Friday, May 19, 2006
Longsuffering is a compound word in English. It is also a compound word in the biblical Greek. In the Greek longsuffering is composed of two words, one meaning long, the other word meaning passion, hard breathing, indignation, and or wrath. This second term is derived from a word that means rush to kill, sacrifice, or immolate. This second word gives a connation of someone who reacts by rushing to lash out when they feel wronged. The first word - long- modifies this word to mean the opposite. Longsuffering can be defined as a trait of someone who when wronged responds by not lashing out at those who wronged them. Or, in other words, a longsuffering person takes a long time before they lash out.
This is not a trait that is admired in our society. We tend to admire those who lash out and put others in their place. Even those of us who seem calm secretly rehearse in our minds what words we will say and how we will say them in case we feel wronged by anyone. The sad part is that we feel justified in doing this while professing to be Christians. So we secretly wish to be like those who lash out immediately, instead wishing to be like Jesus.
However, the Bible says that God is longsuffering (Exodus 34:6, Romans 2:4). He waited at least 80 years before executing judgment on the Amorites (Genesis 15:16). Forty years the Lord tarried with Israel in the wilderness. Thousands of years he waited for Israel to repent and turn to Him. He said to them though the prophet Hosea,
Hosea 11:8 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
God is still longsuffering with us. God gives us time to repent and turn to Him, but He will not delay forever. Being that He wants us to reproduce His character in us, He wants us to be longsuffering. And, it is possible for us to be longsuffering, if we follow the advice of Jesus. Let us read in John 15: 4- 8
John 15: 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
John 15: 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
John 15: 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15: 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
John 15: 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
Jesus could have lashed out at the Jews and Romans, but instead chose to respond by yielding to His Father’s will. This same trait can be ours if we abide in Him. We abide in Christ by allowing the indwelling Spirit of God to bring forth His fruit, as we submit to His work in us. This Godly attribute of longsuffering is part of the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22).
Longsuffering – and the rest of the attributes that form the fruit – will become evident in us, as we allow the Spirit to sanctify us. So when others frustrate us we will not lash out, we will respond lovingly and forgivingly. When others are hard to love, we will respond in a loving way toward them. In fact, those thoughts of rehearsing how to lash out to others may eventually disappear as we yield them to the Lord. We will long to be like Jesus, instead of longing to be like those who lash out immediately.
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