"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
That's simple advice commonly attributed to Ian McClaren. It’s a call to be patient and extend grace to your neighbor not just because God commands you to, but because your neighbor is facing challenges you may know nothing about. Those around you are struggling. Like you, their lives are harder than they might appear. So be charitable. Be kind.
In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus tells us to “enter by the narrow gate…. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life...” He calls us to follow him down a difficult path. True, he promises rest for weary souls (Matthew 11:28), but he doesn’t promise us a life free from disappointment, pain, or pressure. In fact, he says the path of discipleship is a compressed one. It’s hard.
“In the world, you will have tribulation...” (John 16:33).
Christ’s Apostles understood this and they echoed the message again and again, reminding early Christians that while following Jesus leads to ultimate peace, joy, and glory, it’s not a slow walk through the park (Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:12; Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 5:10).
Sometimes the difficulty comes from outside us, in the form of persecution or conflict. It’s life in a fallen world. But much more often the challenges are internal -- war with indwelling sin, battles with idolatry, struggles against temptation, dying to self.
Given all this, more than anywhere else, the church should be a place where we are kind, for our brothers and sisters are fighting a hard battle. They’re walking a hard path.
While the path of discipleship is narrow, we are not called to walk it alone.
We don’t follow Jesus single file, one by one. Instead we’re called to travel alongside each other, to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), confess our sins and pray for one another (James 5:16), share our lives and struggles with each other over meals in each other’s homes (1 Peter 4:9), teach one another what God has taught us (Romans 15:14), remind each other of life-giving truth (Ephesians 4:15).
In these ways and more, the same Christ who calls us to walk the narrow path also calls us to help one another on that path. It’s why Paul writes, “bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
The church is a travelling community.
Author Paul Tripp says,
"Church is, for many of us, nothing more than a thing to attend on Sunday. Church is a formal set of activities. Church is a buffet of regularly scheduled, demographically designed religious offerings."
But this isn’t God’s design. Here’s how God describes the church: “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). These words speak of mutual commitment and dependence. We belong to one another and must, therefore, “walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2)
Because the way is hard, we need one another.
Ian McClaren tells us to treat others with kindness because of the struggles we’re all facing. The Apostle Paul goes several steps further and calls us to walk with each other “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
So don’t just be kind. Bear with one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. For your brothers and sisters are walking a narrow path. Christ has gone before us, and he has given each of us his Spirit to direct, strengthen, and comfort. But he has also given us the church -- a Spirit-filled community to walk alongside us down that path.
Side By Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul Tripp