The Bible has a lot to say about long-suffering.
Or the lack of it, if you will.
In Genesis 4, Cain kills Abel for offering a “better” sacrifice.
In 1 Kings 21, King Ahab kills Naboth because he wouldn’t sell Ahab his vineyard.
In the book of Esther, Haman tries to kill every Jew on the planet just because Mordecai wouldn’t bow to him at the city gate one time.
You think humans are a little quick to pull the trigger on each other?
We’ve all met people that meet this type of criteria, even if they (thankfully) don’t resort to violence to solve their problems. These are people who refuse to give any sort of leeway to other people at all. The moment someone messes up, they go nuclear.
Instead, what we as Christians need is to demonstrate the longsuffering of God in how we handle each other.
What Does Longsuffering Mean in the Bible?
The word “longsuffering” usually is swapped out with the word patience. Even though there’s quite a bit of overlap, the two terms aren’t technically the same thing.
Patience has to do with waiting expectantly for something, whereas longsuffering is the idea of carrying on as normal despite a difficult person or event. Both deal with perseverance in their own way, but patience is more future-oriented, whereas longsuffering deals more with the present.
Longsuffering is usually applied to God and how He deals with us. In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter says that God isn’t “slack” concerning His promise of a return, but is “longsuffering” (other translations may say “patient”) towards us with the hope that we’ll return.
Truth be told, we’re all thankful for this type of longsuffering. If we were judged with the same type of speed that Ananias and Sapphira were, there would be very few of us left on this earth.
Why Do We Need to Be Longsuffering?
We can use one verse to describe why we as humans need to be more longsuffering with each other. Here it is:
“…All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23)
There it is. Every single one of us — no matter who you are, where you came from, what you’ve done — have sinned. All of us have failed to meet the standard of perfection that God demonstrates all the time.
But that’s not the only type of longsuffering that we need to have.
The World Needs Our Longsuffering
Later, in Romans 9, Paul talks about the relationship of Jews and Gentiles in the church.
(Paul does that in most of the book, but the discussion really ramps up between Romans 9-11).
The Jews don’t really like the fact that the Gentiles are admitted into the Kingdom, period. After all, aren’t they the chosen ones — God’s special family, elevated above everyone else on the earth?
Paul agrees that the Jews are special, but then talks about the elevation of certain groups that don’t make sense to our mind. Jacob, for instance, was given the blessing even though Esau was the oldest. Pharoah was raised up so that he could let the Israelites go. Moses was told to lead the Israelites.
All of those people had specific roles, and even though their actions within those roles were their own, it seems “unfair” that God gave things to certain people and not others.
Paul anticipates this accusation. “What if,” he says in response, “God chose to demonstrate His patience with people that deserved death? And the reason God did that was to show them mercy and bring glory to Himself?” Would that be ok?
The same is true of others. We look at the world around us and think of all the terrible things they have done. We wish we could take matters into our own hands, but what we need in those moments is just a little bit of longsuffering.
The Church Needs Your Longsuffering
Infighting between Christians exhausts me. These are people that should be of the highest moral and spiritual fiber (1 Corinthians 6), and yet we treat each other like second-class citizens. In some situations, we look down our noses and call down the thunder of God for an infraction that is relatively minor.
In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul recognized this type of arguing between two women: Eudios and Syntyche. He told them — in a letter that was read in front of everyone — to “be of the same mind.” Don’t look at your relationship as a competition, but cooperation. Seek each others’ good instead of your own.
The same could be said for how we treat those in leadership positions. How many times have you been guilty of second-guessing the elders behind their back, sniping accusations and dismissing their wisdom?
And yet Paul says to treat those who serve us with respect (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18). Honor them for who they are and for what they’re trying to do.
If we can do both of those things (treat each other and our leaders with respect), the church will improve overnight.
I Need God’s Longsuffering
It’s so easy for me to pass judgment on other people. The moment someone does something completely opposite of how I would do it or how I think it should be done, I’m immediately critical.
In doing that though, do I look at myself with a critical eye? Do I analyze myself with the same fine tooth comb that I use to sort through others’ lives?
When we refuse to judge ourselves as we judge others, we demonstrate the height of hypocrisy. We are called to judge, but to do so with righteous judgment (John 7:24) — not our own opinions.
Is there anything more shameful than a Christian who fails to recognize the grace that has been given to them by refusing to extend that grace to others?
Longsuffering Begins With Eternity in Mind
The only way that we can endure certain things in this life is by remembering that there’s more to this life than what we see. The small infractions that sometimes become huge deals in our mind pale in comparison to the glory that awaits us.
On an infinite timeline, it doesn’t matter anyways.
What does matter is how we handle those situations that arise. All of us will face difficulty in our lives, but the ones that handle it with perspective will come out on top (Psalm 37:7-9).Last modified: September 22, 2023