take vulnerability to someone who can hurt you even more? Yes. But you are giving them an opportunity to change. In this day and age, there are many people who haven’t been taught well about human relationships. There are many things I wasn’t taught much about. Human relationships were one of them. I look back on many, many relationship mistakes I made over the years. They often play over in my head. Sometimes, a private conversation with someone can be redemptive. But it can also blow up in your face. You never want to be patronizing about the way you approach someone. Nor do you want to approach a corrective moment with glee. It is a sober time. But if you have been hurt by a pattern of behavior, it is wise to discuss it in a loving way.
What would revival look like if it came?
Last week, I read about some people praying for revival. Of course, it isn’t difficult to find people praying for revival. It is a good thing. I’m not knocking it at all. But I wonder if our prayers for revival need to also to include prayers for our relationships with some of these difficult people in our lives, We need to be praying to endure and persevere in our relationships with people that are difficult. This benediction seems to indicate that this is how we bring glory to God–by living in harmony with each other so that with one voice we will glorify God. This may be a major key toward revival. Do you remember the passage in I John where he says:
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
I John 4:19-21 ESV
It is one of many that tells us that the way the world around us will know we are Christians is how we love other Christians. There are also places in the Bible that talk about the importance of loving other humans. I’m just glad for the places that talk about how we love fellow Christians. The way we show our love for fellow Christians is one of the ways we can tell whether we are truly a Believer or not. It gives a lie to those who say, “I love unbelievers, it’s the Christians I can’t stand!” (or some version of it.)
If we think that way, we need to seriously consider whether we are a Christian. Startling words for sure! We need to think about who these people are that we are defining as Christians. Just because they call themselves that doesn’t mean they are. Take a read through I John. The whole purpose of this short book is to help us understand for sure if we are a Christian or not. It is a helpful book for that. Not once does it tell you to know the date you asked Christ into your life. Did you know that?
- Make some time to read through I John.
- How can you know you are a Christian? The “rules” are quite different than some of the ones you have often heard. Think about how true faith shows itself in the life of a genuine Christian.
- What shows in your life? Jot down some notes regarding your thoughts…people who are difficult to love, ask God to help you love them better, give you insight into ways you can love them better. If you are a perfectionist, ask God to give you insight into the difference between the simple need for growth vs. the absence of life in you. I am not here to add guilt unnecessarily. It is not my job. But I don’t want to encourage false pride either. Ask God to make clear what your situation clear in terms of your salvation.
- Think through the application of encouragement and endurance that God promises in order for you to have good relationships with fellow Christians. What would that look like for you to trust Him to give you encrouragement and endurance in your most difficult relationships? Which relationships are they?