Longsuffering and Gentleness

Galatians 5:22

Have you ever thought, Lord, You have to help me deal with this person You’ve put in my life! I’m so tired of trying to help him with his rebellious attitude that I’d like to walk away and leave him forever! Please give me the patience I need to keep working with him! Do you recognize those thoughts? Have you prayed this prayer before?

At times, we all get frustrated with someone else, and sometimes our level of frustration can rise to the boiling point. This is especially true when we are exhausted from trying to help people who don’t act like they want or appreciate our help. It’s so easy to be Christ-like with people who appreciate us or who show us kindness. But are we going to act just as Christ-like when people don’t appreciate us? Will we demonstrate the life of Jesus Christ equally to those who irritate us as much as to those who make us feel good or who treat us with respect?

Whenever people fail to appreciate what you do for them, fail to listen to your counsel, or fail to value what you have contributed, your flesh likes to rant and rave about how little you’re valued, respected, esteemed, and appreciated. That is often the golden moment when your soul rises up to say, “Excuse me, but I’m not a mat for people to wipe their feet on! I’ve invested all the time and energy I’m willing to invest in this ingrate. I refuse to help him any further!”

Parents have felt this way toward their children; teachers have felt this way toward their students; husbands and wives have felt this way toward their spouses; friends have felt this way toward their friends; and pastors have felt this way toward their congregations. The bottom line is this: Regardless of your status in life—who you’re married to, where you work, or what you do—like everyone else, you need a healthy dose of “longsuffering” if you are going to successfully get along with other people in this world!

Longsuffering:

In Galatians 5:22, the apostle Paul lists “longsuffering” as another fruit that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in our lives. He writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering….”

The word “longsuffering” is from the Greek word makrothumia, which is a compound of the words makros and thumos. The word makros means long. It is where we get the word macaroni, which of course is a long noodle. The word makros indicates something that is long distant, far, remote, or of long duration. The word thumos means anger, but it also embodies the idea of swelling emotions or a strong and growing passion about something. When compounded into one word, it forms the word makrothumia, which pictures the patient restraint of anger and therefore denotes longsuffering. It can be translated as the words forbearance and patience.

The word makrothumia (“longsuffering”) is like a candle that has a very long wick and is therefore prepared to burn a long time. It is ready to forbear and patiently wait until someone finally comes around, makes progress, changes, or hears what you are trying to communicate or teach him or her.

In Colossians 3:12, Paul commands us, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” This word “longsuffering” is the word makrothumia. But notice Paul begins this verse by telling us, “Put on….” This phrase is from the Greek word enduo, which was used in New Testament times to denote the putting on of a garment or a piece of clothing.

If you are going to properly dress for the day, you have to make the choice to look into the clothes closet and choose the clothes you wish to wear. Then once that selection is made, you still have to reach into the closet, take those clothes off the hanger, and slip them onto your body! Your clothes won’t jump out of the closet and onto your body without your help. If you are going to wear them, you have to put them on!

Paul now tells you that if you’re going to be forbearing, patient, long-burning, and compassionate toward other people, you must make a choice to act in this fashion! Walking in makrothumia (“longsuffering”) is just as much a choice as it is for you to walk in your clothes. If you don’t choose to put on this fruit of the Spirit and walk in it, you won’t do it!

In First Thessalonians 5:14, Paul also tells us, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” The word “patient” is also the word makrothumia. In this case, Paul is telling us that it is just as much our responsibility to be longsuffering with people as it is our responsibility to warn the unruly, comfort the feebleminded, and support the weak. Walking in makrothumia (“longsuffering”) is a part of our Christian responsibility. We have an obligation before God not to be short-tempered or quickly angered with people who struggle or fail; instead, we are to forbear with them and help them!

In First Corinthians 13:4, Paul uses the word makrothumia when he writes his famous chapter about love. He says, “Charity [or love] suffereth long….” Longsuffering is so different from the flesh, which gets easily angered, blows up, lose its temper, says things it later regrets, and doesn’t want to give the same mercy that it demands others give to it. Yet we are commanded to let makrothumia (“longsuffering”) have a key role in our lives!

 

Other possible interpretive translations of the word makrothumia in First Corinthians 13:4 could include:

“Love is not short-tempered or easily angered….”

“Love does not quickly blow its top, but it is patient as it waits for others….”

“Love is not irritable and impatient but is willing to wait a long time for someone to change….”

“Love is determined to wait until the other person finally comes around….”

“Love passionately burns for others and is willing to wait as long as is necessary….”

