Love is Patient
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, 13:4-8a; Colossians 3:12-17
I was driving on the freeway when I noticed in my mirror that the car in the adjacent lane was being followed too closely by a truck. As the car passed me on the left it began slowing down until it eventually came to a complete stop (on the freeway!). I could see in my mirror that the driver had gotten out of his car and was waving his hands back and forth in displeasure at the driver who had been tail-gating him! I don’t know what happened after that, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve patience.
According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, “patience is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate nor promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger and is associated with mercy and is used of God.” The patience spoken of here is a “patience with people,” the ability to put up with the frustrations associated with relating to people who are just as flawed as we are.
We are prone to impatience. Children are impatient with their parents, “When are we going to get there!” Parents with their children, “When will you ever learn to stop doing that?” Students with their teachers, “This is the most boring class ever!” Employees with their co-workers, “I don’t know why she never answers the phone?” Church members with their pastor, “When is he going to get done with this sermon?” All of us at the checkout line, “Why is this taking so long?” When others fail to adhere to our agenda or keep up with our schedule, we tend to get irritated.
The patience of Jesus was especially evident in the manner in which He related to the disciples. They were like us, far from perfect. Peter was especially prone to saying and doing stupid things. He once was so foolhardy to argue with Jesus, after Jesus had warned of His pending sufferings. Peter and his fellow disciples repeatedly revealed themselves to be slow learners and slow to believe. They even argued amongst themselves as to who was the greatest after Jesus had just washed their feet! Especially troubling was Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus, after he had vehemently affirmed his readiness even to die with Jesus! When Jesus was arrested, they all abandoned Him. Despite all their imperfections, Jesus was patient with them and never gave up on them. The extent of His love was made most evident on the cross, where He willingly and patiently subjected Himself to incredible abuse and scorn, exercising amazing self-restraint in the face of provocation!
How are we to account for the patience of Jesus? Jesus served no smartphone or calendar app. He lovingly served the Father and was always in perfect sync with the Father’s will. In love for others, He was always preferring their needs to His own. It was His selfless approach to life that made the difference. He had come to serve, not to be served, and it showed in how He patiently related to others.
It will help us to show patience if we keep in mind that God is in control of the affairs of our lives. It’s typically when we leave God out of our thinking that we tend to exhibit impatience with others. Our God, who is good and does good (Psalm 119:68), is not distant or removed from us and our happenings. He is “intimately acquainted with all (your) ways” (Psalm 139:3-4). Viewing your circumstances through this lense will make a difference in how you respond to life’s upsets. No matter what comes our way, God is able to cause all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28). In everything He is incredibly patient towards you, and He calls you to relate to others in kind.
Be Patient With Others for He is Patient With You
Lord Jesus. Praise You for Your incredible patience with us! Countless times we have failed You, but You never fail us. Thank you for Your mercy and forbearance. We are sometimes so easily irritated, even over silly things. We are prone to a selfish way of thinking and living that is so contrary to Your example. Forgive us. May the Spirit work to open the eyes of our hearts to the beauty of Your Person and Your example. Self is always vying for the throne in our hearts, grant us the wisdom and strength to keep You there always. As we fix our eyes on You, may we be drawn to that radical way of thinking and living that puts the needs of others first. And in that manner may we be patient with others, even as You are so incredibly patient with us! Amen.