In modern English, people usually use the word patience, when they are really referring to longsuffering; but in the Greek the words for these ideas are quite different. In Greek the word makrothumia means longsuffering, and the word hypomania means patience, in the sense of perseverance, cheerful constancy, continuity. In our text the verb from which makrothumia is derived is used; and that verb is makrothumeo – I suffer long. For example, many people who lose their temper say, “I have lost my patience.” But to speak Biblically one should say, “I have lost my longsuffering.” Therefore, our text has to do with longsuffering, and not with patience, as these words are Biblically used.
The Definition of Longsuffering
By longsuffering a calm, peaceable, unresentful and self-possessed state of heart, mind and will amid naturally exasperating circumstances is meant. A longsuffering person is always calm and not perturbed; he is peaceable, not allowing himself to be stirred up to strife; and he is always self-possessed, he keeps his temper under control and does not give way to anger.
Longsuffering does not act under all circumstances, but under circumstances that are naturally exasperating – that naturally occasion the loss of one’s temper. Some examples of the proper exercise of longsuffering include the teacher who does not allow himself or herself to become angry when one should not be angry; the parent who does not allow himself or herself to become unpeaceable toward the children when one should not allow himself so to become; and the employer who maintains calmness when calmness is properly to be exercised toward his employees.
Scriptures that Teach Longsuffering
2 Corinthians 6: 4-6: “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God . . . by longsuffering.”
Galatians 5: 22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”
Ephesians 4: 1, 2: “I . . . beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called . . . with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.”
Colossians 1: 11: “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”
1 Timothy 1: 16: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”
2 Timothy 3: 10: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience.”
2 Timothy 4: 2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Its Sphere of Operation
Husbands and wives find that they must exercise longsuffering in dealing with each other. This is particularly the case shortly after marriage; for before marriage true lovers often see perfection in each other, but under the conditions of everyday association such as husbands and wives have with each other, faults surface that they never dreamed before their marriage that their companions had.
Many parents think their children should be faultless, and to find them with faults, particularly along hereditary lines, calls for the exercise of much longsuffering. They often forget that they as children were not perfect and therefore often fail to make allowances for their children.
Sometimes fellow workers in one’s store, shop, factory, or office by their peculiar habits, imposition on others, self-assertiveness and selfish ambitions supply many opportunities for the exercise of longsuffering.
Disorderly neighbors who often litter the sidewalks and streets, hold wild parties and engage in petty meanness calls for longsuffering to be acted out.
The Abuse of Longsuffering
Longsuffering can be both overdone and underdone. Some examples of it being overdone include parents who allow their children to do almost anything without it stirring them up to correct such behavior; and the teacher who is over longsuffering to the point where he does not maintain proper discipline and order in his class.
There are times when longsuffering is underdone, is not exercised enough. How many a parent fails to exercise longsuffering sufficiently toward his or her children! How many a husband or wife fails to exercise longsuffering sufficiently toward his or her spouse! How many a teacher fails to exercise longsuffering toward pupils that need it exercised toward them!
The grace of longsuffering is surely a desirable grace to cultivate and possess!