REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of July 4, 2021
Forbear Grievances: Matt. 5:39; Col. 3:13
We are in Week 22 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. As a reminder, when we speak of “rules”, we do not mean a list of do’s and don’ts. In this context, rules refer to the guidelines for living an ordered life that honors Christ’s call for us become fully devoted followers of him. This week we’ll look at Rule 4.30: Forbear Grievances. But what does it mean to forbear?
In my opinion, these passages are subject to being misunderstood, especially Matt. 5:39. Some have seen this passage as a call to passivism. They see it as a call for believers to be doormats, willingly subjecting themselves to the abuse of others. But that oversimplifies and misconstrues what Christ is calling us to do. Christ’s call is less about action and more about attitude. If you look at the Greek word that is translated “forbear”, the idea is to bear with mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. Thus, Christ’s call for us to forbear grievances is not about us passively accepting abuse from others. Rather, it is about how we react when we are confronted with abuse from others. It is not a call to place ourselves in abusive situations; it is a call to measure our responses to abuse and hurts through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Forbearing grievances means that we face abuse with calmness, composure, and grace, forgiving the one who wounds us just as Christ forgave us. It means that we are so rooted in the love of Christ that we are not shaken by difficulty; rather, we face such difficulty with the spiritual indifference that comes from complete confidence in the good promises of a trustworthy Father. But how to we reach such a spiritual state? How do we learn to forbear?
If we examine the context for both these passages, I think the key to developing the spiritual discipline of forbearing becomes clearer. In Matthew 5, Jesus admonishes us to love our enemies. In Colossians 3:14, Paul tells us that it is love that binds together all the virtues we are to exhibit as Christ-followers, including forbearing. But this is not a love we can generate on our own. No, this kind of love is not something we can work to produce or gain through hard work or self-discipline. This kind of love is not something we earn; it is something that is freely given to us through Jesus Christ. It is this love that breaks through the shackles of our sin-slavery. It is this love that defeated death, hell, and the grave to buy our freedom. It is this love that transforms us from children of wrath to children of God. And it is this love that empowers us to live a life that is radically different from anything this world could understand. This love has been freely and lavishly given to us by our Heavenly Father, and if we could truly grasp the abundant sufficiency of this love, it would transform how we view ourselves and how we view others. No longer would we be dependent upon others for love and affirmation. Instead, we would be freed to love them unconditionally, even when they wound us. We would be indifferent to such hurts, not because we are unemotional but because we are resting in the unchanging, unending, all-sufficient love of our Father. Though we can’t manufacture this love, we can unleash its power in our lives, and we do so through forgiveness. It is forgiveness that opens our hearts to the fullness of God’s love, allowing it to transform how we view ourselves and those who wound us.
- How have you traditionally viewed Christ’s admonition to “turn the other cheek”? Did this view cause you to struggle with his directive? If so, how?
- How does forbearance differ from pacifism?
- Consider how forgiveness can unleash the power of God’s love in your heart and life. What would that look like for you? How might forgiveness bring a new freedom to your relationships with others?
- Spiritual indifference to hurts does not mean we don’t feel those hurts emotionally, it means those emotions no longer control how we view others or our circumstances. Why is understanding God’s love key to spiritual indifference? How does comprehending God’s love empower us emotionally?