Untitled Sermon (9)
With which you have been called. The calling refers to the Holy Spirit’s prompting that caused them to believe. The author is thus urging his readers to live a life that conforms to their saved status before God.
(3) THE third great quality of a Christian is what the Authorized Version calls long-suffering. The Greek word is makrothumia. This word has two main directions of meaning.
(a) It describes the spirit which will never give in and which, because it endures to the end, will reap the reward. Its meaning can best be seen from the fact that a Jewish writer used it to describe what he called ‘the Roman persistency which would never make peace under defeat’. In their great days, the Romans were unconquerable; they might lose a battle, they might even lose a campaign, but they could not conceive of losing a war. In the greatest disaster, it never occurred to them to admit defeat. Christian patience is the spirit which never admits defeat, which will not be broken by any misfortune or suffering, by any disappointment or discouragement, but which persists to the end.
(b) But makrothumia has an even more characteristic meaning than that. It is the characteristic Greek word for patience with others. John Chrysostom defined it as the spirit which has the power to take revenge but never does so. J. B. Lightfoot, the New Testament scholar, defined it as the spirit which refuses to retaliate. To take an imperfect analogy—it is often possible to see a puppy and a large dog together. The puppy yaps at the big dog, worries it, bites it, and all the time the big dog, which could put the puppy in its place with one snap of its teeth, bears the puppy’s impertinence with a forbearing dignity. Makrothumia is the spirit which bears insult and injury without bitterness and without complaint. It is the spirit which can suffer unpleasant people with graciousness and fools without irritation.
The thing which best of all illustrates its meaning is that the New Testament repeatedly uses it of God. Paul asks unrepentant sinners if they despise the patience of God (Romans 2:4). Paul speaks of the perfect patience of Jesus to him (1 Timothy 1:16). Peter speaks of God’s patience waiting in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20). He says that the forbearance of our Lord is our salvation (2 Peter 3:15). If God had been like us, he would long ago in sheer irritation have wiped the world out for its disobedience. Christians must have the patience towards their neighbours which God has shown to them.