Disclaimer: This post is in no way aimed at anyone I am serving with currently. In fact, it doesn't apply to 90% of the wonderful people I have served with. There have, at times, been some that are not as easy to work with and it is those experiences combined with recent conversations about struggles some are having with this issue that prompted this post.
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
I think that sometimes the hardest part of being a Christian is learning to serve with others. Loving strangers can be easy because you're loving an abstraction- you're not close enough to know their personalities or to be annoyed by what they do. Loving friends is generally easy because you have things in common with them and enjoy their company. Loving family can be harder, but is still a fairly easy challenge because you're related to them and you have the bonds of family to keep that love going. But when you have to work with people you may not have known well before but are now going to get to know in new ways, it's a whole new ballgame.
When you're first asked to serve, you start out with great intentions- you're going to be the best teacher, leader, helper, etc. ever. You're going to give it 110% (or at least make sure your basic duties get done!) Then you find out you'll be working with these other people and it's wonderful because you know you need the help and they seem like such great and talented folks. But, like all relationships, the better you get to know these people... the more you see their faults, their weaknesses, and those things they do that don't seem right, or that get on your nerves. Suddenly you may be thinking that you're so much better than they are, that you're more faithful, more diligent, more dedicated..
And in that moment you know that you are no better than they are.
We are called to serve with each other not only to build up the kingdom, but also to learn meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, and love. To be meek is to be humbly patient, especially while under provocation. To forbear means to hold back or refrain from things like criticising, judging, and being unkind. We have to put aside our pride, our ego, our tendency to look down on others and learn instead to love them.
Only God provides us with the kind of love that helps us put aside differences and work together for something more important than our selves or our egos. We have to learn to be united in our endeavors, to overcome individual desires and temperaments. It is only through the Spirit of God that we will have that unity, and the only way to keep the unity that the Spirit brings is by practicing forbearance and love, and by working to keep the peace.
I think that when we take the verses at the beginning of chapter 4 and follow them up with the verses at the end we are given the formula for serving effectively with others.
31-32 "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away fromyou, with all malice:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
We have to put aside our tendency to point out faults, to dwell on those things that annoy us, to look beyond the fact that someone does things differently, and strive to be kind and forgiving instead. I love the term "tenderhearted" because I think it calls to mind much more than just niceness. I think it implies speaking softly, treating others as if their hearts are fragile. We need to keep in mind that they have burdens that we don't know about and that they are hoping for the same mercy we often expect from others.
We all want to be forgiven when we make mistakes, to be accepted for who we are, and to be loved as we are right now. That's the hope we have from God through Christ's atonement. But we also have to practice it on our end. We have to follow our Savior's example and overcome those human tendencies that attempt to destroy love, peace, and unity. That's what serving with others is all about. Yes, we need to get the job done, but if we can't do it with love...what have we really accomplished?