Christians share a special, spiritual, and eternal relationship with “one another” that transcends the differences of “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” and lasts forever (Rev. 7:9; 1 The. 4:13-18). Our blessed relationships and faith-building responsibilities are reciprocal and reflexive. Thus, what we do properly is from one to another, and of one by another. In the body of Christ, we share the mutual responsibility (and mutual expectation) to “forbear one another in love” (Eph. 4:2).
FORBEAR ONE ANOTHER
Mounce wrote of “forbear”: “Anechomai means ‘to bear with, endure, tolerate, put up with’ something or someone…. When the object of anechomai is personal, it means to put up with or tolerate an individual” (213). If we forbear, we put up with personalities, bear with shortcomings, and tolerate slights and injuries. We will thank God for those brethren with more acclaim, more abilities, or more opportunities, and we will reach down to the “little ones” who seem insignificant, lacking in knowledge, deficient in ability, behind in maturity, and seek to raise them up to where they should be.
Forbearing does not mean tolerating continuing sin (1 John 3:4, 8-9; 5:16-17). “The riches of” God’s “goodness and forbearance and longsuffering” (Rom. 2:4; cf. 3:25), should inspire us to endure patiently, to forbear lovingly, and to forego revenge, even upon those who have grievously wronged us, because of our love for them, and for the Lord’s body. God’s being forbearing does not mean He overlooks sin, but that He desires man’s salvation, in spite of all man has done against Him (John 3:16-17). God, not man, determines what sin is, and who is guilty (1 John 3:4; Rom. 7:13). One is not a sinner just because: (1) He differs in a matter that is optional, judgment, or a scruple (Rom. 14), (2) Another dislikes him, or is jealous of his position, or his success, or, (3) Someone accuses him (Rev. 12:10). Additionally, one is not free from guilt simply because one chooses to overlook his sin under the guise of forbearance.
Some decry forbearance, and foolishly and falsely define “longsuffering and patience” as sinful “toleration and compromise.” We must never let anyone coerce, accuse, condemn, or sanction us into believing we sin when we follow the Lord’s command to be forbearing. Let us put aside pettiness and pride, and inculcate within us lowliness, meekness, and forbearance (Eph. 4:2), that we might help men to be productive now, and saved eternally. Only then, will we have the proper disposition to confront sin, and to rebuke sinners correctly.
FORBEAR ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE
Love for one another identifies us (John 13:34-35). Love is patiently enduring in addressing conflicts, dissolving disputes, or restoring broken unity (1 Cor. 13). To extend to others the forbearance we all need and want, because of genuinely seeking the good of the other, and of the body of Christ, will, when properly received, result in healing, instead of additional injury. Brethren, who bow their hearts to listen to the God of Heaven, stoop down to lift up the lowly; listen to, and learn from, the least; and think more highly of others than they do of themselves. God, through Paul, warned: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). Loving forbearance would eliminate such devilish conduct.
FORBEARING IS AN IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIANS
Paul wrote about those whose lives were “hid with Christ in God,” instructing them in, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” From Colossians 3:1-17, note that forbearing is a Christian characteristic of those who: (1) Are risen with Christ, (2) Seek things that are above, (3) Set their affections on things above, not on things on the earth, (4) Are dead, but alive in Christ, (5) Expect to appear with Him in glory, (6) Have put to death their members upon the earth, (7) Have put off the evil attributes of the old man, (8) Have put on Christian characteristics of the new man, (9) Have put on love, which is the bond of perfectness, (10) Let the peace of God rule in their hearts, (11) Let the word of Christ dwell in them richly, (12) Do all, in word or deed, in the name of the Lord, (13) And, give thanks unto the Father by Him.
Forbearing one another in love is a Christian characteristic that we must work to acquire, to practice, and to perfect within us. Forbearance requires patience with one another, demands slowness to anger, and also stresses readiness to forgive. Forbearance endures the trials, overcomes weakness, and claims the victory--and does so with lowliness and meekness. Forbearing one another in love should not seem to us to be unusual or unknown. Rather, we should be faithful practitioners of bearing with one another, ready to forgive, and gentle in our dealing with others. If we love one another, as we should, we will know the blessings of forbearing, even if we must suffer in order to do so.
Mounce, William D. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
Bobby Liddell serves as the Administrative Dean for Memphis School of Preaching
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