There’s a word in our older English bibles which speaks to the times we’re living in. That old word is “forbearance.” Modern translations tend to use patience instead. And while that is appropriate it misses something that the older word contained.
There is a tendency to think of patience as waiting on something. A farmer plants a seed and patiently waits for the harvest. We order a new widget on Amazon and patiently (or not so patiently) wait for it to arrive. Both of those are kind of static. But patience, forbearance, and the even older term longsuffering means waiting during turmoil, suffering, and friction.
Right now, we have perhaps more need of patience and forbearing than ever before. We can’t escape. Previously if something happened at home, at work, at school, at church, or in the market we could walk away. Not so easy or wise to do right now. We are being challenged to grow in patience with each other. Forbearing others even before they do something.
During this time prolonged close contact this verse from Ephesians is vital. “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, NASB95) So often we limit Paul’s admonition to our contacts and interactions outside the home and church. But if anything, it applies most and first in our homes and in our churches.
Right now, during this time of “stay at home” it is life-giving to intentionally walk with each other in humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, peace, and unity. Often this means giving space for each other in the midst of our differences – without complaining about it.
Interesting side note: Did you know that complaining is often a form of judgment? Consider James 5:9, “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” (James 5:9, NASB95) This doesn’t mean that we don’t speak about wrong things. In order to effect change we must at times speak about what is wrong. But there is a line here that is easily crossed where speaking for the sake of love becomes complaining accusations and judgment.
What we often fail the see is that we are the cause of frustration instead of being the giver of patience. Someone is being patient with us right now and we are often oblivious to it. Or to be blunt, we are the thorn in their toe. Enduring with one another means expressing quiet patience with one another.
How is this achieved? I think forgiveness is the key. It’s difficult to hold a grudge and walk in patience at the same time. Forgiveness deals with past offenses and patience prevents future events from becoming offenses. Whether we are in our normal go to work pattern of life or this strange stay at home pattern, patience and forgiveness are required. I, like Paul, implore you to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, peace, and unity.