Love Is Patient

The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.


Defining Patience

This word for patience means “longsuffering.”[1] It is being able to hold out for a long time about someone or something. One can be patient with people or circumstances or with God. Patience might demonstrate itself in a person who has the ability to be wronged over and over again and never retaliate. It is a quality of self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate in the face of provoking situations.

Illustrating Patience

John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople from the 4th century, said that patience “is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself but will never do it.”[2] It could be illustrated in a person who can be provoked by an angrier person and still maintain their long fuse. Solomon writes, “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” (Prov 14:29).

A few years ago, I enjoyed reading the book Team of Rivals, by modern historian Doris Kearns. It is anhistorical account of the Cabinet members President Abraham Lincoln put together because they were “the best of the best”, even though many of them were political enemies. One such man was Edwin Stanton. Stanton called Lincoln “a low cunning clown” and “the original gorilla.” He said that no one needed to visit Africa or the zoo to see a gorilla when they could just look at President Lincoln. President Lincoln was slow to respond in any slander and looked past the mutual dislike and saw a man fit for the position of Secretary of War. He would answer those who asked him about this appointment that Stanton was the best man for the job. Due to President Lincoln’s refusal to act out in revengeful speech towards Stanton, his patience won Secretary Stanton over. At the funeral for President Lincoln, Secretary Stanton remarked, “There lies the greatest rules of men the world has ever seen.” That is the power and action of patience.

In the Greek world, patience was viewed as a weakness. Even Roman culture, which also influenced Corinth, valued the idea of “might makes right” and believed only the strong survive. Thus, the idea of being patient, waiting something out, and not taking revenge were foreign ideas in Corinthian culture. Patience was perceived as a weakness. Greeks respected and expected vengeance – not patience.

Patience has a way of possessing and governing us in more ways than we realize. In Proverbs 16:32, we read, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”

A Biblical Example of Impatience 

In I Corinthians 6, we get an example of their lack of patience.

1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud – even your own brothers!” (I Cor 6:1-8).

Suing one another came about because they couldn’t patiently resolve their conflicts. They weren’t refraining from responding in anger towards each other. They weren’t long-suffering. They were quick to act carnally toward each other. The Corinthians lacked patience and it resulted in taking their internal matters to a secular court of law.

A Biblical Example of Patience

On the flip side of the Corinthians negative example, we have a number of positive examples in the Bible of patience. All of our prophets are examples of patience to us who preached and preached and warned and warned and did so with the duration of their lives with very little fruit (Jas 5:10).

Stephen and Jesus are examples of patience who minutes before he died asked for God to forgive those who were about to kill him (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:59-60).

LovePaul was an example of patience who endured beatings, imprisonments, and all sorts of persecution without calling down God’s fire from heaven – in fact he preached to those who hated him and did so patiently (I Cor 4:11-13).

God Himself is always the supreme example of all things loving. Moses describes Him as “… merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, …” (Exod 34:6-7). Those are descriptions of patience. God’s patience is inexhaustible; it cannot be spent (Rom 2:4; 9:22). Jonathan Edwards says,

“If we consider the wickedness that there is in the world, and then consider how God continues in the world in existence, and does not destroy it, but showers upon it innumerable mercies, the bounties of his daily providence and grace, causing his sun to rise on the evil and or the good, and sending rain alike on the just and the unjust, and offering his spiritual blessings ceaselessly and to all, we shall perceive how abundant is how long-suffering toward us.”[3]

I once heard a story about the well-known American agnostic Robert Ingersoll, who lived in the 1800’s. While lecturing, he would often stop in the middle and address his audience by saying, “I’ll give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I’ve said.” He then used the fact that he was not struck dead as proof that God did not exist. Theodore Parker – a Christian man who often debated Ingersoll – said of Ingersoll’s claim, “Did the gentlemen think he could exhaust the patience of the eternal God in five minutes?”[4]

Final Thoughts

God’s patience cannot run out; nor should ours. The people with the most patience are those that have the highest view of the patience of God. We ought to be able to be long-lasting in our endurance of other’s faults and sins. We ought to able to live with much grace and we are to be patient with all (I Thess 5:15). Love is patient.


[1] The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, pg. 379

[2] Source unknown

[3] Charity and Its Fruits, pgs. 76-77

[4] 1 Corinthians, pg. 338


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