Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The Greek word for “forbearance” is composed of two words. The first is the preposition epi which, when added to another word, can have the meaning of extensive or full. This word is a component of the Greek word for “full knowledge” used in 2 Timothy 2:25. The second Greek word has various meanings: “reasonable, considerate, and suitable.” Thus, the meaning of the Greek is “extensively reasonable or fully reasonable.”
Based on the analysis of the Greek word, our spiritual experience, God’s activities in His economy, and the Lord’s living on earth, we can realize that to have adequate forbearance requires that we also have many other virtues. Forbearance is an all-inclusive virtue.
Of the many human virtues, Paul chose to speak of forbearance in 4:5. As we shall see, this particular virtue is related to other important matters in Philippians 3 and 4. For example, it is related to being able to do all things in Christ and also to learning the secret of contentment in all circumstances. Furthermore, in order to have forbearance we must be qualified according to what is mentioned in 3:15 and 16.
Forbearance means to be fully reasonable, considerate, and suitable. This requires a genuine understanding of the situation at hand. Suppose two students are arguing about a problem in mathematics. Unable to settle their argument, they bring the problem to you. But if you are ignorant of mathematics, it will not be possible for you to give them a fair and reasonable judgment. Even if you have the necessary understanding, you may lack wisdom to deal with the people involved.
There is a great need of forbearance in our family life. A good family life is the product of forbearance. If a husband and wife show forbearance toward each other and toward their children, they will have an excellent married life and family life. However, if they do not exercise forbearance, they will seriously damage their life together as a family.
In dealing with their children, parents should be neither too strict nor too tolerant. Both excessive strictness and excessive tolerance are damaging to children. Then what is the right way for parents to care for their children? The right way is the way which is full of forbearance.
Suppose a child does something wrong, and the matter is made known to his father. He should not rebuke his child in a hasty way or spank him in anger. In Ephesians 6 Paul tells us not to provoke our children. Usually parents provoke their children by dealing with them in anger. If you are angry with your child, you first need to ask the Lord to take away your anger. Once your anger has been dealt with by the Lord, you need to exercise your understanding to realize why the child made that particular mistake. No doubt, the child was wrong. Nevertheless, you still must understand his situation. Perhaps he was wrong because you were careless. If you had not been careless in that particular way, the child would not have made that mistake. Because your carelessness afforded him the opportunity to do something wrong, you should not put the full blame on him. Rather, first you must blame yourself and then discipline the child. All this is included in exercising forbearance toward our children.
Parents need to exercise wisdom in speaking to their children. A child may need correction, but the parents need to sense when is the right time to speak to him. A father should ask himself whether or not he should rebuke his child in front of other children or even in front of the mother. Sometimes it is not wise to discipline a child in the presence of others. How much wisdom we must exercise in caring for our children! If we do not have forbearance, we shall not exercise wisdom. On the other hand, if we do not have adequate wisdom, we shall not be able to exercise forbearance.
If we would show forbearance, we also need patience. Most parents find it difficult to be patient when they are disciplining their children. Suppose a brother is about to rebuke one of his children. It would be much better if he waited a few hours before saying anything. However, it is extremely difficult to wait even a few minutes, much less a few hours. The natural tendency is to deal with the children in haste. Such impatience is damaging.
Impatience is also damaging in our married life. Suppose a brother feels it is necessary to speak to his wife about a certain matter that is not pleasant. If he is truly forbearing, he will wait for the right time to speak, a time when the conversation will be constructive. In the same principle, a wife needs to be patient with her husband and wait for the proper time to express her feelings about certain matters. However, to be patient and forbearing in such a way is very difficult for us.
As an all-inclusive virtue, forbearance implies not only understanding, wisdom, and patience, but also mercy, kindness, love, and sympathy. The list of virtues is almost endless. As we have pointed out, the Greek word rendered forbearance implies considerateness. To be forbearing is to consider the situation of others. If we would exercise forbearance in our married life and family life, we would have a pleasant married life and an excellent family life.
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