Forbearance has nothing to do with with your forebears (although, come to think of it, it might). Forbearance has to do with patiently bearing disappointment with others. It is most commonly called for when we have occasion to be disappointed with someone because of their inconsideration and even rudeness. The New Testament describes it as a trait of the highest order which reports to the “love one another” passages of the New Covenant. It is thus a trait that only those truly serious about following Christ ever come close to attaining. The good news is for these few ardent disciples of the Christ, of which I hope we all aspire to be, it is one of the essential means for which we qualify for the fuller potential of our heavenly reward (1Tim. 4:8). To my shame though, it is sadly one of those difficult disciplines of which I too often neglect and fail to attend to its practice. As I read Scripture I can see that I wasn’t the only one either. The Apostle Paul begged the immature Corinthian believers to show him forbearance at one of those times when it is urgently called for: when we are being corrected.
¶ I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!
Second Corinthians 11:1
You might point out to me though, that I have just provided an example of an appeal to ‘bear’ rather than to ‘forbear’. The reason for this is painful. Before any of us can begin to forbear, we must first develop the reflex of being able to bear with others (if you are part of a larger family, you have probable got a head-start on the rest of us).
¶ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
I have found that most of us love love. We love receiving it. We love seeing it. We love hearing about it. But I think we are less interested in studying it with the aim of learning how to do it better(?). The God who saved us did so because of His unconditional love for us. We now worship Him in surrender and adoration in return. As we do, we are being transformed more and more into His likeness.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18
What does it mean for us to worship a God of unconditional love? It means transformation. It transforms not only our behaviour – especially toward others – it also transforms our motives for this behaviour. We don’t just act loving, we actually love! It involves us showing and feeling love toward those who injure us, slander us, despise us, because this is what God has done for us!
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Consider this kind of love – not just in response to offensive behaviour – but in response to rude, demeaning, ridiculing, vicious behaviour! Therefore, if you, like I, want to fulfil the Great Commandment to love (Matt. 22:38-39) we must learn to love like the Great Lover Himself which is why commitment to the community of Church is our highest priority.
But by now you’re probably saying, “Yes, but what has this got to do with forbearing and what actually is forbearing?”
Before we respond (please note these two key words), we need to see forbearance in this little story.
Jayne is meeting her older sister Suzette this afternoon. When Jayne converted to Christianity her sister Suzette ridiculed her more harshly than she had become accustomed to. The constant ridicule, mockery, and belittling, was eased somewhat for Jayne by the support from her mid-week Bible study group. Over the past few months they had been studying Romans 12:9-21 together where Jayne had begun to learn what genuine love and authentic tolerance looked like. This had prepared her for her coffee date with Suzette. She had settled in her heart that despite Suzette’s inevitable attacks and mockery that was sure to come that afternoon, she had resolved that she was not going to take offence or harbour resentment. That afternoon Jayne and Suzette met for coffee. It didn’t take long before Suzette launched into her tirade. But Jayne was able to overlook the swearing, lies, slander, and defaming allegations that Suzette hurled at her. In the midst of these attacks, Jayne found herself praying for Suzette that God might open her eyes too, and bless her regardless. Jayne showed forbearance. Later that day someone asked Jayne how her time with Suzette went, to which she replied, “I had a nice time with my sister. She’s a very beautiful person. Thank you for asking.” Her answer was also an act of forbearance.
By now you might realise that forbearing involves two key words: ‘before’ and ‘respond’. Before we are offended, hurt, or insulted, our hearts are prepared to forgive/let it go/refuse to dwell on it/ and to determine to: respond with kindness/grace/mercy/and generosity. Try it. Decide now in your heart that with God’s help and grace you are going to forgive, let go, and not dwell on the next insult or offence you receive. Prepare now to respond with kindness, grace, mercy, and generosity, rather than slander, rehearsing hurts to others, or malicious gossip. If you can, you are forbearing.