That is not how you spell forbearance; it is not a golf-term. Rather, it is an essential ingredient of walking worthy of Christ and of maintaining the unity of any relationship that God has formed for you. This is what Paul says in Ephesians 4:1, 2 (minus the reference to golf).

 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith you were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love… (ASV)


Forbearance has been variously translated as putting up with, bearing with, tolerating, patience, and long-suffering — you get the idea. I have often read this passage and thought about the words humility, meekness, and forbearance. The other day, however, I was convicted by what I read; especially about forbearance in relationship to those closest to me. I would like quote a passage from Albert Barnes’ commentary (1870) in hopes that you will take some time to read it, think deeply about what he says, and be encouraged by it in your relationships at home and at church:

With all lowliness – Humility; …compare also the following places, where the same Greek word occurs: Philippians 2:3, “in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves;” Colossians 2:18, “in a voluntary humility;” Colossians 2:23; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The idea is, that humility of mind becomes those who are “called” Ephesians 4:1, and that we walk worthy of that calling when we evince it.

And meekness – Meekness relates to the manner in which we receive injuries. We are to bear them patiently, and not to retaliate, or seek revenge. The meaning here is, that; we adorn the gospel when we show its power in enabling us to bear injuries without anger or a desire of revenge, or with a mild and forgiving spirit; see 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:23; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25; Titus 3:2; where the same Greek word occurs.

With long-suffering – Bearing patiently with the foibles, faults, and infirmities of others… The virtue here required is that which is to be manifested in our manner of receiving the provocations which we meet with from our brethren. No virtue, perhaps, is more frequently demanded in our contact with others. We do not go far with any fellow-traveler on the journey of life, before we find there is great occasion for its exercise. He has a temperament different from our own. He may be sanguine, or choleric, or melancholy; while we may be just the reverse. He has peculiarities of taste, and habits, and disposition, which differ much from ours. He has his own plans and purposes of life, and his own way and time of doing things. He may be naturally irritable, or he may have been so trained that his modes of speech and conduct differ much from ours. Neighbors have occasion to remark this in their neighbors; friends in their friends; kindred in their kindred; one church-member in another.

A husband and wife … can find enough in each other to embitter life, if they choose to magnify imperfections, and to become irritated at trifles; and there is no friendship that may not be marred in this way, if we will allow it. Hence, if we would have life move on smoothly, we must learn to bear and forbear. We must indulge the friend that we love in the little peculiarities of saying and doing things which may be important to him, but which may be of little moment to us. Like children, we must suffer each one to build his play-house in his own way, and not quarrel with him because he does not think our way the best. All usefulness, and all comfort, may be prevented by an unkind, a sour, a crabbed temper of mind – a mind that can bear with no difference of opinion or temperament. A spirit of fault-finding; an unsatisfied temper; a constant irritability; little inequalities in the look, the temper, or the manner; a brow cloudy and dissatisfied – your husband or your wife cannot tell why – will more than neutralize all the good you can do, and render life anything but a blessing.

It is in such gentle and quiet virtues as meekness and forbearance, that the happiness and usefulness of life consist, far more than in brilliant eloquence, in splendid talent, or illustrious deeds, that shall send the name to future times. It is the bubbling spring which flows gently; the little rivulet which glides through the meadow, and which runs along day and night by the farmhouse, that is useful, rather than the swollen flood or the roaring cataract. Niagara excites our wonder; and we stand amazed at the power and greatness of God there, as he “pours it from his hollow hand.” But one Niagara is enough for a continent or a world; while that same world needs thousands and tens of thousands of silver fountains, and gently flowing rivulets, that shall water every farm, and every meadow, and every garden, and that shall flow on, every day and every night, with their gentle and quiet beauty. So with the acts of our lives. It is not by great deeds only, like those of Howard – not by great sufferings only, like those of the martyrs – that good is to be done; it is by the daily and quiet virtues of life – the Christian temper, the meek forbearance, the spirit of forgiveness in the husband, the wife, the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, the friend, the neighbor – that good is to be done; and in this all may be useful.

“Lord, I pray that I may live worthy of my calling today.”

3 thoughts on “Fore-bearance!

  1. Ashleigh Murphy

    Hi Pastor McDowell! I hope you and your family are well. I see Joy is having her second baby! Brett & I are back in Western Massachusetts – living in South Hadley with our two little ones, Coen (4) and Autumn Joy (2). I’ve been following your blog for a while now and just wanted to express my gratitude – thank you for your wisdom, words, and encouragement.

    Ashleigh Murphy


    1. Thanks Ashleigh, yes Joy had another little girl, Joanna. Her first, Davy, will be 2 in September. Gloria and I will be back east in a week or so, preaching at College Church in July 24.

  2. Jeff Johnson

    Dave, This touches a note in my life. I need to be more flexible in conversation about whatever topic to the nuances of another’s conversation on the same topic. A good conversation sometimes stalls on the turn of a word. Clarifying conversations forever!!

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