Exploring the Grandeur of Magnanimity

Keith KettenringBible Insights, Christian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Would you like a Great Soul? What does that mean? What does it look like? There’s no need to settle for a puny or mediocre soul. Let’s aspire to greater heights. Let’s all live magnanimously. That’s right, with magnanimity. Yep! Let’s be magnanimous. Huh? That’s a word you don’t hear often. Let’s explore it a bit.

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Definitions of Magnanimity

Magnanimity comes from Latin: magnus – great + animus – soul = “great soul.” To have a great soul. Does that resonate with you? Does something happen inside when you think about possessing a great soul?

According to various dictionaries, magnanimity means: “loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity” (Merriam-Webster). “Highly moral, especially in showing kindness or forgiveness, as in overlooking insults or not seeking revenge” (thefreedictionary.com). “Very generous or forgiving, especially toward a rival or someone less powerful than oneself” (Oxford). Other descriptions are: “noble sensibility,” “greathearted,”  and “noble spirit.”

Examples of Magnanimity 

From NT scriptures, two passages use the Greek word epiekia which can be translated magnanimity.

Philippians 4.5 “Let your epieikes be known to everyone.” Translated: gentleness, reasonableness, forbearance, and modesty. NT dictionaries give a meaning of “reasonableness in judging.” The word signifies a humble, patient steadfastness which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting God in spite of it all.

2 Corinthians 10.1 “I, Paul, exhort you by the meekness and epieikeias of Christ…” Translated: gentleness, clemency, modesty. Synonyms: fitting, suitable, reasonable, fair. When applied to authorities denotes indulgence, equity, lenience. It also denotes a humble, patient steadfastness.

Magnanimity was displayed by Jesus on the cross. He persevered in harsh mistreatment yet prayed, “Father forgive them….” A lifetime of suffering taught him obedience and made him magnanimous.

Magnanimity was displayed by Stephen at his stoning: He had a face of an angel and responded to his mistreatment with “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

What We Learn 

  1. A great soul develops and is displayed in the midst of injustice, disgrace, and mistreatment as we learn not to respond in hatred, anger, malice, or revenge. Who does this well? To embrace mistreatment for the good it does is counterintuitive for us. But to endure injustice while simultaneously responding in humble patience and trusting wisdom is the Christ-likeness we desire.
  2. A great soul develops as we abide in Christ. He lived magnanimously. Abiding in Jesus Christ opens our soul’s capacity to be magnanimous if only we’ll take advantage of it. As the life and grace of Christ transforms our hearts, we begin to experience His magnanimity which becomes ours.

Magnanimous: Reasonable. Humble. Patient. Gentle. Noble. Kind. Fair. Generous. Forgiving. Greathearted. Steadfast. Great-souled.

Do you really want to be this kind of person? Will you join me on the journey of Christlike magnanimity?

Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K