[Column] Forbearance Is the Way to Life

In the Church of Philippi, there arose discord between two women named Euodia and Syntyche. As a result, Paul addressed them by name and pleaded for their reconciliation (Philippians 4:2). He added, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5). In other English translations, the word “forbearance” is used in place of “gentleness.” What is forbearance? It is meekness along with patience and forgiveness. In other words, it is all embracing compassion through humility. Our God is the God of forbearance. Had He not been forbearing towards us, we would already have been rendered the judgment of wrath (Romans 9:22). Forbearance is a gift and wisdom from heaven (James 3:17). It is not education, wealth, or knowledge that serves as the foundation of wisdom but it is forbearance and peacemaking that constitute wisdom.

Forbearance is intimately tied to one’s spiritual state. Depending on one’s spiritual health, people may be perceived as good or bad. If we suddenly grow loathsome or derisive against others, it is best to examine our spirituality rather than blame them. People will always remain as they are. The real cause of the problem lies within us. As hate against others grows in our hearts, we must acknowledge our deficiency in divine grace and earnestly petition for the grace of the Holy Spirit instead of condemning others. Criticizing others while losing sight of our own spiritual weaknesses will lead to the gradual depletion of the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit. As we restore the joy of the Lord, we will attain the heart to understand and forgive one another (Philippians 4:4-5).

Aside from the pallid face, the symptoms of bodily diseases include fatigue and exhaustion. Likewise, the diseases of the soul, especially hate, wrath, and cruelty, bring listlessness to the soul as well as to the body. Many Christians are said to suffer from depression. The cause of this condition is the refusal to accept oneself or to forgive others for their wrongs. Many sufferers of depression become enslaved to wrath against others thus confining themselves in the prison without bars. One of the main reasons for forgiving others for us Christians is the survival of ourselves.

There is no pressing need to win against others all the time because they are not our enemies. Our real enemy is the Evil One, Satan, who lures man to carry out his evil deeds. If we are overwhelmed with compassion and forgiveness towards those we hate, we have already triumphed over wrath. However, not everyone has overcome wrath. What must we do in this case? We must shed tears and pray to receive healing and cleansing of the heart. How can we not forgive our debtors who owe us a few hundred denari when we reflect on God who cancelled our ten thousand denari debt? If we refuse to forgive others for their sin and weakness, the channel of divine grace within us becomes defective. Exercising forbearance in spite of inevitable loss will attract a greater portion of God’s grace and blessing (Genesis 13:8-17). Those who will to become the servants (ministers) of God must have forbearance (1Timothy 3:3; 2 Corinthians 10:1). The laity must be patient and lenient with the clergy; the family members must be forgiving and understanding towards one another (Ephesians 5:33). We must be humble, loving, and patient towards everyone: “(T)o slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men ”(Titus 3:2).

Also, we must at all times safeguard ourselves against negative thoughts. Prayer is necessary first and foremost for those who entertain negative thoughts. When problems arise, it is wise to turn to prayer rather than attempt to determine who is at fault. What is essential for resolving problems is not criticism, but how much we are wiling to love and forgive others. Let us cast upon God all our disappointments and regrets arising from interpersonal relationships and instead strive to do our parts. The time is drawing near. The keys to heaven are repentance and forgiveness (Matthew 16:19). Only mercy and forbearance will triumph in the Last Judgment: “(B)ecause judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13). God graciously confers upon us forbearance and salvation. Do we treat others with equal generosity? A boy named John once gave his mother a note. It read, “$2 for doing well in school; $1 for taking out the trash; $2 for not fighting with my brother; $3 for cleaning the living room; $3 for running errands; total $11.” In turn, his mother rewarded him with the amount of money indicated on the note. Soon, he made a habit of running errands and doing chores and submitting such a note. Then one day his mother left a short note by his bed. It read, “$30,000 for cooking and providing meals all your life; $10,000 for doing your laundry; $20,000 for learning assistance fees; $5,000 for taking care of you when you were sick; $5,000 for your toys; $50,000. To be paid.” As he sat on the bed flabbergasted, he noticed something on the bottom of the note. It read, “Because I love you, all these are free.” The love God confers upon us is truly precious, yet it is free. As the recipients of such gracious divine mercy and love, we are called to extend to others the same mercy and love.

In the parable of the weeds, our Lord advises not to pull up the weeds because what appear to be weeds are sometimes wheat and wheat can be uprooted while pulling up the weeds. We are called to treat others bearing in mind that they can change. Even those who harshly criticize and disobey the Word of God can one day bear the fruit of the Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word, people can be transformed. The secret to prevent spiritual diseases and rejuvenate one’s spirituality is forbearance. It is the secret to life not only for ourselves but also for others. May all of us become the people of forbearance and enjoy to the fullest heavenly life and blessing.

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