One of the fruits produced in believers by the Holy Spirit is forbearance. (Galatians 5:22)
"Forbearance" is what we do when we refrain from taking an action (legal or otherwise) we're entitled to take - or justified in taking - against someone else. It is restraint. It is the exercise of mercy.
What better example of forbearance than God?
God was patient beyond measure with His chosen people, the Israelites. They provoked Him, tested Him, defied Him, and railed against Him, yet He exercised forbearance time and time again.
How about God's forbearance with us? He didn't wipe mankind from the face of the world after His most-loved creation turned away from Him and entered the realm of sin. He let Noah and his family survive and re-populate the world with imperfect people.
God's forbearance has limits. His fuse can be short. Look at what happened to Israel's enemies. Yet, for those who worship Him, honor Him, and trust Him, God's forbearance is great. He knows we will continually slip and sin, yet He continues to love us and want us to have a relationship with Him through Christ.
Christ is the greatest example of God's forbearance. God punished man's sin by transferring the penalty onto Himself. He provided life, instead of our deserved death, by sacrificing Himself in the form of Jesus, to atone for all sins.
"There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood - to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
- Romans 3:22-26
Before we jump to extract a penalty, punish someone who has offended or wronged us, say something hurtful to someone who "deserves" it, or criticize a family member - especially a child - who has not pleased us, remember God's incredible and amazing forbearance toward us. Remember the parable of the prodigal son. Remember our Father's love for His children.
Let the Holy Spirit in. Give Him fertile soil to grow the fruit of the Spirit. Let others see how we exercise restraint, mercy, and forbearance toward them, and in doing so glorify God and expand His kingdom.
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Copyright 2020 James Wallace