Charity Suffereth Long

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

I Corinthians 13:4

Introduction: Christian symbolism is alive and well today. You see it on buildings, clothing, online, and of course on the omnipresent bumper stickers! Men have always had favorite ways to display that they are Christians. Jesus gave us a universal mark (or symbol) which would last through the ages.

Read carefully John 13:33-35. Christ issues a command and gives a condition. If you and I obey the command to love then the condition will follow. Love one another and then the world will know that you are my disciples.

In John 17, the Lord says when the command is obeyed then "the world may know that thou hast sent me." We now come to another facet of this character trait of love. Our text simply says that love "suffereth long."

1. The Meaning of the Term (MAKROTHUMIA)

Longsuffering is generally related to people and patience is usually related to things and trials. We will confine our study to the former and look at the latter concept in another message. The Greek word means a long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion.

It takes a long time before fuming breaks into flames. The present tense emphasizes the continual and habitual state or action. In other words - you have a very, very, long fuse.

2. The Motive for the Character Trait

According to Galatians 5:22 the primary motivation for all the fruit of the Spirit is love. Love cannot be practiced unless it is first produced.

Note the distinctions in Galatians 5:22-25:

Godward - Love, Joy and Peace
Manward - Longsuffering, Gentleness and Goodness
Selfward - Faith, Meekness and Temperance

3. The Mechanics of Longsuffering

Ask your self these three functional questions when your fuse is short -

Q - Should I be fuming and flaming? Why is my fuse so short?

Q - What have I not considered about God and the other person? That may pour some cold water on your fuse.

Q - How can I best glorify Christ and help the other person? By now the fuming embers have probably been extinguished.

4. The Message of Longsuffering

Schaeffer said that we should not only love our brothers but we are to love our fellow men as neighbors. All men bear the image of God. They have value, not only because they are redeemed, but because they are God's creation. Modern man has rejected this and does not have a clue concerning value for himself or other men.

This results in our culture being so sick with sin that men are seen as less than human and slightly better then machines. As Christians, our message is different. Longsuffering becomes an irrefutible apologetic for the truthfulness of our faith.

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