United Church of Christ

Longsuffering

“With all humility and gentleness, with longsuffering, bear with one another in love.” So wrote Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.

Can we look at that one word, longsuffering? It’s not used in many translations these days – and so we don’t hear it used very often. It means “having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially caused by other people.”

Troubles caused by other people seem to be proliferating these days.

Last weekend, in a 24 hour period, I took a call from one friend who informed me that he had been stabbed and left to die on a sidewalk; from another friend who shared with me her daughter was sexually assaulted; and from my head of HR who told me that two young women on my staff were walking on their lunch break when, right in front of them, a person was hit by a bus and killed.

I walked around for days with a foreboding sense of ill will inhabiting my soul and spirit.

For many of us, this seems to be a season of longsuffering. We seem to be collectively enduring the kinds of things that threaten to tear apart the fabric that holds us together.

Republicans and Democrats are finding it harder to harder to like and understand each other.

Racial tensions are mounting, and there seems to be a new thirst growing for a race hate that for a season became less virulent but now has resurfaced.

Sexual violence against women and children is being uncovered with some regularity as we collectively both suffer the horror of these unspeakable crimes and blame the victims for daring to break their silence and out the perpetrators.

Random acts of violence against strangers, hate crimes, and indignations inflicted on vulnerable refugee and immigrant families are now far too common.

We must, of necessity, now become either a longsuffering people or participate in the utter degradation of the dignity and respect we all deserve. It is becoming far too easy to let our collective angst and fear and anger predominate. The divisions caused by the pain felt by many and the desire to turn that pain into righteous indignation and retribution threaten to undo us.

The longsuffering of nations and peoples is not a new thing. So much of our biblical narrative is about longsuffering, whether as slaves in Egypt or as exiles in Babylon; whether at the hand of Pharoah or Caesar; whether of the crown of the oppressor or the cross of the executioner.

Paul wrote to the persecuted practitioners of a minority faith from his prison cell. He was himself a longsuffering servant of the gospel when we wrote those words: “I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, and with longsuffering bear with one another in love.”

Gentle souls, be kind to yourselves and others. Be longsuffering in the midst of great turmoil and in the presence of the unkind. And may there come to you comfort and solace on this, your journey Into the Mystic.