By, Isam Itson III
Love is an attitude of value expressed in purposeful and voluntary acts of respect and consideration for the needs and concerns of others. Embracing one another like beloved family members and actively valuing, respecting and considering each other’s needs and concerns as a defining way of life, means we have to practice patience in our relationships with each other. This is not easy.
I have worked as a church pastor, a waiter, and a grocer. In all of those positions I agreed to honor the values and policies of my employers. In every one of those arenas I have been the immediate target of people who were frustrated and even outraged by our policies and procedures. Sometimes, I was wise and mature enough to remember that they were not upset with me and I was able to be gracious and humble with them. Sometimes, I was not mature and I foolishly took their offense personally. All taking their offense upon myself ever did was ignite my own anger and discontent. When I refused to take their offense upon myself I remained free of their frustration and enjoyed a much more pleasant day. Long suffering patience is a valuable character trait.
The word we translate patience is better understood as long suffering. Patience bears up without complaint and delays the expression of our wrath against others in light of God’s merciful long suffering in relationship to us. Since you and I have experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness revealed in Jesus Christ we are in a position to honor God’s creative grace and merciful redemption in relationship to others. Patience, or long suffering, is rooted in submission to God’s sovereignty and the knowledge of God’s ultimate desire. The apostle Peter tells us that God does not desire that anyone should perish when he finally brings an end to cruelty and injustice, but that all should come to repentance and escape his execution of judgment upon evil in the world. God’s goal is reconciliation not violent destruction.
So we do not lash out at people when they offend us. As representatives of God we keep loving them when they offend us. Our experience of God’s love revealed in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ strengthens and informs our love expressed to each other. Love does not lose sight of who we are in relationship to God even when people offend or dishonor us. Long suffering patience stays focussed on God’s ultimate goal of reconciliation even when someone tries to provoke us to anger. Long suffering honors the fact that God is the final judge. This is the heart of our humility. We remain agents of God’s redemptive mercy to others, when we are offended because God defines our personal identity. We are made in God’s image as vessels of his glory and instruments of his honor, not our own.
Patient love honors God’s value for others under the most intense personal assault. The development of this character quality takes commitment, time, and energy. It does not come without dedication and practice. The development of patience demands the humility to acknowledge and learn from our failures. Meditating upon God’s presence with me and who I am to God in relationship to others, asking God to fill me with his Holy Spirit, and sharing my successes and failures with trusted friends who also follow Jesus Christ, helps me become a more consistently patient person. I am not as patient as I need to be, but I am more patient than I used to be. As a result I have fewer days that are ruined by the inevitable offense of others, and more good days in spite of the anger and frustration of others expressed towards me. By God’s grace and patience, I pray for more good days for all of us.
1. What situations test your patience?
2. What are the daily roles you play? How are you challenged to practice patience in each of those roles?