“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
If we are going to walk worthy then we must forgive and love those who have offended us in any way, this includes our enemies too.
The Greek word behind “forbearing” literally means, “to put up with.” The dictionary defines it as “exercising patience and indulgence.” We can see how longsuffering and forbearing love are inseparably linked. Paul is asking that we suppress our natural tendency to retaliate and seek revenge, because this kind of love is willing to overlook offences … “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8.) Solomon is in complete agreement with Peter, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:12.) The effects of both attitudes are evident in our churches.
A Christian who has forbearing love does not gossip, backbite or malign anyone else. A forbearing Christian forgives despite what might have been done against him.
Paul says, “Forbearing one another in love.” We just might be able to “put up” with others or the situations they create, but can we love them? The love Paul is writing about is nothing less than sacrificial. It is the love that seeks the highest good for others regardless of the faults, and despite the personal cost to us. We know that the Greek word for love is ‘agape,’ and it is exactly the same love God showed to fallen humanity … “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16.) This must be the greatest love possible, yet it is the love that we are expected to have towards others … “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:16.) This love is eternally powerful, indiscriminate, holy and righteous.
The world and carnal believers have a lower estimation of what love is, therefore they respond to offences diametrically opposite to that prescribed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus clearly states, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matthew 5:43-47.) In fact, Jesus makes this kind of love a condition of walking worthy, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48.)
We were God’s enemies, yet He still sent His Son to save us from our sin … “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10.) Out of gratitude for His redeeming love, we ought to love as He taught us to. Genuine forbearing love endeavours to manifest the difficult task of loving those who hate and abuse us. We cannot reject this principle and claim to walk worthy of Christ!