making allowances for each other’s faults because of your love."
On my airplane ride to Fort Worth, I was rereading a 1954 commentary on the book of Ephesians written by the Scotsman William Barclay. Below are quotes of what he says about humility, gentleness, patience, and love. All of the sentences or phrases in italics are quotes from Barclay.
God promises to perfect us, and He is continually working in our lives to make us more like Jesus. So, if God is working, why do I keep failing at living Ephesians 4:2? Because I get my eyes off of Jesus and onto me, myself, and I. My attitude goes from gentle, loving, kind, and patient to selfish, hateful, and bitter. It is ugly. Being treated hatefully or reflecting on an old injustice can spark this sin. God will let us ‘roll in our self-centered sins’ much like a pig rolls in the mud. When God turns the light on in our head, we realize why we are muddy. For each of us, when we repent and focus on Jesus, our state of spiritual filth is cleansed and we are refreshed. Focusing on Jesus rather than self is a choice. It is often hard to repent because our pride has convinced us that we are right. It is much easier to focus on how we have been wronged and ignore how we have wronged others. Barclay is right when he says that to face oneself is the most humiliating thing in the world.
First and foremost, there is humility. Christian humility comes from self-knowledge. To face oneself is the most humiliating thing in the world. A man will see himself as a hero dazzling the crowd, the center of the picture. Most of us are essentially like that. And true humility comes when we face ourselves and see our weakness, our selfishness, our failure in work and in personal relationships and in achievement.
If we compare ourselves with our neighbor, we may well emerge very satisfactorily from the comparison. But the Christian standard is Jesus Christ and the demands of God’s perfection—and against that standard there is no room for pride.
There is another way of putting this. R.C. Trench said that humility comes from the constant sense of our own creatureliness. We are in absolute dependence on God. We are creatures, and for the creature there can be nothing but humility in the presence of the creator.
As a reminder to us all, there is a huge difference between humility and condemnation. The humble woman doesn’t degrade herself. The humble woman realizes that in God’s eyes she is very special, and that she can be or do nothing without God. Condemnation binds us in mental torment and self-destructive behaviors. Condemnation keeps us in the pig pen. Humility admits when she is wrong and receives God’s forgiveness and love. Humility frees the spirit to be all that God wants us to be.
The second of the great Christian virtues is what some call meekness and what we have translated as gentleness. It comes from the Greek noun praotes. Aristotle, the great Greek thinker and teacher, says, “the man who is praus is kindled by indignation at the wrongs and the sufferings of others, but is never moved to anger by the wrongs and the insults he himself has to bear.”
Here then, is the second great characteristic of the true member of the Church. He is the man who is so God-controlled that he is always angry at the right time but never angry at the wrong time.
This virtue is awesome. How freeing to not be controlled by the words others say to us or the way we are treated. We are convinced of God’s never-ending love for us and when others don’t treat us as well as we think we deserve, we let it roll off our back, much like water rolls off of a duck’s back. On the reverse side of meekness is the anger and indignation that the meek Christian feels when others are wronged. This is the virtue that motivated the abolition of slavery.
The third great quality of the Christian is patience, or perseverance. The Greek word is makrothumia. This word has two main directions of meaning. 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.
But it has more meaning than that. It is the word for patience with men. Lightfoot defined it as the spirit that refuses to retaliate. 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.
To be patient with all people is the mark of a mature Christian. If only we could reach the goal of bearing insult and injury without bitterness and complaint how free we would be. Bitterness grows in our lives like a root. We can’t see it, but it grows. We may be bitter against one person but if we don’t repent and ask God to rip the rotten root out of our life, everyone of our relationships will be damaged if not destroyed. Bitterness takes the joy out of everything and everyone it touches.
The fourth great Christian quality is love. The Greek word for Christian love is agape. Agape is that quality of mind and heart which compels a Christian never to feel any bitterness, never to feel any desire for revenge, but always to seek the highest good of every man no matter what he may be.
Consider others more important than yourself. Be humble and gentle as you consider the weaknesses of others. We must love others as God loves, with grace and mercy, always giving another chance. May we always want the best for others, no matter what. Let us repent of self-centeredness, bitterness, and complaining and let us resolve to grow in humility, gentleness, patience and love. God is working to help us.