Patience––or what the KJV translates as long-suffering––is amongst the virtues listed in the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). The word in Greek, for those who keep that sort of score, is makrathymia. The fruit of the Spirit is set in contrast with the fruit (or works) of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). In the middle of that tawdry list is a word commonly translated as wrath; thymos, again for the Greek scholars here. So the work of the flesh, wrath (or thymos), is set at odds with the fruit of the Spirit, patience/long-suffering (or makrathymia).
A simple way to show what is being highlighted by this comparison is to borrow from the world of chemistry. The flesh has an incredibly low boiling point, that’s wrath. The flesh boils at room temperature. Whereas the Spirit produces within the believer a much higher heat threshold before boiling over, that’s long-suffering, or long-until-wrathful. The Holy Spirit turns the saint into Tungsten steel, which doesn’t boil until it reaches 10,706° F. Or so Wikipedia tells me.
Let me ask you, “What is your boiling point?”When your child, or your spouse, or your co-worker does something that annoys you, that “raises the temperature”, how do you respond? The flesh explodes at the slightest bump, and sends shrapnel into everyone in proximity. You may think that their peskiness justly warrants such an incendiary response from you. But that’s because you are full of the wrath of man, not the long-suffering of the Spirit.
The Spirit expands your capacity to endure slights, offenses, inconveniences, persecutions, and even the death of martyrdom. Why? Because the Christian knows that God’s cup––though enormous and slow to fill up––will one day pour out with holy, righteous vengeance on all evil-doers. At that day, every wrong will face God’s wrath. The Spirit produces in us the fruit of being as James might put it, “Slow to anger.”
I wrote a book a few years back, with more reflections on the fruit of the Spirit. If you’re interested in snagging a copy…click below.
The Fruitful Christian Life
Ben’s first published book. 11 meditations on the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.