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Forbearing Love



“. . . Showing forbearance to one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

In order to walk worthy, we must forgive our enemies and love them.

The term forbearance is not often used today and is therefore unfamiliar to many of us. The Greek word translated “showing forbearance” means “suppressing with silence.” It carries the idea of throwing a blanket over sin. First Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” and Proverbs 10:12 declares, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” A forbearing person doesn’t trumpet other people’s sins but rather forgives them. Forbearance has room for the failures of others. A forbearing person also loves people in spite of the wrongs they might have done to him.

Agape, the word used for “love” in this verse, is the love that gives but never takes. It’s the kind of love that seeks the highest good for another, no matter what the cost. God showed His agape by giving us His only Son (John 3:16). Jesus said, “Greater love [agape] has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). Agape is unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodness; it is completely selfless.

Perhaps the greatest description of forbearing love is the summary Jesus gives in Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We were God’s enemies before He saved us, but He was willing to send His Son anyway (Rom. 5:10). Since we are God’s children, we must also seek our enemies’ highest good, whatever it costs us. Such cost ought to include more than simply enduring slander and persecution from our enemies. Genuine forbearing love will assume the more difficult task of loving those who hate us.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He showed forbearing love in sending Christ to die for undeserving sinners.
  • Pray for your enemies and for strength to love them as you should.

For Further Study

  • Besides Christ, the clearest example of forbearing love is Stephen’s attitude toward those who stoned him. Read his story in Acts 6—7, and note his love toward his executioners.
  • Think about people you have a hard time loving, and pray that God would show you specific ways you can show love to them. Then follow through!



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.