Understanding Forbearance

Forbearance is a necessary quality in the life of a disciple. To forbear means to tolerate with what is less than what one is due; to be longsuffering or patient, to deal with difficult circumstance with gentleness or calmness and to demonstrate self-control. There are several different New Testament words that are translated patience or forbearance including:


hypomeno – to patiently endure.


epieikes – forbearance, gentleness, patient, long suffering, tolerance; to seek peace in a calm manner.


makroqumia – patience, forbearance, self control in a difficult circumstance



What does the Bible teach about forbearance?

  • God demonstrates forbearance toward us: Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4
  • Christ is our example of forbearance: consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls,” Hebrews 12:3.
  • Paul tells us that our forbearance should be evident to all: Let your gentleness [or forbearing spirit] be known to all men. The Lord is at hand, Philippians 4:4,5
  • To show forbearance in every relationship: Remind them to be in subjection to rulers and to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all humility toward all men. Titus 3:1, 2
  • We must demonstrate forbearance in accomplishing the tasks that the Lord has assigned us and as we wait on God for answers to prayer: Therefore don’t throw away your boldness, which has a great reward. For you need endurance so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Hebrews 10:35-36
  • Trials and difficulties help us develop forbearance: Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-4
  • Forbearance is necessary to resist the attacks of Satan: Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings. But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11
  • Practicing forbearance leads to a higher level of spiritual maturity and bring us closer to those things we are lacking: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
  • Forbearance will be a part of the wisest course of action when dealing with others because it will produce peace and righteousness: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17, 18
  • Forbearance is a part of the fruit of the Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience [forbearance], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22, 23
  • Forbearance will support the believer in the difficult times before Christ’s return: But the end of all things is near. Therefore be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer. 1 Peter 4:7
  • Forbearance is one of the qualities essential for a believer to be productive and fruitful: Yes, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence; and in moral excellence, knowledge; and in knowledge, self-control; and in self-control patience; and in patience godliness; and in godliness brotherly affection; and in brotherly affection, love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8



How can we develop forbearance?

We might be tempted to say when we encounter difficulties, “I don’t feel like tolerating this situation I’m in!” Well, it not about going with our feelings but rather going by faith and going by what the word says about us. The Lord is not unconcerned about our circumstances, but he has a way out if we are willing to follow him. What steps then can we follow to develop forbearance in our lives?


1. First we need to learn to die to self, to our own wishes, desires and sometimes even to our own needs. It not considering that oneself is worthless or without value. We are God’s creation and we are created in his image, thus we are already persons of great worth and value no matter what our status is in life. So recognizing the value and love that God has for us we commit our needs, wants and desires to him; letting him focus on those things while we focus on the tasks the Lord has assigned us. That is what Paul meant when he urged us to be living sacrifices in Romans 12:1. When the urge comes to fight or seek after self-interest we can remind ourselves that self is no longer important, what is important is accomplishing the will of God and his righteousness. And God will take care of all the other issues that concern us.


2. Since we are to live by faith (the just shall live by faith Romans, 1:17) then by faith we receive the strength and wisdom to forbear.


3. We also need to approach the situation with love of God especially towards those who are may be causing of difficulties. There are more misguided than evil. Our gentile approached has the potential to change their attitude and bring them closer to God.


4. And just like we saw above when Paul said in Philippians 4:4 that the Lord is near, we recognize the presence of the Lord Jesus living in us and that we can do all things through Christ, God’s Anointed One, who is strengthening us (Philippians 4:13)! The writer of Hebrews tells us to “consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls,” Hebrews 12:3. We can stop looking at our own strength or weakness and start looking at the Lord’s strength that is available to us. Like Paul in Galatians 2:20 we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”

By demonstrating forbearance we are able to imitate the character of God and can bring about results in our lives and the lives of others that produce peace and reconciliation that will bring glory to Christ.


Copyright © 2010 by Alan Pasho, www.disciplepedia.org. All rights reserved.


Scriptures taken from the Word English Bible (WEB)