Parents need to be longsuffering toward their children; teachers need to be longsuffering toward their students; spouses need to be longsuffering toward their spouses; friends need to be longsuffering toward their friends; and pastors need to be longsuffering toward their congregations. And each of us needs to be longsuffering with ourselves!

If you don’t allow “longsuffering” to work in you, you will end up frustrated with everyone all the time—including yourself. So decide to let the Holy Spirit supernaturally produce “longsuffering” in you today. You’ll be more tolerant of others, more peaceful within yourself, and a lot more loving and patient toward those whom you love and need so much!

Gentleness:

However, “longsuffering” isn’t all you need! You also need “gentleness”! This is another supernatural attribute that Paul lists as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22, where he says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness….”

The word “gentleness” comes from the Greek word chrestotes, which meant to show kindness or to be friendly to others and often depicted rulers, governors, or people who were kind, mild, and benevolent to their subjects. Anyone who demonstrated this quality of chrestotes was considered to be compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane, kind, or gentle. The apostle Paul uses this word to depict God’s incomprehensible kindness for people who are unsaved (see Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4).

One scholar has noted that when the word chrestotes is applied to inter-human relationships, it conveys the idea of being adaptable to others. Rather than harshly require everyone else to adapt to his own needs and desires, when chrestotes is working in a believer, he seeks to become adaptable to the needs of those who are around him.

Paul was so driven to compassion about reaching the lost that he told the Corinthian church:

  • “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews…” (1 Corinthians 9:20).
  • “… To them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them…” (1 Corinthians 9:20).
  • “To them that are without law, as without law… that I might gain them…” (1 Corinthians 9:21).
  • “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak…” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
  • “… I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some…” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

You see, Paul was so interested in reaching others and meeting their needs that he was willing to become whatever he needed to be in order to reach them. In fact, he was well-known for being adaptable to people and to their needs. Paul even wrote these words about himself: “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:1).

The word “gentleness” is the same word chrestotes that Paul now uses to describe himself. He made it one of the aims of his life to walk in chrestotes, or in gentleness and kindness; becoming adaptable to others around him so that he might minister to them and meet their needs.

This is so contrary to the flesh! Flesh says, “Excuse me, but if you don’t like me the way I am, you can tough it out! This is the way I am, and if you don’t like it, you can just get out of here. I’m not changing for anyone!”

But when the Holy Spirit is producing His fruit of gentleness in you, you’ll hear yourself thinking and saying, “How can I be different for you? Is there any way I can change that will help you? Is there anything I can do better for you? How can I serve you and meet your needs more effectively?”

It is a supernatural work of God when we become adaptable to meet the needs of others around us. When we attain this fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we are making great progress in our walk with God. This is exactly what Jesus did for us when He laid aside His glory and took upon Himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men (see Philippians 2:7, 8). When Jesus came to earth, He denied His own comfort and adapted to human flesh that He might reach us and bring us to God!

Do you find yourself thinking about how you can reach others? Do you think of ways you can change to be a bigger blessing to people in your life? The flesh never thinks this way. It just likes to demand that everyone else change to please it! So if you are starting to consider how you can be more for those who are around you, that is a strong indication that the fruit of the Spirit called “gentleness” is starting to work in you. And if it hasn’t started to work in you yet, today would be a great day for you to ask the Holy Spirit to start producing this Christ-like attribute in your life!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I thank You that I don’t have to walk in the works of the flesh. Because of Your grace, I can surrender to the power and Presence of the Holy Spirit inside me. As I surrender to the Spirit, I ask that His divine life release His supernatural fruits in me. I want to be more patient, longsuffering, and kind. I know that I need these attributes in my life and that I am lacking them right now. So rather than continue down the path I’ve been on, I am stopping everything right now to ask You to change me. Please produce the life of Jesus Christ and His wonderful character in me!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I am loving patient, and kind. I don’t lose my temper. I am not quickly angered. I am forbearing of others, tolerant of their mistakes, and burning passionately to see them gain new levels of growth in their lives. Just as others have been patient and forbearing with me, I am very patient and understanding of others who are also trying to change! I am gentle, kind, and adaptable to those who are around me. As the Spirit of God works in me, I become all things to all men in order that I might gain some for the Kingdom of God!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Is there any one person with whom you are constantly losing your temper? Do you say or do things to that person you wouldn’t want someone to say or do to you? Why do you think you so easily fly off the handle with that individual?
  2. Have you ever asked that person to forgive you for being so unkind and ugly?
  3. In what ways do you need to become more adaptable to the people around you? Have you been so busy requiring others to be adaptable to you that you have forgotten you need to adapt to others as well?

 

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