Love. No. 2
by Charles H. Welch in The Berean Expositor.
The prominence given to the manifestation of Christian love calls upon every
believer to consider his own relation to the teaching of the Word on this
subject. It may be of service to us all if we endeavour to trace out some of the
scriptural definitions of this grace, and to note the contexts of its many
occurrences. Scripture speaks of "love without hypocrisy" and "love unfeigned,"
which makes us feel that there is the danger among believers of a counterfeit
love, a feigned love, and causes all who have the truth at heart to desire a
knowledge of the real thing itself.
The thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians contains a most striking summary of
love, and to that chapter we will turn. After having "weighed in the balance and
found wanting" loveless gifts, knowledge, understanding, zeal and almsgiving,
the apostle proceeds to tell us something positive concerning love itself. The
first statement which he makes is, "love suffereth long and is kind." The first
quality which it has pleased God to tell us regarding unfeigned love is that it
is longsuffering. Let it be ours at once to seek grace to manifest more fully
that which the Lord holds so high.
The word "longsuffering" is a translation of the Greek makrothumeo. Makrothumos
is composed of two words, makros meaning long, or far, and thumos, the mind,
anger. Makros is translated "far" in Luke xv. 13 and xix. 12, "into a far
country"; "long" in Matt. xxviii. 14, "long prayer." The idea of distance seems
to be uppermost, as in the first example.
Thumos.-- The A.V. translates this word 15 times by "wrath," "indignation" once,
"fierceness" twice. Dr. Bullinger in his Lexicon has a full note on the word as
"Thumos, the mind, the spirit that is breathed out, an intense passion of the
mind .... the animus, the working and fermenting of the mind, the demonstration
of strong passion, which may issue in anger or revenge, though it does not
necessarily include it" (p. 905).
Among the many graces which the apostle Paul detailed as proofs that Timothy and
himself were approved as the ministers of God is found longsuffering. "In
pureness, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in holy spirit, in love
unfeigned" (2 Cor. vi. 6). It will be observed that longsuffering is linked to
kindness, and that both are connected with "love unfeigned." As always, it will
be found that the apostle practised what he preached. The reference to pneuma
hagion (holy spirit) in this verse leads us to Gal. v. 22, where fourth in the
list there given comes longsuffering. "Love, joy, peace" (these are more
directly connected with the work of the Holy Spirit), then come three more which
may be said to spring out of these -- the first of which is longsuffering. Not
only do we find love and longsuffering linked in this cluster of spiritual
fruits, but in Eph. iv. 1-3 we find that the exercise of longsuffering is a part
of our walk, and also an important factor in the keeping of the unity of the
"Walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called, with all humility of mind
and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring
to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
It will be observed that longsuffering is manifested by "forbearing one another
in love." So important is it that we should be made to understand that our walk
demands this exercise of longsuffering that we meet with a parallel to Eph. iv.
2, 3 in Col. i. 10, 11. There, instead of being exhorted to walk worthy of the
calling, we are told that the apostle prayed that we might:-
"Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work,
and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to
His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness."
Longsuffering is twice linked with doctrine in 2 Timothy, once in Paul's own
case, and once in the charge to Timothy (iii. 10 and iv. 2). Such is the
character of true Christian love, after all but a faint echo of that great
longsuffering of the love of God Who is "merciful and gracious, longsuffering,
and abundant in goodness and truth." If only believers everywhere exhibited this
precious characteristic, what a difference there would be. Yet even those who
are truly members of the one body need the word of exhortation. If love
suffereth long, should we be so easily annoyed and angered at the waywardness of
our fellows? However great their offence against us our attitude is clearly
defined. We should exhibit all longsuffering in the most aggravating case, or we
have not this grace of love in its highest degree.
One more qualification must be noticed before we leave the consideration of the
longsuffering of love, and that is the kindness which glows through the patience
manifested. Just as Col. i. teaches us to have longsuffering with joyfulness, so
I Cor. xiii. teaches us that love suffereth long and is kind. Love does not
suffer long and grumble, or use hard looks and begrudge the longsuffering. Love
suffers long and is kind. Love is ever ready to meet the offender more than half
way. Offended and outraged, misunderstood and
misrepresented, love still has no hard thoughts for those who cause the pain.
Let us examine ourselves before the mirror of the Word. Does the reflection
cause us to fear that we are in danger of exhibiting too much love yet? As we
see our lack of longsuffering, our impatience, our quickness to take offence,
our unwillingness frankly to forgive, let us acknowledge our failure. If we have
manifested longsuffering, yet that precious salve may have sent forth an evil
smell because of the dead fly of unkindness. The Lord is kind unto the
unthankful (Luke vi. 35); He was indeed kind to us (Eph. ii. 7; Titus iii. 4),
and should not we, offenders as all of us are, should not we most earnestly pray
that we may have a little more of the love that suffereth long, and is kind?