4th December 2023
John Piper shares
Forgiving and Forbearing
The purpose of human marriage is temporary.
But it points to something eternal, namely, Christ and the church.
And when this age is over, it will vanish into the superior reality to which it points.
Marriage is a pointer toward the glory of Christ and the church.
But in the resurrection, the pointer vanishes into the perfection of that glory.
Paul says in Colossians 3:13b,
"As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
Why the emphasis on forgiving and forbearing rather than, say, an emphasis on romance and enjoying each other?
Because there is going to be conflict based on sin, we need to forgive sin and forbear strangeness, and sometimes you won't even agree on which is which;
because the hard, rugged work of forgiving and forbearing is what makes it possible for affections to flourish when they seem to have died,
because God gets glory when two very different and very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ.
Today I am trying show you a biblical pattern of forbearance and forgiveness that can keep you from reaching the point of separation.
When Paul gets to Colossians 3:12, he has laid a massive foundation in the person and work of Christ on the cross. This is the foundation of marriage and all of life.
The main battles in life and in marriage are battles to believe this person and this work.
I mean really believe it - trust it, embrace it, cherish it, treasure it, bank on it, breathe it, shape your life by it.
The literal translation of patience is "longsuffering" (makrothumian).
That is, become the kind of person who does not have a short fuse, but a long one.
A very long one.
Become a patient person, slow to anger, quick to listen, slow to speak.
And then treat each other with...what?
Two Things: Forbearing and Forgiving
First, a comment about the two words. "Bear with" or forbear: the word is literally "endure" - enduring each other.
The other word is forgive.
This one used here means freely or graciously give.
The idea is of not exacting payment.
But treating someone better than they deserve.
Now what I find so helpful here is that Paul recognizes that both forgiving and forbearing are crucial for life together - whether church or marriage.
Forgiveness says: I will not treat you badly because of your sins against me or your annoying habits.
And forbearance acknowledges (usually to itself), those sins against me and those annoying habits really bother me!
If there were nothing in the other person that really bothered us, there would be no need for saying "enduring one another."
When you marry a person you don't know what they are going to be like in thirty years.
Our forefathers did not craft wedding vows with their heads in the sand.
You don't know what this person will be like in the future:
it could be better than you ever dreamed, or worse.
Our hope is based on this: we are chosen, holy, and loved. God is for us, and all things will work of the good of those who love him.
This is an edited version. The full article and Bible references are avaiable on request
John Piper (@JohnPiper)
is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He is author of more than 50 books,.