Question: "What does it mean that we should be bearing with one another (Ephesians 4:2)?"
Answer: Because we have all been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), one of our responsibilities is that we should be bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
In Ephesians 1:4–14, Paul explains that God has worked to accomplish on our behalf every spiritual blessing. God the Father has chosen us to be adopted as sons (Ephesians 1:4–6), Jesus has redeemed us through His own blood (Ephesians 1:7–12), and the Holy Spirit has sealed us, guaranteeing that we belong to God always (Ephesians 1:13–14). This is an incredible change from the lostness we previously experienced—we were so marred by sin that we were in our very nature children of God’s wrath, and all of us were walking in that brokenness and deadness (Ephesians 2:1–3). But God showed us incredible mercy, giving us new life and a new identity by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–10). Because of this new identity, we have a new unity with each other, because we are all related to Him, and now everyone who believes in Jesus Christ are brothers and sisters (Ephesians 2:11—3:13).
While our new identity in Christ is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), there are responsibilities we have toward one another. Paul exhorts believers to walk in a manner worthy of this amazing calling (Ephesians 4:1), and part of doing that is to demonstrate humility, gentleness, and patience. With those traits we are to be bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). The Greek word anechomenoi, translated “bearing with,” means “to take responsibility for again and again.” The idea is to be continually and patiently enduring, tolerating, or bearing with one another. This is an important expression of the love believers in Christ should have for one another, and is indicated by Paul’s addition of the phrase in love. As we know, “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he explained that the first attribute of love is patience (1 Corinthians 13:4). In Galatians 6:2 Paul again connects the ideas of expressing love and patiently enduring and helping each other. He says there, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (NASB). The law that Paul is referring to is Jesus’ mandate that those who would follow Him should love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and they should also love their neighbor as they loved themselves (Matthew 22:37–39). Jesus added in that context that these two mandates were the essence of the entire Hebrew Scriptures (Matthew 22:40).
Bearing with one another is an important part of expressing love properly to each other. Believers in Christ have every spiritual blessing in Christ by the grace of God (and through faith). We have been given a new identity and are now brothers and sisters. Of course, none of us are perfect or as mature in Christ as we will one day be; consequently, we fail God often, and inevitably we will fail each other. Because of that inherent weakness, we each need grace from each other.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we should be constantly thinking about how we can encourage each other to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)—we need each other. Peter reminds us that we have all received mercy from God (1 Peter 1:3), and that mercy is the basis of our new identity in Christ. As Peter challenges his readers to walk in that mercy, he exhorts them to be considerate of all and to honor everyone (1 Peter 2:17). There are many specific ways we can be bearing with one another, but the central idea is that we are bearing with one another in love.