OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
The definition of longsuffering as we saw in our last article is literally “long to anger.” In other words, a person who is longsuffering takes a long time to get angry with another. The words “not soon angry” are the other side of the coin. Patience is another definition of anger. Forbearance is a third definition of the term.
The person who models longsuffering better than anyone is God. This divine trait has been manifested time and again throughout the course of human history. Sadly, man is not always long to anger. This is true of those in the world and, at times, it is true of God’s children. Let’s look at some Bible examples of those who did not manifest the quality of “tolerating the intolerable.” One of these was David. The incident involves David and a wealthy man named Nabal. David and his men had protected Nabal’s shepherds and his flocks. When David asked for payment for his services, Nabal refused. When David heard the response of Nabal, David’s anger was lit like gasoline with a match. “And David said to his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff….Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good. So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light…” (I Sam. 25:13, 21-22). David was angered. His anger drove him to a quick decision to destroy all of Nabal’s house. Had it not been for the intercession of Abigail, Nabal’s wife, David would have committed a great atrocity in the land. When David’s anger had subsided after speaking to Agibail, he said to her: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which has kept me from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand” (I Sam. 25:32-33). Notice, David was glad that he was stopped from acting in haste. David was better serve to show longsuffering to this foolish man instead of playing the part of an avenger.
In Luke 9, we find two of the apostles of Jesus acting in haste instead of being longsuffering. The background for this incident in the life of our Lord is found in Luke 9:51-53. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” This reaction to Jesus by the Samaritans was not well received by James and John. They were extremely upset. “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” (Luke 9:54). This desire was quickly rebuked by Jesus. “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them… (Luke 9:55-56). The Samaritans were not highly esteemed by the Jews because they were of mixed-blood. When they were inhospitable to the Christ, this set James and John on edge. Fire from above was their answer for this blatant disrespect of the Lord. Patience was nowhere to be found in these two on that day.
The Corinthians were a bunch who demonstrated a lack of longsuffering toward each other. One of the things for which Paul rebuked them was going to law against one another. Apparently, they were doing this over the most trivial matters. Paul admonished them with these words: “But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly fault among you, because ye go to law with one another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (I Cor. 6:6-7). Paul exhorted them to be longsuffering. He counseled them to take the wrongs. Instead of going to law before unbelievers, they should have manifested patience, even if this meant suffering themselves to be defrauded.
The examples listed above are a lot like us at times. We fire back with our tongues, seek vengeance against others, and withhold our love and kindness from others. Our anger strikes out at those who hurt us. We are quick to involve ourselves in sinful deeds toward others. We might even have the desire to bring harm to others because they have harmed us. Patience or longsuffering is not always in our storehouse of reactions toward those who seek to do us wrong. But, it should be. We should remain calm instead of being angry. We should back away instead of moving forward. We should pray to our heavenly Father instead of scheming about how to get even. We must learn to suffer long with others.
It is interesting that the same man who was intolerant toward Nabal was very longsuffering toward an evil monarch. David exhibited a great deal of longsuffering toward King Saul. Saul was extremely jealous of David (I Sam. 18:6-9). His jealousy erupted in extreme anger on two occasions and he sought to take David’s life with a javelin (I Sam. 18:11; 19:9-10). David finally had to flee for his life from the city of Jerusalem. After leaving the city, Saul chased David like a wild animal for a long period of time. On two occasions during his flight in the wilderness, David had an opportunity to slay the king. Both times, he refused to kill the Lord’s anointed. The first occasion is recorded in I Samuel 24:4-7. Saul retired for the night in a cave. He did not know that David and his men were already in the caved. David’s men encouraged David to smite the king. “And the men of David said unto him, Behold, the day of which the Lord hath said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee.” David, however, did not harm Saul. Instead, he cut off the skirt of his robe. Even that small gesture smote David to the heart. “And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord” (I Sam. 24:6). Instead of acting, David waited. He waited upon God to deal with Saul. His longsuffering brought him peace of mind. His longsuffering also proved that he was a man after God’s own heart.