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Forbearance: A Kingly Virtue


Romans 2:3-4

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Virtues are inherent character traits that form a foundation for living a good life. Every virtue acts as a superpower if we let it. They enable us to experience life in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise. Virtues do not make us better than anyone else. They define who we will become as we grow mentally and spiritually and empower us to realize the true potential of our own self.

There are many virtues mentioned in the Bible and many that are not specifically mentioned. The Fruit of Spirit is a clear list of virtues that we exhibit when we walk in Spirit. When we keep in step with Spirit, we rise above the temptations of the world, the works of the flesh. When we are blinded by the world, we cannot see the light of Spirit.

We are told in Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.” This is the point of all teachings of Christ and the purpose and goal of all the Fruit of Spirit. Indeed, every virtue created by Spirit is to this end: to love God and to love each other as we love ourselves. To render God’s Holy Love is an act of true freedom, from the world, from temptation, and all earthly desires.

Again, in Galatians 5:13 we are told, “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows.”

To review, the Fruit of Spirit is comprised of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I have spoken on some of these but not all. I will save peace, joy, and love for Advent. I’ve spoken of kindness, goodness, and self-control. This week I would like to speak on forbearance.

Forbearance is often translated as patience. Other translations use long-suffering, tolerance, long abiding, and a quiet mind. Forbearance is not a word used frequently. It is a regal word, a complex and deep word, an amalgamation of other virtues. Forbearance is a kingly virtue, one that commands the kingdoms of tolerance, patience, self-control, restraint, and forgiveness. It is holding back or restraining ourselves from doing something that is normal to do, especially when provoked or offended. It is a manifestation of God’s love, grace, patience, and mercy toward humanity despite our sins and shortcomings. We are expected to emulate this virtue and apply it toward each other.

Forbearance is used in today’s financial world when our mortgage lender allows us to pause payments temporarily while we rebuild our finances. But in the Bible forbearance is a term used to describe God’s tolerance and acceptance of us. It is through God’s forbearance that we gain the opportunity to turn away from our erred thoughts and behaviors and find the Light of Christ.

When we walk in Spirit, contemplate Spirit, embrace the Presence of God and the being of Christ, our lives exhibit the fruits of Spirit. These virtues are expressed through our attitudes, thoughts, words, reactions, and behaviors. Each of us is different and these virtues evolve and display in various amounts.

I cannot judge which is the most important characteristic beyond Agape love, which is God’s Holy love, comprised of His all-embracing moral purity, justice, and goodness. This is the foundational principle of all other virtues and must permeate their presence. What good is gentleness if our intention is immoral? It is God’s Holy Love, and not obsession, that we are commanded to display toward others.

Forbearance rests upon the foundation of God’s Holy Love. There are many insipid acronyms that have been made using the letters L-O-V-E, and I now add my own as it applies to forbearance.

‘L’ represents Letting Go, letting go of our judgments, our opinions, our small-self thinking and attitudes. Forbearance is bigger than anything we think; it is more all-encompassing and homogenizing than our small earthly thoughts. As we surrender to God our conclusions, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, then we start to allow a new flow to enter and fill us. This is Christ; the individualized essence of God that Jesus displayed, and we become aware of that power when we are attuned to God.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Forbearance begins with tolerance and forgiving, and these begin with Letting Go.

‘O’ is for Open. After we let go, we open our hearts to Spirit and are filled with the newness of Christ. After we release the patterns of this world and are open to the new thoughts and the attitudes that Spirit has for us, we become non-resistant to opposition. When we are open, differences do not stick to our hearts; we take them in and immediately surrender all judgment, retaining only the likenesses and releasing the differences.

When we are filled with forbearance there is no place for criticism; we understand that we are all Children of God. We are open. We may not always see things exactly like anyone else, but we can be harmonious and tolerant and understanding of one another. When we are forbearant, we express Christ’s love to everyone and every situation and remember his words … Love your neighbor, judge not, condemn not, forgive, love each other. When we are open, we release the desire to express our will and are open to God’s will. In prayer, we ask that God’s will be done, not our own. It is no longer ‘us against them’; it is just ‘us with God’.

Rev. Michael McCormick wrote: "Once we shift from seeing self to seeing openness, we become truly appreciative of life and fully become a grace for others." ‘O’ is for openness, a chief component of forbearance.

‘V’ is for validating and valuing others. When we let go of our tightly held small beliefs, and are open to the flow of God, then we see the value in all of God’s creatures. We accept, approve, and appreciate others right where they are. What we saw as flaws we begin to see as areas where “the Father within is doing His works”.

This is forbearance. After all, not everyone can be as perfect as we are. Through the virtue of forbearance, we start to validate others with our words and actions. We become encouraging and supportive. We learn in Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. We know the worth of every individual despite their differences. They are here in our lives for a purpose, so what lessons do they bring?

Which leads us to the letter ‘E’: If we let go of our old thought patterns, and are open to the newness of Spirit, which allows us to appreciate the value in others, then we continue to evolve. The letter ‘E’ is for evolution, transformation. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The ‘E’ in love represents our personal and collective spiritual evolution. We are not static creatures. Our life is not done; we have not learned all that we are going to learn. Through God’s workings within us, we maintain a constant expansion of our thinking and awareness. As a species, we are changing spiritually, evolving, getting better, stronger, and more aware. Despite the slowness in some areas, we are making gradual progress toward forbearance.

As individuals, are we a catalyst for this spiritual virtue, or are we dragging our feet, digging in our heels, and resisting Spirit’s gentle call? Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle: we occasionally here God’s whisper, but we are still reluctant to let go of all our fears and familiar beliefs. That’s fine; Spirit uses us right where we are. We may not eliminate our reluctance immediately, but we can strengthen our forbearance through God’s Holy Love.

I pray that each of us fully embraces the kingly virtue of forbearance – this merger of patience, tolerance, restraint, forgiveness, and self-control - and through the power of love we become even more willing to let go, open our hearts, recognize the value of every individual and of all life, and evolve into the perfect expression of Spirit that God has made us to be.

I leave you with 1 Peter3:8-11, an excellent description of forbearance. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.’”


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