Longsuffering. As we continue in our study of Epheisans 4:2, we come to this word seldom used in today’s vocabulary. When I look up the definition of longsuffering it says, “patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance”. Noticing the word patience, I looked up the definition for patience which says, “steadfastness, constancy, endurance”, the same definition for longsuffering. I found this odd because in various passages such as Col 1:11 and II Timothy 3:10 both use Longsuffering and Patience in the same verse. Why? I have come to the belief that like meekness and gentleness, longsuffering and patience are defined as an inward heart attitude and an outward action. Longsuffering is your heart attitude, allowing the Holy Spirit control over your emotions. Patience is the outward expression of the Holy Spirit controlling your actions. While I have not been able to find supporting commentary explaining the two differences exactly as I have put it, Matthew Henry separates them in his commentary on Col 1:11, into bearing patience and waiting patience. I think my definitions can sit side by side with his definitions.
So Paul is saying that as a practical matter, as we walk in our vocation, we are to walk in longsuffering, a right heart attitude. If we have the inward heart attitude of longsuffering, the outward expression of patience will be an outflow of the heart. Paul is telling us what we have learned in Matthew 12:34, “that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.”
For a time, we can fool people by our actions but ultimately our true self, our heart, will be exposed. There have been so many examples of this over the past several years as we follow the political scene. So often politicians will say and do the exact opposite. We have heard some preach family values only to be caught in immoral activities. We have seen others tell how they value the hard worker and then tell how they want to “share the wealth”. When we hear these things, we get outraged, I get outraged. Yet how often are we, am I, guilty of saying one thing and doing another? How often do we fail to deal with our heart attitude and only try to control our actions?
Being in Human Resources as a vocation (a secondary vocation), and as I study more and more and then apply God’s Word to everyday practical living, my heart’s eyes are seeing how that the secular world attempts to change / improve the actions of the employees without addressing the heart. While I have known this for many years, it has become even more evident to me.
We have policy after policy to tell people how to behave, what they can and cannot do yet unless the heart attitude is in sync with the company attitude, the expression of the heart / behavior will come through anytime it gets a chance. Think through employees or co-workers that you have worked with, those whose heart is in tune with the company tend to need very little discipline and have a “can do” attitude. These kinds of people need very little in the way of policies or rules. Those who tend to have disciplinary issues, those who have continual authority problems typically are those who need the rules and policies and management watches them like a hawk, knowing they will step out of line. It is just a matter of when.
Now take this back around to you and me, to our families, to our children. Unless our hearts are right, the wrong will come out in our actions. There is a saying in our family and it goes like this, “Obedience without honor is disobedience. If we want gentleness in our families, we need to teach meekness, if we want patience, we need a longsuffering heart.
Are we getting the hint from Paul that godly relationships must begin in the heart and not in our outward actions?
Reader, we cannot have true gentleness without meekness, we cannot have true patience without longsuffering. I know I have some work, how about you?