Be Long-Suffering Toward All
“We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.”—1 THESSALONIANS 5:14.
1. Where and under what circumstances have Jehovah’s Witnesses manifested long-suffering?
WHAT an example Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses have furnished in being long-suffering! They have endured much hardship and persecution in former Nazi and Fascist lands and in countries such as Malawi up to the present time. Long-suffering, too, are those who live in religiously divided households.
2. What two factors account for the spiritual paradise Jehovah’s people enjoy?
2 Despite the persecution and hardships they experience, Jehovah’s dedicated people have been enjoying the blessings of a spiritual paradise. Indeed, the facts show that anointed Christians began to enjoy it in the year 1919. What accounts for this spiritual paradise? First of all, these paradisaic conditions exist among Jehovah’s people because God has restored his anointed servants to their “land,” or condition, of pure worship. (Isaiah 66:7, 8) The spiritual paradise flourishes also because everyone in it manifests the fruits of God’s spirit. Long-suffering is one of these. (Galatians 5:22, 23) The importance of this quality as far as our spiritual paradise is concerned can be seen from this statement by scholar William Barclay: “There can be no such thing as a Christian fellowship without makrothumia [long-suffering]. . . . And the reason for that is just this—that makrothumia is the great characteristic of God (Rom. 2.4; 9.22).” (A New Testament Wordbook, page 84) Yes, long-suffering is that important!
Being Long-Suffering With Our Brothers
3. What lesson about being long-suffering did Jesus give Peter?
3 The apostle Peter apparently had some difficulty manifesting long-suffering, for he once asked Jesus: “Lord, how many times is my brother to sin against me and am I to forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus counseled him: “I say to you, not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21, 22) In other words, there is no limit to the number of times we are to put up with one another and forgive someone sinning against us. After all, we cannot imagine that anyone would keep count up to 77 times! Yet, being that forgiving surely calls for long-suffering.
4. Why do elders especially need to be long-suffering?
4 When it comes to the manifesting of long-suffering by spiritual brothers, there is no question that congregation elders need to be exemplary. Their patience might be tried because certain fellow believers may be careless or indifferent. Others may be dallying when it comes to correcting bad habits. Elders must be careful not to be easily annoyed or offended by the weaknesses of their Christian brothers and sisters. Instead, these spiritual shepherds need to remember the counsel: “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves.”—Romans 15:1.
5. What are we able to put up with if we are long-suffering?
5 Then again, personality conflicts may arise because of human weaknesses and shortcomings. Because of failings or idiosyncrasies, we rub our brothers the wrong way, so to speak, and they may do that to us. Therefore, how fitting the counsel: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Colossians 3:13) “Putting up with one another” means being long-suffering, though we may have valid grounds for a complaint against someone. We must not retaliate or punish our brother, not even heave sighs against him.—James 5:9.
6. Why is being long-suffering the course of wisdom?
6 To the same effect is the counsel found at Romans 12:19: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” ‘Yielding place to the wrath’ means being slow to anger, or long-suffering. Manifesting this quality is the course of wisdom, for it benefits us and others. If a problem has arisen, we ourselves feel better because by being long-suffering, we are not making matters worse. And the one toward whom we exercise long-suffering also feels better because we are not punishing him or retaliating in some way. No wonder Paul exhorted fellow Christians to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all”!—1 Thessalonians 5:14.
Within the Family Circle
7. Why do married people need to be long-suffering?
7 It has well been said that a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. What does that mean? That happily married people are long-suffering in dealing with each other. Individuals are often attracted to each other because of their opposite temperaments. These differences may be intriguing, yet they may also be a source of friction that adds to stresses and anxieties already causing married Christians to have “tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) For instance, suppose a husband is indifferent to details or tends to be somewhat careless or sloppy. This may be quite trying to his wife. But if kindly worded suggestions are of no avail, she may just have to put up with his weaknesses by being long-suffering.
8. Why may husbands need to be long-suffering?
8 On the other hand, a wife may fuss over details and be prone to nag her husband. This may well call to mind the scripture: “Better to live on the roof than share the house with a nagging wife.” (Proverbs 25:24, Today’s English Version) In such a case, long-suffering is required to comply with Paul’s counsel: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” (Colossians 3:19) It also takes long-suffering for husbands to heed the apostle Peter’s counsel: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life, in order for your prayers not to be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) The weaknesses of his wife may sometimes try a husband, but long-suffering will help him to put up with them.
9. Why is long-suffering needed on the part of parents?
9 Parents need to be long-suffering if they are to be successful in rearing their children. Youngsters may make the same mistakes over and over again. They may seem to be stubborn or slow to learn and may continually try their parents. Under such circumstances, Christian parents need to be slow to anger, not losing their temper or composure but remaining calm while being firm for righteous principles. Fathers should remember that they too were young once and also made mistakes. They need to apply Paul’s counsel: “You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.”—Colossians 3:21.
With Those on the Outside
10. How should we act at our place of employment, as seen by what experience?
10 Because of human imperfection and selfishness, unpleasant situations may arise at a Christian’s place of work. It is the course of wisdom to be tactful and to put up with wrongs for the sake of peace. Showing how wise this can be is the experience of a Christian who was the victim of much disagreeableness caused by an envious fellow employee. Because the brother did not make an issue of this but was long-suffering, in time he was able to start a Bible study with the employee who had been troublesome.
