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Makrothumia

Makrothumia is a Greek word often translated in the Authorised Version as 'longsuffering' or 'patient'. In English longsuffering which is tending to fall out of use, but the dictionary definition is 'bearing problems or annoying behaviour patiently'. For patience there is another Greek word, hupomene, which is 'the quality which does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial' (Vine) - it can mean remaining under the trial, whatever it might be, possibly hoping for better things. Makrothumia, on the other hand, especially relates to reactions to people. It comes from makran - far off - and thumos - fierceness or indignation. It is the opposite of having a 'short fuse', for the indignant reaction is delayed for a long time, perhaps even permanently. Makrothumia is the noun, makrothumeo is the verb - to have long patience, makrothumos is the adverb— leniently, patiently.

The word in scripture is applied to people in various situations, for example Hebrews 6.15. Abraham, waiting to receive what has been promised, has good grounds for confidence, and is an example of trusting what God has said, neither blowing up in exasperation nor jettisoning his faith. James (5.7-10) urges us to patience as we await the long delayed coming of the Lord. He takes the example of the farmer who has to wait for the harvest, or of the Old Testament prophets who had to endure evil being done to them while they were speaking in God's name. In this context, Barclay describes makrothumia as the 'steadfast spirit that will never give in'. 'The church must have this makrothumia which can endure delay and bear suffering, and never give in.'

Makrothumia appears in several lists of Christian qualities. It is one of the ways in which the Christian spirit is shown. It is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22) It is required of those who are to be worthy of their calling, along with humility and gentleness and love (Ephesians 4.2). It is something that has to be 'put on' (in the sense of wearing clothing you prefer, not of pretending to be something you are not), along with compassion, kindness, humility and gentleness, by those whom God has chosen (Colossians 3.12). It is a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13.4). Paul listed it as part of the example he was setting Timothy and others like him (2 Timothy 3.10), and it was a quality formed in him by his sufferings as a messenger of the gospel (2 Corinthians 6.6). He urged showing makrothumia towards all as a duty, along with warning the unruly, encouraging the fainthearted and helping the weak (1 Thessalonians 5.14).

And because makrothumia is an aspect of love and a fruit of God's Spirit, we are not surprised to notice that it is a divine attribute. Jesus showed makrothumia to Paul. Having come into the world to save sinners, He demonstrated his complete makrothumia in showing mercy to Paul the persecutor, as an example for anyone who would believe in Him for eternal life (1 Timothy 1.16). Out of the riches of God's kindness and forbearance and makrothumia He is leading us to repentance (Romans 2.4). He could, were it not for makrothumia, choose like a potter to smash any piece that was faulty (Romans 9.22). Just as his makrothumia allowed time for Noah to build his ark (1 Peter 3.20), so his delay in ending the present evil order gives the opportunity for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9).

'If God had been a man he would long ago have taken his hand andů wiped out the world, but in his makrothumia he bears with the sins, the follies and the disobedience of men. The great obligation which rests upon the Christian is this— he must be as patient with his fellow men as God has been with him.' (Barclay)

References:

Vine— Expository Dictionary Barclay— New Testament Words

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