What is longsuffering? What does the Bible teach about longsuffering?
Longsuffering is not simply suffering for a long time, but is a specific word used in the Bible. That word, combining the Greek words for "long" and "temper," more fully means to be slow to anger, to suffer anger with restraint, or to forbear.
Peter uses the word in 1 Peter 3:20 when he writes of God waiting patiently in the days of Noah. Paul uses this word in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 when he talks about "steadfastness of hope."
God is longsuffering. His holiness demands that everything associated with Him also be holy. However, all people are sinners and deserve His judgement and wrath. At the same time, God is longsuffering, waiting in loving patience for each person to come to Him for salvation.
Being slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love is part of God's character (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18–20; Psalm 86:15; Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:15). That does not mean that God has no end to His patience, as shown in Genesis 18 and 19 when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah or the times He sent Israel into captivity (1 Kings 17:1–24; 2 Kings 24:17—25:30). Romans 1:18–32 also demonstrates that God will not be patient forever.
Christians are called to be longsuffering; we can be so by the work of the Holy Spirit in us (Galatians 5:22–23; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 1:11; 3:12). God's longsuffering should be a model for us when people try our patience, treat us wrongly, or cause us to suffer. We can wait, be patient, and repay bad with good.
Ephesians 4:22–24 tells us, "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
God ultimately shows His patience in the most important of matters—that of waiting for those who do not know Him to come to Him. "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" (2 Peter 3:9).
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