Connected in Community By Longsuffering

Longsuffering is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that helps us to stick with those folks who just don't get it. 

Connected in Community By Longsuffering

In any relationship, there are certain behaviors that allow that relationship to mature, growing more intimate, more secure as time goes one. There are behaviors that connect us and connected we thrive, connected we survive.

Last time we learned that love connects us in the body of Christ, connects us to each other. Love is respecting the other person and seeking to meet their need as the opportunity arises often at the cost of personal sacrifice. We learned Jesus modeled that love that we are to love one another with.  Love is the basis for all the other connections that bind us together in Christ. Love keeps us together.

We are going to explore another behavior that keeps us together. The behavior that strengthens the unity of any relationship is longsuffering. Longsuffering is a great empowerment given to us by the Holy Spirit. Longsuffering keeps us together. In the body, we don’t ever want to be a recipient of longsuffering but we certainly are expected by the Lord to extend it to others.

Longsuffering is an older word. I haven’t heard it used in a conversation in recent times. If you have ever read the bible in the King James Version you will have come across it.

2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Modern translations and paraphrases take that word longsuffering (makrothumia) and render it as patience. I think the word patience, at least the way we commonly use it today, fails to convey to us the depth of what is trying to be communicated.  Longsuffering deals with how you handle problems with people. Longsuffering overrides the desire to smack someone on the side of the head who from our enlightened perspective desperately needs it. It’s the ability to hold your temper coupled with the ability to keep on loving them.

There are people in the Church, members of the body, brothers, and sisters in Christ who just don’t seem to get it. Longsuffering helps us to continue to nurture them until they do get it, whatever it may be. We see this modeled by Jesus.

Longsuffering keeps on trying with people who don’t get it.

Matt 23:37 (MSG)
"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me.

Jerusalem refers to the place where the chosen of God live. Jerusalem’s Children refers to the Jews, those who should have recognized and accepted Jesus as Messiah but instead rejected.  “How often I have ached to embrace” is the action of longsuffering, there is compassion for those who don’t get it. 

Jesus demonstrated longsuffering as he was dying on the cross for those who didn’t get it.
Luke 23:34 (MSG)
Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."

In both these incidents Jesus wants the best for people. But the people refuse. Even in his suffering Jesus still wants them to be able to get it.

Sometimes longsuffering gets very direct, it definitely confronts, seeking to correct, longsuffering is not passive.
Luke 22:36-38 (MSG)
Get ready for trouble. Look to what you'll need; there are difficult times ahead. Pawn your coat and get a sword. That was written in Scripture, 'He was lumped in with the criminals,' gets its final meaning in me. Everything written about me is now coming to a conclusion."  They said, "Look, Master, two swords!"
But he said, "Enough of that; no more sword talk!"

Here the disciples miss the point of what Jesus is trying to tell them. The immediately take the literal meaning of “pawn your coat to buy a sword.” They don’t get it. Rather emphatically Jesus tells them Enough! Longsuffering corrects, it doesn’t let things slide.

Longsuffering doesn’t retaliate against people who don’t get it.
Luke 9:53-55 (MSG)
“…the Samaritans learned that [Jesus’] destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, "Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?"  Jesus turned on them: "Of course not!"

Culturally it is a huge insult to refuse hospitality. Two of Jesus’ inner circle want to retaliate, to get some revenge.  They have been following Jesus for almost 3 years and they don’t get it. Longsuffering doesn’t retaliate and longsuffering makes it possible to use such a circumstance to teach what is right. “No,” we are not raining fire down because of their rudeness.”

There have been times when I just want to lay the smackdown on somebody for not getting it. Longsuffering helps me not to be offensive with people who don’t get it.

Longsuffering allows you to take disappointment in other's behavior in stride.
John 6:63-67 (MSG)
The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don't make anything happen. Every word I've spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this." (Jesus knew from the start that some weren't going to risk themselves with him. He knew also who would betray him.) He went on to say, "This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the Father."
After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: "Do you also want to leave?"

People have the great ability to disappoint. It happens all the time in the Church, It shouldn’t but it does. It’s the grace of longsuffering that hopes, if not today, then maybe tomorrow they will get it.

