None of us are born good at patience — no surprises there, right? All it takes is a quick look…anywhere…to see our culture of impatience in action.
We hear the words “instant gratification” tossed around all the time — but it’s true. We get frustrated when our mobile browsers don’t load quickly enough. We hate long lines…at the drive-through window. And we cringe when we have to do research beyond a quick Google search.
Now, I’m all for upgrades in technology and systems that make it possible for us to get at life more efficiently. But as humans we are naturally impatient — like I said, no one’s born good at being patient. It’s something we have to practice.
And it’s especially important because without patience, we have no love.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul said, “Love is patient.” You’ve probably heard this saying many times. It’s read at tons of Christian weddings. (And at those weddings where you don’t hear it read, it’s probably because the bride and groom have heard it at too many weddings)!
Personally, I prefer the more classic translation, “Love suffers long,” because it’s more provocative.
“Longsuffering” is a seriously uncomfortable idea! When I hear that “love is patient,” I understand that I should be willing to wait a long time on someone else’s behalf. But when I realize that patience can also mean suffering a long time, it hits my heart in a different way. There is a big difference between waiting and suffering!
Is there anybody you’d be willing to suffer for? My most natural response is…it’s a pretty short list of people, beginning with the ones who have the last name of Fusco! But Jesus himself said to us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). When Jesus laid down his life for us, suffering on our behalf, he demonstrated the truest love in the universe. Did we deserve it? Absolutely not!
True love is not given because the recipient deserves it. Love is given because the lover is willing.True love is not given because the recipient deserves it. Love is given because the lover is willing. Click To Tweet
Love continues to flow because the lover is willing to be patient. Love is patient (or suffers long) because the lover realizes their beloved one is far from perfect. Love gives a person room to be in process. In this way, love is willing to suffer because true love knows that people are growing. In fact, love is willing to accept someone as they are, because it knows full well that no one will reach perfection this side of heaven.
Of course, loving someone doesn’t mean you agree with everything they do. God doesn’t agree with everything we do, yet He never withholds His love from us, even when we mess up, or don’t understand everything perfectly. We’re called to show this same patient love for others. That’s why love is so messy, yet gloriously rewarding. Do we love each other this way?
The love of God displays this kind of patience. You and I know how challenging and undeserving we can be. Think about it for a minute…I’d be willing to bet many instances will come to mind of how little we trust, or how much we try to run from God. How our agendas can get in the way of our relationships. How we love ourselves more than we love God and others. Yet God’s love continues to flow to us and through us, by the Spirit.
So this week, let’s make a plan to suffer long in love. Let’s give room for people to be who they are, believing that God is at work in them. Let’s be patient in love.
And when you do not have any love to give, receive love from Jesus who suffered long because of His love for you. Then, with gratitude in your heart, pass that love on to the people around you.