Let us now continue with our examination of the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit with “longsuffering,” as Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
The word translated here as “longsuffering” (also commonly translated as “patience”) is the Greek word makrothumia, defined by Thayer’s as:
1) patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance
2) patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs
The word means exactly what we would expect: one who is longsuffering “suffers long,” or demonstrates a great deal of patience. This term is used in the Scriptures to represent God’s patience toward mankind to repent and to be saved (Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 3:15) and as an example provided by the Apostles and prophets that we should imitate (2 Timothy 3:10, Hebrews 6:12, James 5:10). We are also given the commandment ourselves to show longsuffering, especially to those in the household of faith, as seen in Ephesians 4:1-3, Colossians 3:12-13, and 2 Timothy 4:1-2:
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye.
I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
We may see, then, that having an attitude of longsuffering toward one another is expected of us as Christians. This attitude is by no means easy to develop and it is even more difficult to develop in such a fast-paced society as our own. We have provided for ourselves every convenience to “speed up” the burdens of life so that we may direct our attention to other things. Having to wait for anything– a service, product, and/or a person– is almost an intolerable delay for most people. We as Christians may be often guilty of entreating the Lord to give us patience– and give it to us right now!
We must always remember, however, that our mere existence and opportunity for salvation is thanks to the longsuffering of God, as we see in 2 Peter 3:15a and 2 Peter 3:9:
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The Lord has already “suffered long” for about 2,000 years, and that longsuffering could end at any time. Patience is a very hard virtue for us to bring into our lives, but we must do so if we are to imitate our Lord (1 Corinthians 11:1). We must remember what is important in life– not rushing through all things and causing much grief and consternation to others, but the development of relationships and the expression of Jesus’ love through your own deeds (Matthew 5:13-17).
It is very easy to become impatient with people, especially brethren. The next time, however, you find yourself grumbling about the slowness of the car in front of you, or the wait you might endure in line at the grocery store, or if a preacher “goes over” in his sermon or a prayer takes longer than usual, remember that the only reason you are here and have any fellowship in Jesus Christ is because of the longsuffering of God towards you and all men, the God who desires for none to be lost but that all would come to repentance. Our demonstration of patience will assuredly proclaim to others that we have the fruit of the Spirit within us.