Longsuffering allows you to deal with exasperation at another’s behavior.
John 14:8-10 (MSG)
Philip said, "Master, show us the Father; then we'll be content."
"You've been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don't understand?  To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, 'Where is the Father?' Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

Philip, you still don’t get it! Ok, let's try again—that’s longsuffering.

People! One Pastor said, “Ministry would be great if it wasn’t for people.”  Friends look around the room, see all the folks here, most are your brothers and sisters in Christ, some are on the verge of becoming a member of the family of God, others are here just kicking the tires to check things out, but look around. The only person that is normal in this room is you. Everyone else is a shade off, they are some degree of weird. Longsuffering is what keeps you going in such a group.  Sometimes in the family people want to fight you, they are always opposed to the things you are for.  Then there are folks constantly clamoring for your attention, they consume, they consume your time, talent and treasure if you allow it. Some seem to have the spiritual gift of complaining or a schedule that prevents them from helping out. Some always have something for you to do.  It seems like you’re always helping them, they perpetually seem like they just don’t get it.

The writer of Hebrews looked out at the folks in his fellowship and said:

Hebrews 5:12-14 (MSG)
By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby's milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God's ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.

In the best possible fellowships, those local congregations of the body, there are people who will drive you nuts. It’s a given. There will always be an EGR—a person who requires extra grace to work with. Do you have an Extra Grace Required person in mind?  Grace is the desire to be and the power to do. When dealing with those brothers or sisters that just don’t get it, that extra grace comes in the form of longsuffering.

Longsuffering keeps you in the game with people who don’t get it. The Holy Spirit’s empowerment makes it possible for you to lay down your life for those who don’t get it.  Longsuffering doesn’t turn you into a doormat or a person easily taken advantage of, no instead you have the power to lovingly correct inordinate behavior. When people really tick you off you find you don’t retaliate. You realize for now they just don’t get it so you can handle the disappointment and the feelings of exasperation when they don’t meet expectations. You continue to love on them in hopes that one day soon they will get it.

If you are wondering what folks need to get when they don’t get it,  you already have one answer. Everyone in the body is to love, and too often people don’t get it that being a lover is what they are supposed to be.  Relationships work best when both parties are committed to loving each other. If you’ve got that down, you’ve got it. If there is no judgment in your heart, no condemnation for others, you’ve got it. If you are encouraging one another, admonishing one another, and building one another up, hey, you’ve got it. There is teaching one another, listening to one another, counseling one another, carrying another’s burden, weeping with those in grief, rejoice with the one, these types of behaviors demonstrate the you have got it.  Getting it is helping others in their journey of becoming more like Jesus. Getting it is being the ambassador of the Kingdom of God that you have been empowered to be. Getting it is being salt and light in a world that needs Jesus. Friends, getting it, is about being like Jesus.

Carlo Carretto was not a theologian, priest or pastor, yet he still had a keen insight into the things of God. He wrote: “How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!  How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. No. I cannot free myself from you, because I am you although not completely.

You and I are the Church and in Carretto I see his expression of longsuffering. We strive to get it as we continue to help those who don’t get it. That attitude, that behavior, keeps us together, keeps the body healthy and vital and thriving.

I praise God for his longsuffering because I have discovered that I “don’t get it” way too often.  If God gave up on me in those times when I did not do His will, I would be headed to an eternity without God.  I thank God that He doesn’t treat me as I deserve.

Psalms 103:8-11 (MSG)
God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he's rich in love. He doesn't endlessly nag and scold nor hold grudges forever. He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.  As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him.

I thank my brothers and sisters who by actualizing the power of the Holy Spirit when I fell short of their expectations extended to me longsuffering by confronting me, listening to me, encouraging and just plain not giving up on me. It’s easy to avoid and disregard someone, to write them off, but to do so is to damage the body. No instead they did the hard thing, they did what scripture says we are to do.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (KJV)
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; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Thank God for brothers and sisters that get it and don’t treat me as my sins deserve.

Longsuffering in the body should be freely and frequently dispensed. God empowers you to give it away and God empowers you not to need to receive it. Do you get it?


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