When someone takes a long time, he is slow. When I take a long time, I am thorough. When another does not do it, he is lazy. When I do not do it, I am too busy. When the other fellow overlooks a rule of etiquette, he is rude. When I bent a few rules of etiquette, I am original.
As a result of human nature, our perspective is not always clear. While we may often understand our own actions and motivations, it is more challenging for most to exert the same acceptance level with others. As a result, some in our society have become professional critics, while carefully guarding personal shortcomings. How easy it is for one to pick at the flaws of others, while blindly ignoring their own deficiencies. Perhaps that is a bit of what our Lord meant when he said, "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
The Bible tells us that we are to be patient...slow to judge, slow to react. In the King James Version, it is called "longsuffering." The word in the Greek language is makrothumeo and is made of two words: Makro means "long" and thumeo means "anger." It literally speaks of being long to anger. Or, one might say, "long on patience." Even though the word is sometimes translated patience, it is more than patience. It often has to do with a level of patience and tolerance of others. Perhaps, we could say that it deals with giving others the benefit of the doubt. The meaning of this word also seems to include the attitude and "spirit" that seeks to understand, rather than one easily jumping to false assumptions.
In their commentary, Hoggs and Vine described it as "... that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is opposite anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God, Exodus 34:6; Romans 2:4; I Peter 3:20. (Notes on Thessalonians, pp. 183, 184)."
Did you catch that? Hoggs and Vine stated that it is associated with mercy. It is significant to note that one of the qualities of the fruit of Spirit mentioned in Galatians Five is this same word. When one is controlled by the Holy Spirit, he will be longsuffering... that is, he will be merciful, patient ...long on anger, short on wrath.
Abraham Lincoln was arguably one of the greatest presidents this country has ever known but also, an incredibly godly man. One of the many godly characteristic he epitomized was longsuffering.
No one treated Lincoln with more contempt than did Edwin Stanton who denounced Lincoln's policies and called him a "low cunning clown." Stanton had nicknamed him "the original gorilla" and said that explorer Paul Du Chaillu was a fool to wander about in Africa trying to capture a gorilla, when he could have found one so easily in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln said nothing in reply. In fact, he made Stanton his war minister because Stanton was the best man for the job. He treated him with every courtesy. The years wore on.
The night came when an assassin's bullet struck down Lincoln in a theatre. In a room off to the side where Lincoln's body was taken, stood Stanton that night. As he looked down on the silent, rugged face of the President, Stanton said through his tears, "There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen." One man's longsuffering conquered in the end.
How is your longsuffering barometer? Do you find yourself short with people, perhaps even your own family? Do you seek to understand others before jumping to conclusions? Would you be one who is known more by your mercy than a critical spirit? Do you give others the benefit of the doubt? Do you refrain from striking back when offended?
Let's remember it was God the Father's longsuffering, demonstrated in Christ on the cross, which enables us to have eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. We are challenged to forgive, even as He has forgiven us.
As we begin this new fall season and school year, let's determine, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to be more longsuffering and patient with those around us. Let's resolve to reflect God's grace in all of our relationships. Remember...He does it every day to us.