The past several weeks we’ve been studying the character qualities mentioned by the Apostle Paul as he urges the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy” of the Gospel. Today’s quality is FORBEARANCE.
Forbearance (another way of saying “bearing with one another in love”) is basically a synonym for patience, but with a twist. Forbearance is patience under provocation; whereas patience is waiting for others to mature in grace, forbearance is being patient when that immaturity is directed at you.
I’ve said in my marriage and parenting material that much of the sin of your spouse and child will be impersonal; they’re not plotting and scheming about how they can devastate you. They’re sinful people, and that sin simply splashes up into your life. We often make things worse when we interpret their actions as direct and personal attacks.
But, there will be times when another believer intentionally attempts to hurt you. Maybe it’s a sentence that cuts down your character in front of others. Maybe it’s an intentional action to make a simple task more complicated. Maybe it’s an elaborate plot to ruin your ministry. In some capacity, you will experience deliberate sin against your personhood.
When this day comes, there are 3 ways you can retaliate:
1. Direct Retaliation
In vengeful anger, you can retaliate with hurtful words and actions. You can cut the other person down publicly, intimidate and threaten them privately, and plot against their overall well-being.
2. Indirect Retaliation
Maybe you don’t want to go out of your way to hurt the other person directly, but you can choose to ignore their need. You will look away when an opportunity to serve them presents itself, opting instead to watch them struggle and hoping for them to fail.
3. Biblical Retaliation
Jesus says to turn the other cheek and love your enemies (Matt. 5:39, 44). Paul says to bless those who persecute you (Rom. 12:14). The Ephesians and Colossians were told to forgive others as Christ forgave them (Eph. 4:32, Col. 3:13).
Scripture confronts and encourages us with the recurring themes of the culture of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ: forgive, make peace, and bless your enemies. If you do these things, you don't get vengeance; no, you get something better. You get to be part of the most important work in the universe: redemption.
Direct and indirect retaliation can be so appealing to our sinful hearts. We would love to rise to the throne of God and exact justice on those who do us wrong. But vengeance is the Lord’s, our motives are almost always selfish, and our sense of justice is twisted. It’s a good thing there’s only one Judge in the universe!
Remember, Jesus faced the scorn and rejection of men. When he was physically, emotionally, and verbally abused, how did he respond? Not with retaliation and justice, but with forbearance and peace. Today, the Prince of Peace lives inside your soul, empowering you to bless those who curse you.
Forbearance is not a moral goal for you to achieve, but a redemptive gift of the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. He endured mental, spiritual and physical attack without sin, so that when you are attacked, you would have all the grace you need to respond with patient love and forbearing grace.
Paul David Tripp
- Think of a time when you experienced (or are experiencing) the deliberate sin of a believer.
- In some capacity, did you respond with direct or indirect retaliation? How did that affect the situation?
- How could you have responded more biblically?
- Why is it so hard to bless your enemies?
- Why is "biblical retaliation" (forgiveness of others) a redemptive gift more than a moral goal?