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By Glenn Pease Paul wrote in I Cor. 13:4 that love is patient. It means that love will be longsuffering, and thus, be willing to put up with a lot that is hard to take for a good long while before there is a melt down or an explosion. The implication is clear, one of the major aspect of life is the putting up with and enduring the pain of man's fallen nature. To choose love is to choose to be like God, and this is a choice to suffer. Jesus did not only suffer on the cross. His suffering was not limited to the lashing of the body, and to all the physical pain he endured. He has to put up with the mental agony of rejection and the frustration with His own disciples lack of faith. Jesus knew what it was to endure the stress of relating to people with all their flaws and weaknesses. The disciples had just come down from the mount of Transfiguration where they had seen the most marvelous vision of the ew Testament with Jesus being transformed into bright whiteness, and Moses and Elijah appearing, and the voice of God speaking. This was not just a once in a lifetime experience, it was a once in a history experience. They were in on one of the great wonders of all time. We all tend to think if we had seen such a marvelous miracle with our own eyes we would be on fire for Christ from that moment on. But this is not the way human nature is. The disciples went down from that experience and immediately their faith was tested, and they failed to have the faith needed to heal the epileptic boy. Jesus felt the power of negative emotions flow through Him and He expressed His frustration in Matt. 17:17, "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here." He healed the boy immediately and told the disciples it was their lack of faith that made them unable to heal him. What we see here is the expression of negative emotion, but with action which did not follow the emotion. He acted in love even when he felt like throwing in the towel and escaping the whole scene of human weakness. But He did not do what He felt. He did what love demanded. He healed the boy and stuck it out with His disciples. The same thing happened in the Garden of Gethsemane where His three best friends, Peter James and John, let Him down and slept when He desperately needed their support. He felt the pain of their indifference. He felt the emotion of rejection, but He did not act on that emotion and say, "If that is all man cares, phooey on man. Why should I suffer for him?" Feeling is one thing, but love is another. Love is a choice, and Jesus chose to die for people who did not care. If Jesus would have gone by His emotions, the ew Testament would have ended before the crucifixion with Jesus ascending back to the Father. But Jesus chose to suffer for man because love is long suffering. A love that won't suffer is a love that won't last. Only long suffering love is a saving love. It hurts, but its the only love that can heal. Paul knew that he never would have been saved apart from the long suffering love of God. He persecuted the body of Christ, and hurt the Savior by his violence; yet he, the chief of sinners, was an object of God's mercy. He writes in I Tim. 1:16, "But for this very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life." Peter uses the same word in I Peter 3:9 where he says God is not slow in keeping his promise, but
is long suffering, not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance. The fact is, the entire plan of salvation is based on God's long suffering love. The only reason Paul or anyone else is saved is because God is willing to put up with them and suffer their disobedience, and then suffer for their sin. God really is a parent, and He goes through the suffering of childbirth, and all of the pains of raising children. There is no escape, for love and pain are linked, and the choice of love is a choice to suffer. Jesus said by His acts of love that He would rather go to hell for us than to live in heaven without us. When the question is asked, how is your love life? the assumption is, if its good, you are enjoying a lot of pleasure. But from a Biblical perspective a good love life could mean you are experiencing a lot of pain. For if you care about people and their needs you will have to bear one another’s burdens, and your love will involve hurting. Love is the nervous system of the body of Christ. It is love that makes us sensitive to the hurts of each member of the body. Love carries the message of pain back to the head in prayer, and then responds to the heads command to go to the aid of that hurting member. The purpose of hurting is for the sake of healing. Pain is not of value in itself, and no suffering is good as an end in itself. The goal of all worthy suffering is the end of suffering. Jesus suffered for our sin as a means to ridding the world of sin, and all of its evil consequences which are painful. Love does not choose suffering like the neurotic with a complex who feels suffering is good. Love chooses suffering as a means of conquering suffering. Paul makes it clear that God is not the God of all suffering, but the God of all comfort, and suffering is but a means to that end of comfort. II Cor. 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we are ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." The whole point of love choosing to suffer and endure is that evil might be overcome by good. If we quickly surrender to evil and give up, it will win the battle. We suffer because we choose not to let evil win, but to overcome it, that love might win. Jesus had to make a choice. He had to come off the cross and cease to suffer, or stay there and suffer for us. The only way He could escape suffering is by not loving. He would have to be indifferent to the salvation of all mankind, and He would have to say, "I don't care," if he was to come off that cross. If He loves He had to stay, and He did choose to stay and to suffer, for that was the only way He could love. Love must pay a price. Love is never free. It is always costly for the one loving. The one being loved may get the benefits freely, but they are obligated to pass it on and be committed to the cost of love. Love will always cost some suffering. A love that cost nothing is only a word and not a living experience. You cannot love anybody without it costing you something. on-love seeks always to avoid all costs. It does not want to get involved. It refuses to sacrifice any selfish goal for the sake of another. Selfish non-love has as its goal to avoid all suffering, and gain only pleasure. Love on the other hand sacrifices pleasure for the sake of suffering and bearing one another’s burden. Long suffering is love under pressure. It is a call for love to function and overcome all of the tendencies to escape pain. Human nature wants to run from pain and do all it can to avoid it. This is good, for it protects us from suffering unnecessarily. But it leads us to also try to avoid
