Word of the Week
August 6, 2022
Anechō: Tolerating the Unpleasant
Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone.
In any long-lasting marriage, both partners have learned to put up with a great many irritations. After all, if you haven’t convinced your spouse to pick up his socks after forty years, he is unlikely to change now! I have known for years that I frequently clear my throat, but I didn’t realize until recently that I tend to whistle softly under my breath while I’m doing a chore. Fortunately, my wife has chosen not to hassle me about these habits. Out of love, she chooses not to complain.
On the other hand, there are some things we should never put up with. Dishonesty, destructive practices, or immorality – we can’t tolerate those things.
The wise person knows how to pick their battles, tackling the big issues and setting aside the minutia.
As usual, the Greeks had a fascinating word for “putting up with” things, and the New Testament uses of the word provide a valuable guide that helps us know the right time to tolerate things that we find unpleasant.
The Greek word is anechō, often translated as “endure, tolerate, put up with.” Occurring 15 times in the New Testament, it describes what you do when faced with something difficult, annoying or disagreeable. Instead of shouting, “I’ve put up with this long enough!” anechō decides not to attack the person or problem, at least not now.
Let’s tour the passages where you can see this attitude in action.
- Even Jesus felt the frustration of dealing with disappointing people. After a triumphant moment of glory at the Transfiguration, he entered a town and found a demon-possessed boy surrounded by disciples who had been unable to eject the demon. He replied, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41).
His days were filled with critics who rejected him, crowds who doubted him, and disciples who couldn’t seem to learn the lessons He was teaching. Even though He knew the actual timing of His path to the cross, he couldn’t help but express the burden of dealing with people who never seemed to learn! He continued to minister patiently to them all, but it wasn’t easy!
- Gallio, the Roman governor of Corinth, refused to put up with the frivolous complaints that Jewish leaders brought against the apostle Paul. “If it were a matter of some crime or vicious, unscrupulous act, O Jews,” he declared, “it would be reasonable for me to put up with you” (Acts 18:14). But since it was merely a matter of Jewish laws, he refused to be bothered by them.
- Some people refuse to tolerate truth. Paul predicted that the time would come when people would not put up with sound doctrine, preferring to hear teachers who would tickle their ears
(2 Timothy 4:3).
- On the other hand, some people tolerate falsehood and deceit. Paul had to deal with a faction in the church at Corinth who got it all wrong. They were willing to tolerate false teachers who took advantage of them, promoting themselves, bullying the believers, and disseminating heresy (2 Corinthians 11:4 19, 20).
When is it appropriate for you to “put up with” something? The New Testament gives at least four examples.
Paul asked the Corinthians to put up with his presentation of his credentials as an apostle, even though he felt foolish making such boasts (2 Corinthians 11:1, 19). When you know the proven character of a leader, you can be slow to reject or criticize his words, even if they don’t follow his usual patterns.
The writer of Hebrews asked his readers to tolerate the words of exhortation which he had written to them (Hebrews 13:22). Parts of the book had featured stern warnings that could have offended them, but they would gain rich benefits if they would put up with the discomfort and heed the message.
Paul and the other apostles had to face harsh persecution. Rather than giving up or retaliating, they simply chose to endure it, to put up with it as a part of following Jesus (1 Corinthians 4:12). Persecution was not just for apostles. The church at Thessalonica endured harsh pressures as well, and Paul compliments them for putting up with such hostility (2 Thessalonians 1:4).
Finally, the Lord calls us to put up with each other. We exist in a church body filled with imperfect people, and there will often be reasons to be irritated with one another. That’s why Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “walk worthy of the Lord with deep humility and gentleness, putting up with one anther in love” (Ephesians 4:2). He gave the same instructions to the Colossians: “bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone” (Colossians 3:13).
Do the people in your church have a few irritating traits? Just remember that you are going to share heaven with them forever . . . and anything that is really objectionable is going to be long gone. I can afford to wait a while before I demand perfection!
Anecho is used in the Greek Old Testament to translate several Hebrew words, all expressing the idea of restraining some action or emotion. Our tendency is to allow irritation to build up pressure until we explode in anger. Afterwards, we often regret our actions. God generally exercises restraint, withholding judgment for a long, long time.
You can find a related word in 2 Timothy 2:24, where Paul tells his protégé that the Lord’s servant must be “patient when wronged.” This comes from the Greek anexikakos, which means “willing to put up with what is bad [or kakos]. Check out verses 24-26 for a fuller explanation of the balance between the gentle approach and compromising with evil.
Q – What does it mean when 2 Timothy 4:2 says to preach the word “in season and out of season” (KJV)?
A – Both of those phrases are derived from the Greek word kairos, which refers to a specific point in time, an opportunity or crucial moment. Paul added a syllable to the beginning of each word to make the two phrases. First, he added eu to make eukairōs. Eu means “good, well” and the combination gives the idea “when there is a good opportunity.” For the second word, he added a, which means “not.” An atheist is someone who is not a theist, not a believer in God. The combination here is akairōs, which literally “when there is no opportunity” (at least seemingly). Paul is telling Timothy to be faithful in proclaiming the word of God, whether the situation seems ideal or not.
When Paul warned the Ephesians not to be drunken because it led to “excess,” there is more in the word than meets the eye. We will take a closer look next week.
©Ezra Project 2022