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What is the biblical meaning of long-suffering?

by Stephen Davey

Charles asked: Please explain the biblical meaning of "Long Suffering."

The word long-suffering in the Bible is a word made up of two Greek words meaning “long” and “temper”. So literally, long-suffering means “long-tempered.” 

A person who is long-suffering is someone who is shows restraint when stirred to anger. It would be a person who is not quick to take retaliation or to punish. 

Perhaps you've heard of people being described as having a "short fuse," meaning that they are quick to lose their temper. This would be the opposite of that. A long-suffering person has a “long fuse” and patiently endures when stirred to anger. 

The Bible describes God as being long-suffering toward us. We read in 2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God does not immediately avenge sin, but is patient and long-suffering with sinners. His patience is rooted in His desire that we respond to Him in faith and receive forgiveness and mercy. 

Long-suffering does not mean that God will never take action against His enemies. We know He will. But He restrains Himself and allows men and women time to respond to His offer of forgiveness. 

As Christians, we are told to be long-suffering as well. For example, Paul said in Ephesians 4:2:

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.

Long-suffering results from a work of the Holy Spirit in us. God's long-suffering nature toward us is the model we follow when people test our patience, treat us wrongly, or cause us to suffer. 

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