The virtue of longsuffering ranked high in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. It is the virtue that is also associated with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jnr and generally referred to as “non-violence.” The early Christians extolled the virtue of longsuffering because it was the virtue that gave them the inner strength to go through the persecution without denying their Christian faith or trying to pay back their unjust aggressors.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus recommends longsuffering as a way of life for his followers. Jesus is inviting his followers to give up their right to get even. Why? Mahatma Gandhi explains it so well: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Jesus enjoins longsuffering on his followers not because they are helpless or because there is nothing they can do about the situation but because God himself is a longsuffering God and we are called to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect“. God is perfect because he is longsuffering.
For us children of God, to be perfect as our heavenly father, therefore, means for us to be longsuffering in our dealing with those who oppose us and see us as enemies. But we are not to oppose such people in turn or see them as enemies. Rather, we are to see them as our misled neighbours who do not know what they are doing, and pray for them as Jesus did. In a world that increasingly believes that triumphing over one’s enemies is the mark of authentic Christian faith, Jesus today teaches us that the mark of a true child of God is the virtue of longsuffering. Let us, therefore, resolve to live by this godly virtue. We can begin with this prayer: “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine.” Amen.