Summary: Because Jesus bears with us, we can bear with one another.
Several weeks ago, Edgewood hosted a simulcast event from Voice of the Martyrs called, “Imprisoned for Christ,” featuring three men who were jailed for Jesus. We were urged to pray for persecuted believers to remain firm and faithful. During this event, I learned of a brand-new book by Todd Nettleton called, “When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians.” I immediately ordered a copy. There is a link on Sermon Extras if you’d like to do the same.
Listen to an excerpt from chapter two called, “I Used to Beat Him.”
The nickname “Haji” is a term of respect in the Muslim world, bestowed on those who have completed their haji pilgrimage to Mecca, one of Islam’s five pillars. It’s not commonly combined with the title pastor!
We met “Pastor Haji” at his grass-roofed house in the southern part of Ethiopia, an area where a rising tide of radical Islam was threatening the church and Christian believers. Outside the house, there was a burn mark on the wall. One-week prior, radical Muslims tried to set fire to Haji’s house.
As we sit, drinking orange sodas Haji graciously offered us, we can look up to see sunlight streaming through holes in the tightly packed grass roof. The holes are the result of neighborhood Muslims throwing stones onto the house, trying to pressure Haji and his family to leave the area or return to Islam.
Haji understands the hatred of radical Muslims. He used to be one of them! He was so devout; he was sent to Saudi Arabia for special training.
As we stood outside the hut, Haji had his arm around the evangelist that brought us to meet him. Nodding his head toward the evangelist, he said five words I will never forget.
“I used to beat him.”
Haji went on to tell us that he was the leader of a radical Islamic group of young men, and part of their holy duty to their Prophet was attacking and harassing Christians. One of those they attacked was this very evangelist, the man now smiling with Haji’s arm draped loosely across his shoulders.
In spite of beatings, the evangelist refused hatred for his attackers. Instead, he showed them love and offered them blessings and good news. Haji had no explanation for such a response. How could a man you were beating show love to you? How could he not grow angry and fight back?
Eventually, Haji’s heart was won by the gospel message and the love of the Christian man he was attacking. He left the vitriol and violence of Islam for peace beyond his understanding.
This follower of Christ was able to forgive a Muslim for beating him. It makes me wonder why I struggle to bear with someone who simply bugs me.
In this final installment of our “One Another” series our focus is on the biblical imperative to bear with one another. This week, I learned something new about the 59 “one-another” statements.
• One third of them deal with unity in the church.
• Another third instructs us to love one another.
Edgewood will be united to the extent we love one another. I’ve been pondering one pastor’s perspective: “The primary activity of the church was one-anothering one another.”
As we’ve been learning, and many of us have experienced first-hand, every relationship we have can rupture easily. If we don’t work at it, our idiosyncrasies will become irritants and our unity will unravel. That’s why we must follow the exhortation in Ephesians 4:3 for us to be: “Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
While going through some old files, I came across an online search I did 18 years ago on “annoying people.” 1.1 million sites came up in the search results! This week, I did the same search, the number of results increased from 1.1 million in 2003 to 170 million today! I don’t know if that means there are that many more irritating people or if our tolerance for those who aggravate us has tanked.
My guess is there are some annoying people in your life. Do you have any corrosive Christians eating away at your insides? Anyone getting on your nerves? Do you have some sandpaper saints rubbing you the wrong way?
In a book called “People I Could Do Without,” Donald Smith says our pent-up exasperation with people can send us into one of two modes: a “reactionary rampage” or a “silent seethe.” It’s no surprise the Bible has quite a bit to say about bearing with one another.
The phrase, “bear with,” means, “to endure patiently, to put up with, to be indulgent, to suffer.” It has the idea of longsuffering and being slow to be angry. We don’t do much bearing with other believers today. We sound off, run off, or run somebody else off. Sometimes we square off and want to knock someone off, but seldom do we put up with people.