other peoples problems and needs, and not help them bear their burdens. The pull of selfishness is not all bad for it keeps us from burning out in meeting others needs and not taking care of our own needs. It helps us face our limitations. The waiting father of the Prodigal had to suffer because he loved his son. There was no escape, but this does not mean he had to neglect his health and have a nervous breakdown. Long suffering is love that puts up with what it does not like, but it does not become neurotic and add unnecessary suffering as if suffering was a value in itself. Love does not choose any suffering that does not help in leading to the point of healing. Suffering for sufferings sake is not love, but folly and perversion. All of loves suffering must be like Christ's suffering and be suffering with a purpose, and the goal of healing. If I try to bear the burden of a neighbor who lets their dog bark all night, or if I try to bear the burden of a fellow employee who lies constantly, I may be doing nothing loving at all. That is choosing suffering that has no positive goal in mind. It is just a test of endurance that shows how much you can take without exploding. Boilers need such testing, but it is hard to see how this makes one a better Christian. More loving is the choice to suffer by struggling with a kind way to stop these offensive behaviors. It can be painful to tell someone they are being offensive, but it is the pain of love, for you are helping them to be more thoughtful of others, and you are loving yourself by trying to eliminate unnecessary aggravations. Either way you suffer to some degree, but one way is not loving, for it has no healing goal in mind. The other is loves long suffering, for it is endurance with a goal of healing. The key to loves effectiveness is long suffering. If you go with the spirit of impatience to deal with a conflict you will tend to be judgmental and only add fuel to the fire. Long suffering love goes with the patient non-judgmental spirit. You respect the dignity and feelings of the other person. Dr. C. A. Seguin, from Lima, Peru, spoke to four thousand doctors and psychiatrists and said, " on-judgmental, unconditional love is the most healing force in the world." This is the kind of love that Paul says will never fail. All lesser loves will fail. Successful love that always heals is longsuffering love. Jesus was able to get close to and heal prostitutes, publicans, and sinners of all kinds, because He could endure their folly without condemnation. Jesus made them feel they had dignity and value in spite of their sin. That is what longsuffering love does to people. It does not impatiently judge and reject, but patiently acccepts and gives the hope of healing. This kind of love is basic to all relationships. We must love God with longsuffering love. That is, we have to put up with and endure the patience of God with evil men. It is the battle of the Psalmists and the Prophets. "How long O Lord must we endure." God is longsuffering and this is hard on us, for we, like James and John, are anxious to call fire down from heaven. We long for judgment on others, and get angry with God for being so slow to anger and full of mercy. Love for God is a commitment to endure His slow moving plan of justice. Self-love also calls for longsuffering. It is so easy to get fed up with yourself and reject yourself for your sins, weaknesses, and failures. People have to choose to suffer with themselves also, and learn to endure their slow learning. People who give up on their Christian life and slip back into the world do so because they are not longsuffering. They can't handle their own failure and so they reject themselves as unworthy. Even God's longsuffering does have a limit. His spirit will not always strive with man. He gives
man abundant time to repent, but eventually His wrath does fall. The judgment of God has fallen time and time again on his own people as well as the world, and final judgment is certain. Longsuffering which does not have a breaking point is not different from indifference, for if folly and sin can go on forever without justice, then God's patience favors the wicked. It is because there is a limit that it is a powerful tool to move men to repentance. Paul in Rom. 2:4 writes, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance." The whole point of God restraining His wrath and putting up with evil men, is that they might respond to such love and change their ways. The goal of love is always change. God does not love evil men for their evil, but because they can change and overcome evil, and be righteous, if they will turn to Him. But if the purpose of patience is not fulfilled, He does not go on forever tolerating evil. This helps us to understand that we are not expected to rise above God and possess a patience that is infinite. Our breaking point is far nearer the beginning point than is God's. Our longsuffering is short-suffering compared to His. But the point is, it is okay to come to the end of your rope and demand that evil be judged. Love comes to a point where it has to judge the offender in order to be loving toward ones self, others, and God. To try and live on a level that goes beyond the love of God is to be foolish. Charlie Shedd tells about his favorite cartoon. Casper Milquetoast is standing on the corner in a driving rain. Water is running down the brim of his hat and he is shivering in misery. Finally he musters the courage to say, "If that fellow doesn't come in another forty-five minutes, he can just go and borrow the money from somebody else." This could be called hyper-tolerance. It goes to far to represent true love, and is neurotic instead. It is not easy to know where the line is between godly longsuffering and goofy longsuffering, but it is important for our own sanity that we recognize there is such a line, and it is legitimate to keep evaluating your patience to see if it is wise or foolish.
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