Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Love - Part 1: Patience

What would be your impression of one who spoke in many languages of men and with great eloquence? Who also had a great gift of prophecy and was brilliant? Who had a faith so strong that they could move mountains? What if this one took all of their possessions and gave them to those in need? How would we perceive the person who not only gave of all of their physical possessions, but also gave their very life as a martyr? Would we not say that this one was a great person and worthy of imitation? But, there is one factor that if lacking makes all the above null and void. Love. Paul states:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We are nothing without love. Any act that we do, no matter how noble and great, is worthless if love is not present.

The world today has its own definition of what love is. A definition that is quite different from what God sees love to be. The apostle Paul describes this beautiful attribute of love in verses 4-8 in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;
The first aspect of love mentioned is patience. Love is patient. Patience is also listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). In Scripture, the Greek words used for “patience” and its derivatives are all similar in that they mean to have “a patient enduring”, “to persevere, to be patient”, “to await, to endure”, “patience, long-suffering”. “Patient” is defined by Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as “1 Having the quality of enduring evils without murmuring or fretfulness; sustaining afflictions of body or mind with fortitude, calmness or christian submission to the divine will. 2 Not easily provoked; calm under the sufferance of injuries or offenses; not revengeful. 3 Persevering; constant in pursuit of exertion; calmly diligent. 4 Not hasty; not over eager or impetuous; waiting or expecting with calmness or without discontent.”

Patience is to be present in the lives of those following in Christ’s footsteps. The Lord is the perfect example of patience: “Yet for this reason I [Paul] found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience . . . .” (1 Timothy 1:16). When we were lost sinners, God showed us great love and patience. He “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). We are to “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,” (2 Peter 3:15).

So often when others wrong us, we respond with the opposite of love. Angry words, hurt feelings, and contentiousness fill the heart. Christ has called us, though, to love as He loved. He desires us to show patience even when we are wrongfully accused or harshly treated. As a child of God, we are exhorted that “the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Throughout our days, many little things arise that can stir up the opposite of patience in our hearts; can stir up contentions and quarrels. One of our siblings tracks mud on the floor we just cleaned. The soup on the stove boils over. A little sister drops one of our favorite books resulting in a smashed binding and torn pages. Patience . . . patience. Will we exhibit it? “Therefore I [Paul], the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3). May we strive for this “bond of peace” by responding to these and all other instances with the beautiful spirit of patience. Each time that we do this, we will be training ourselves in patience. Thus, making it easier and easier each time a situation arises to respond in a manner pleasing to our Lord. If we do not practice patience, we are training ourselves to respond with irritability, anger, or despair.

Whichever we have practiced and learned, will also be expressed in circumstances that are more trying and difficult than what has been listed above such as persecutions and revilings. As followers of Christ, it is guaranteed to us that we will endure sufferings and persecutions. Christ told His disciples “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Paul supports this by saying: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). Not may be, but will be. How should we respond when these persecutions and sufferings arise? “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (1 Peter 2:20). Have we learned to practice patience in the little things so that when much more difficult circumstances and sufferings arise we will be able to respond with patient endurance which finds favor with the Lord?

It is important to remember that in our own strength, we cannot exhibit patience. Only when allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us can we respond to others and to our sufferings in such a manner. There is a passage in Scripture that is an encouragement regarding this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Christ is our comforter. He is our strength in times of trial and testing. May we cling to Him. May we cling to His promises. And may His perfect patience be displayed in our lives in every circumstance that comes our way, and to everyone we come into contact with: “We urge you, brethren . . . be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Note: The above post is the first installment in a series based upon 1 Corinthians 13.

-Posted by Sarah


  1. Well, now that I'm out of breath... it was a great meditation, even if it was quite long. I'm reminded of 1 John where it talks about love, that if we say we love God and love not our neighbors, we are liars and the truth is not in us(not exact). That is a real big challenge for me, to see others with a broken heart the way that God sees them. God bless you sisters!

  2. Thank you for your comment, Margaret, and for sharing your thoughts. Yes, 1 John speaks much about love; that verse you shared ties in so well with 1 Corinthians 13.