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William Barclay: Let the Big Dog Be Patient!

There is a great image in the passage listed below brought to my attention from a commentary by William Barclay I thought you would like. One of the ways we live worthily is to be patient. Barclay says it is like the attitude that a big dog takes when a yapping puppy is bugging him. What a picture!

Eph 4:1-3 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace

THE UNDEFEATABLE PATIENCE
Ephesians 4:1–3 (continued)
(iii) The third great quality of the Christian is what the Authorized Version calls long-suffering. The Greek is makrothumia. This word has two main directions of meaning.

(a) It describes the spirit which will never give in and which, because it endures to the end, will reap the reward. Its meaning can best be seen from the fact that a Jewish writer used it to describe what he called “the Roman persistency which would never make peace under defeat.” In their great days the Romans were unconquerable; they might lose a battle, they might even lose a campaign, but they could not conceive of losing a war. In the greatest disaster it never occurred to them to admit defeat. Christian patience is the spirit which never admits defeat, which will not be broken by any misfortune or suffering, by any disappointment or discouragement, but which persists to the end.

(b) But makrothumia has an even more characteristic meaning than that. It is the characteristic Greek word for patience with men. Chrysostom defined it as the spirit which has the power to take revenge but never does so. Lightfoot defined it as the spirit which refuses to retaliate. To take a very imperfect analogy—it is often possible to see a puppy and a very large dog together. The puppy yaps at the big dog, worries him, bites him, and all the time the big dog, who could annihilate the puppy with one snap of his teeth, bears the puppy’s impertinence with a forbearing dignity. Makrothumia is the spirit which bears insult and injury without bitterness and without complaint. It is the spirit which can suffer unpleasant people with graciousness and fools without irritation.

The thing which best of all gives its meaning is that the New Testament repeatedly uses it of God. Paul asks the impenitent sinner if he despises the patience of God (Romans 2:4). Paul speaks of the perfect patience of Jesus to him (1 Timothy 1:16). Peter speaks of God’s patience waiting in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20). He says that the forbearance of our Lord is our salvation (2 Peter 3:15). If God had been a man, he would long since in sheer irritation have wiped the world out for its disobedience. The Christian must have the patience towards his fellow men which God has shown to him.

The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians. 2000, c1976 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (138). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

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