The Lost Art of Forbearance

“Forbearance” isn’t a word we hear much these days, but it’s a needed one. It shows up throughout KJV New Testament passages meaning endurance. But two passages in particular bring out this meaning more fully.

Ephesians 4:1-3 says “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Other translations say, instead of “forbearance”:

    • “bearing with one another in love” (several)
    • “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love,” NLT
    • “showing tolerance for one another in love,” NASB
    • “patiently put up with each other and love each other,” CEB

A similar passage is in Colossians 3:12-15, with similar translations in other versions: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

The Dictionary.com definition for “forbear” that most closely matches this context is “to be patient or self-controlled when subject to annoyance or provocation.

A former pastor’s definition matches most closely with the CEB: “good, old-fashioned putting up with each other.”

People don’t “put up with” much these days, do they? Or, I should say, do we? We want what we want, the way we want, and we want it now. Woe to the person who hinders any aspect of our getting what we want. Having multitudinous selections and the fastest cooking and delivery times in history have not made us more patient: we’re more impatient than ever. And if someone wrongs us in the slightest way or even makes a mistake that inconveniences, we feel obligated to let them have it and vent all over social media. And if someone holds a position we disagree with, well, then, they’re fair game for ridicule at the very least.

Granted, some things should not be tolerated: abuse, criminal activity, actions which hurt others all need to be dealt with. Wrongs need to be dealt with. Stands need to be taken.

But everyday faults and mistakes? Who doesn’t have those in abundance? How do we want others to treat us when we mess up?

Ephesians and Colossians pairs forbearance with:

  • humility (Where’d I get the idea everything is supposed to be my way?)
  • meekness
  • kindness
  • forgiveness: Colossians 3:13 gives the standard: “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
  • love
  • peace

Aren’t these the traits we long for in others’ interactions with us? Don’t we long for others to take time to hear and understand instead of just assuming, reacting, and blowing the situation out of proportion? Wouldn’t we rather someone talk to us privately when there’s been a misunderstanding instead of talking to everyone else? When we make a mistake, and we’re fearing the worst reaction, aren’t we blessed when someone says, “That’s all right — don’t worry about it. We all blow it sometimes.” Don’t we yearn for mercy and grace?

Then let’s take the initiative and exercise these traits toward each other.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV).

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Share a Link Wednesdays, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth, Kingdom Bloggers)

 

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Laudable Linkage

Welcome to another gathering of great reads discovered this week:

Imperfections Make Sundays More Beautiful, HT to Challies. “I’ll admit it: these human quirks and errors sometimes exasperate me. I’m here to focus on the Lord! Your awkwardness is distracting me from worship! So mutters my self-righteous heart. Perhaps the real problem isn’t with the clumsiness of others, but with our expectations for corporate worship.”

The Bible: Reading the “Ordinary” Way, HT to Challies. Good thoughts about taking the Bible “literally,” how metaphor is used, etc.

Are You Different Enough? 5 Ways to Use Differences in Your Relationship.

The 17 Phrases That ‘Scare’ Introverts the Most, HT to Lisa. This was posted before Halloween, thus the “scary” faces.

Heartwarming Photos of Acts of Kindness, HT to Lisa.

Back to the Sources, HT to Linda, on cases of what were probably inadvertent plagiarisms by Christian authors (see the comments for how it could possibly have happened).

The 2018 Modern Mrs Darcy Gift Guide for Book Lovers, HT to Linda.

As we look ahead to Thanksgiving in the US this week:

There seems to be a theme running through most of the posts I’ve read concerning Thanksgiving so far this year: the fact that thankfulness isn’t an emotion, but an act of the will, and not always easy. Here are a few:

Gratitude Is a Gift for All Seasons. “To intentionally call to mind images of gratitude in the midst of peace and prosperity is one thing, but it takes a sinewy faith to summon them when chaos reigns and the future looks bleak.”

Being Grateful Ain’t Always Easy (Or Is It Just Me?)

Thankfulness From Those Who Suffer.

