(from In Christ—The Church At Ephesus, forthcoming.)
We are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience” (Ephesians 4:1-2). The Authorized Version translated μακροθυμία as longsuffering. Here is a character quality in complete variance with contemporary Americans. While it is popular to speak of toleration of others out of concern for political correctness, we tend to use it defensively as an accusation of others in order to encourage them to tolerate us. But apart from this use, there is no other area of life for which we are tolerant or toward which we are encouraged to be tolerant. We have been captured by the spirit of instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it now!
We see this in our medical advertisements where every affliction imaginable—and many are simply contrived—is met with the demand for drugs. Big Pharma now defines, diagnoses and prescribes chemicals for every possible discomfort on the evening news. Consider the flu and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC continuously recommends that everyone get a flu shot, but never mentions the simple practice of hand washing as a flu avoidance technique. Why? There is no money to be made from hand washing.
Or consider consumer debt spending. Never in the history of the world has there been more wealthy people (all Americans are wealthy by world standards) who have been more in dept than contemporary Americans.
In stark contrast to this spirit of instant gratification, stands Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, who endured the pain of death on the cross for sin He did not commit in order to save a people plunged in sin. Jesus suffered the cross because God has longsuffered sin in this world. And Jesus is the model Christian. We are to be like Him, who forgave those who crucified Him while they were doing it. The Christian message is not that others must forebear us for our quirky ways, but that we must forebear the sins of others against us.