Forbearance may be defined as the quality of mind, heart and will that stands mistreatment without vindictiveness. The opposite of forbearance is unrighteous wrath, which is the quality that exercises vindictiveness. Forbearance has two elements: (1) it stands mistreatment without any vindictiveness; and (2) it exhibits much of quietness against mistreatment. There are many opportunities for forbearance to be exercised. It acts in the family, in the workplace, in the state, etc. It is evident among the brethren – in their meetings and in their fellowship with one another outside of the meetings.
Forbearance in the Scriptures
The Scriptures show that forbearance is very praiseworthy, whereas unrighteous wrath is bad and should be avoided: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil” (Psalm 37: 8). “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly” (Proverbs 14: 17). “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly” (Proverbs 14: 29).
The following passages speak of God’s wrath, which is never unrighteous: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1: 18). “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5: 6). “So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3: 11).
Here are a few passages on God’s and our forbearance: “The riches of his goodness and forbearance” (Romans 2: 4). “The remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3: 25). “Forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4: 2). “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another” (Colossians 3: 13).
Its Necessity and Enemies
Forbearance is a very necessary quality. It will fit one for administering matters in the Kingdom; it will help one to exercise forgiveness many a time, not only in the present life, but in dealing with the restitution class in the coming Mediatorial Kingdom. It will be giving a good example to others in this life, and will give encouragement to restitutionists by and by. The abounding of evil at the present time (2 Timothy 3: 1-9, 13), wherein there is immense dissatisfaction, makes it very necessary that such a quality be exercised, especially by God’s people. In the Mediatorial Reign it will be necessary for the world of mankind too.
The enemies of forbearance are of two kinds – personal and impersonal. The personal enemies are the devil, the world and the flesh, and the impersonal enemies are various evil qualities, such as vindictiveness and evil surmising.
Its Abuse and Cultivation
Forbearance is subject to abuse. Sometimes it is overdone. If it is not exercised in connection with vindictiveness, there will be evil surmising, suspecting others falsely in one’s mind, thinking of their unkindness to us, a too strong emphasis on one’s rights when they are trampled upon, exercising hatred toward others, being implacable toward them and showing grudges toward them.
Forbearance is also underdone as a fault when it is not as aggressive as it should be, for its activity at times would be an abuse of forbearance. We should be aggressive against sin in all its forms, and not be forbearing toward it. Likewise error should not be treated with forbearance so far as its spread is concerned. The selfishness we see in ourselves should not be given forbearance, though we should forbear selfishness in others. And worldliness in ourselves should not be permitted to endure our forbearance. We should also help others to put aside their sins, errors, selfishness and worldliness, whenever these work against this good quality’s proper exercise.
We may cultivate forbearance by subjecting our faults, motives, words and acts to the influence and control of God’s Word. We should also keep our hearts and minds on God’s example of forbearance with us and with the world of mankind, both now and in the coming Mediatorial Reign; and the example of Jesus in His exercise of forbearance with His disciples, with the opposition of the Jews and with the opposition of His friends and family. Let us therefore with all diligence exercise this good quality in its proper aspects, and our Heavenly Father will surely bless it to us and make it a blessing in us to others.