11. When do we especially need to be long-suffering, and why?
11 Especially do Jehovah’s people need to be long-suffering when witnessing to those outside the Christian congregation. Time and again, Christians meet with rude or harsh responses. Would it be proper or wise to reply in kind? No, for that would not be manifesting long-suffering. The course of wisdom is to remember and to follow the wise proverb: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.”—Proverbs 15:1.
Faith and Hope Aid in Displaying Long-Suffering
12, 13. What qualities will help us to be long-suffering?
12 What can help us to display long-suffering, to put up with grievous conditions? One thing is faith in God’s promises. We must take God at his word. The Scriptures say: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) In other words, as one old-timer put it: “If God permits it, I can take it.” Yes, we can take it by being long-suffering.
13 Closely related to faith is hope in God’s Kingdom. When it holds sway over the earth, all the evil conditions that cause us distress will be removed. In this regard, the psalmist David said: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.” (Psalm 37:8, 9) The sure hope that God will soon do away with all these trialsome circumstances helps us to be long-suffering.
14. What experience shows why we should be long-suffering toward an unbelieving mate?
14 How should we react if an unbelieving mate causes us distress? Keep looking to God for help, and keep hoping that the opposer will become a worshiper of Jehovah. The wife of one Christian sometimes refused to prepare his meals and clean his clothes. She used filthy language, would not talk with him for days, and even tried to have a spell cast upon him through witchcraft. “But,” said he, “I turned each time to Jehovah in prayer, and I trusted Him to help me develop the good quality of long-suffering in order not to lose my Christian balance. I also hoped that one day her attitude of heart would change.” After 20 years of such treatment, his wife began to change, and he said: “How grateful I am to Jehovah that he helped me cultivate the fruit of the spirit, long-suffering, because I can now see the result: My wife has started to walk on the path of life!”
Prayer, Humility, and Love Will Help
15. Why can prayer help us to be long-suffering?
15 Prayer is another great help in manifesting long-suffering. Paul urged: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Remember also to heed the admonition: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.”—Psalm 55:22.
16. In being long-suffering, how can humility help us?
16 Humility is still another great help in cultivating the spirit’s fruit of long-suffering. A proud person is impatient. He is easily offended, quickly gets angry, and will not stand for any unfavorable treatment. All of this is the opposite of being long-suffering. But a humble person will not take himself too seriously. He will wait on Jehovah, as David did when hunted by King Saul and insulted by the Benjamite Shimei. (1 Samuel 24:4-6; 2 Samuel 16:5-13) Thus, we should desire to walk “with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) Moreover, we should ‘humble ourselves in the eyes of Jehovah.’—James 4:10.
17. Why will love help us to be long-suffering?
17 Especially does unselfish love help us to be long-suffering. Indeed, “love is long-suffering,” for it causes us to have the best interests of others at heart. (1 Corinthians 13:4) Love enables us to have empathy, to put ourselves in the shoes of others, as it were. Moreover, love helps us to be long-suffering because “it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, 8) Yes, as Kingdom song number 200 in the book Sing Praises to Jehovah puts it:
“Love has eyes to see the good.
Love builds up the brotherhood.
Love to erring ones is kind,
Seeks their better side to find.”
Be Long-Suffering With Joy?
18. How is it possible to be long-suffering with joy?
18 Paul prayed that his fellow believers in Colossae would be filled with the accurate knowledge of God’s will in order for them to walk worthily of Jehovah, please him, and bear fruit in every good work. They would thus be “made powerful with all power to the extent of his glorious might so as to endure fully and be long-suffering with joy.” (Colossians 1:9-11) Still, how can someone be “long-suffering with joy”? That is not contradictory, for having the joy mentioned in the Scriptures is not simply a matter of being lighthearted or cheerful. The spirit’s fruit of joy includes a feeling of deep satisfaction over doing the right thing before God. It is also an expression of the hope of receiving a promised reward as a result of exercising long-suffering. That is why Jesus said: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.”—Matthew 5:11, 12.
19. What examples show that it is possible to be both long-suffering and joyful?
19 Jesus had such joy. Indeed, “for the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame.” (Hebrews 12:2) That joy enabled Jesus to be long-suffering. Similarly, consider what happened when the apostles were flogged and ordered to “stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name.” They “went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:40-42) What a fine example proving that Christ’s followers can be long-suffering with joy!
20. If we display long-suffering, how can this affect our relationship with others?
20 God’s Word surely gives wise counsel when it exhorts us not to retaliate, to be slow to anger while hoping for the best—yes, to be long-suffering! We need regular prayer and this fruit of God’s spirit to get along with our brothers and sisters in the congregation, with those in our family circle, with people at our place of work, and with individuals we meet in the Christian ministry. And what can help us to manifest long-suffering? Faith, hope, humility, joy, and love. Truly, with such qualities we can be long-suffering toward all.
Do You Remember?
□ Why is long-suffering essential to our sharing in a spiritual paradise?
□ Why do elders especially need to be long-suffering?
□ Why should long-suffering be cultivated by husbands and wives?
□ What other qualities will help us to be long-suffering?
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What counsel from Jesus helped Peter to be long-suffering?