Time Out for Thanksgiving

For some Thanksgiving fun:

Free printable Thanksgiving trivia, for use as a game or conversation starter

Thanksgiving Bingo.

Thanksgiving Word Search Place Cards, HT to Laura.

And, finally, a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving quotes:

Happy Saturday!

 

Is it more important to be nice or to be right?

I’ve seen this quote all over Pinterest in various forms, attributed to various authors: “Sometimes it’s better to be kind than right. We don’t need a brilliant mind that speaks, but a patient heart who listens.” Sometimes the word “nice” is substituted for “kind.”

I think what people who propose this have in mind is interpersonal relations. We probably all know someone who “always has to be right.” Now, most of us want to be right. No one wants to go around misinformed or holding onto opinions that are known to be wrong or foolish. But most of us have at least enough humility to realize that we might unwittingly be wrong sometimes. Some people are hard to be convinced of that, though.

This quote might also refer to those people’s little idiosyncrasies that can rub each other the wrong way. How the toilet paper goes on the roll. Where to squeeze the toothpaste tube. It’s usually best to let those things go and compromise for the sake of the relationship. The person who has to have everything his or her way because of course that’s the only right way can make everyone else miserable.

But in some cases, being wrong can be deadly. The wrong wire cut on the bomb. The wrong medical procedure or medicine. The wrong path to a broken bridge. The wrong opinion about who Jesus is or how one can know Him.

Unfortunately in my particular circles in Christendom, people can sometimes use truth like a steamroller or bullhorn or club. Arrogance does not make the gospel winsome or inviting; harshness can turn people off to the truth.

In addition, we need to care about the whole person, not just their response to our truth.  Years ago when my sister attended the church I was attending at the time, she had a number of people wanting to take her under their wing and advise her along the way. She needed the advice, but she felt like all anyone was interested in was telling her what she should be doing: no one wanted to just befriend her. When I first became a Christian, I had to realize that my relationship with my lost family couldn’t be just about my trying to witness to them. That only made them feel like a “project.” I needed to listen to them, do things with them, just love them.

Sometimes we have to wait until a person is ready before we can tell them things they need to hear. Jesus told the disciples once, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).

On the other hand, Jesus rebuked the disciples for being fearful and not having faith in a situation where fear would seem like a natural response: being in a boat in a storm at sea.

And sometimes He shared truth that the other person did not receive, and He let him walk away, like the “rich young ruler.” He didn’t call him back, soften the message, or backtrack so the relationship could continue. When God brings a person to confront their dearest idol, it’s a crisis, and He wants them to see it for what it is and repent. Thankfully in His grace He’ll often bring a person to that point a number of times (I’ve always hoped that that man came back to the Lord at another time). Chris Anderson makes the point that in our day, there is a rush to get such a person to the “sinner’s prayer” and gloss over their heart issues: “How many such men have been led in a sinner’s prayer that salved their consciences but didn’t save their souls? How many have thus been unwittingly inoculated against the truth? How many have left churches lost and relieved rather than lost and sorrowful?” We need to allow time for godly sorrow to do its work toward repentance unto salvation.

In addition, God, through the New Testament writers, said that sometimes an issue is so important that His people need to take a stand and separate from others:

II Thess. 3: 6: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

II Thess. 3: 14-15: And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

I Cor. 5:9-11: I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

II Cor. 6: 14: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (This does not mean we’re not supposed to interact at all with unbelievers, but we’re not to be “yoked” together in situations like marriage).

And the apostles could also seem harsh in their warnings against false teachers, but the truth in question was so vital, and error in its regard so eternally deadly, that strong warnings were needed.

So is it more important to be nice or kind than to be right? It depends on the issue in question and the needs of the people involved. It’s best to be both if possible. The Bible speaks often of God’s kindness and admonishes us in many places to be kind. In interpersonal relationships, especially, we’re  to “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3: 12-13). In larger issues where a right view is essential, we don’t need to convey or defend truth in an unnecessarily harsh, negative, gripy, or cynical way. But cutting corners on the truth in an effort to be nice is neither kind nor loving.

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See also Does niceness really matter?

Sharing at Thought-Provoking Thursday.