1 Corinthians 13 Part 4: Love is Patient
1 Corinthians 13:4a Can a failing grade in this attribute turn into a life of loving patience?
“Love is patient, “
1 Corinthians 13:4 NASB1995
Paul transitions in this chapter from his admonitions about acts and spiritual gifts that are done without love to his invaluable descriptions of what love is or what it is not. For quite a few years before we started doing daily Bible reading journals at our church, we would do a Bible in One Year plan on our Bible app. The one we liked for a long time was written by Nicky Gumbel, a British pastor who was the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London (he retired last year); he was the developer of the popular “Alpha” series that is targeted at non-believers, questioning people looking for answers or others trying to find a Christian path to follow.
Vicar Gumbel always had a great devotional that went along with this passage in 1 Corinthians 13. He recommended substituting your name for “love” and examining how well you do in the various positive and negative attributes. Right off the bat, many of us will fail miserably in the first one. Barb is patient….HA, HA, HA, HA, HA - gasp, I can’t breathe! Now what? Should I even go on to the next attribute of love? I don’t have the patience to see if I can pass anything else in these verses (a joke…or is it?). I am a walking poster child for life-long impatience with people and things, with that impatience often flaring up rapidly into anger or just giving up and handing it to someone else to figure out or walking away from something or someone with considerable frustration. I used to slam the phone down when talking to my late Mom because I didn’t have the patience (or the unselfish love) to deal with her complaints and concerns (forgive me, Mom). If you wanted a picture of this Fruit of the Spirit for me over the years, it might look like a shriveled raisin on a sickly dying vine. It’s something I pray about every day.
Perhaps we should dig into how unselfish love and patience must be threaded together in the lives of Christians and learn something from that. I’m going to dive in a little and pray for patience as I strive to understand this attribute. By the way, I did read an admonition from another pastor that I have quoted and admired (Steven Cole) who felt that dissecting this chapter into too many small pieces destroys the overall beauty of what being said. In this case, I respectfully disagree, because each one of the precepts from Paul is a life lesson all by itself. In fact, Precept Austin digs into 1 Corinthians 13 subverse by subverse, with great commentary, so I like their guidance.
Doing an interlinear study of this three-word statement in Blue Letter Bible, the Greek word for patient is makrothymeo, defined as follows:
to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart
to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles
to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others
to be mild and slow in avenging
to be longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish
Patience may be readily exhibited by many of us when truly enduring personal misfortunes and troubles. Where it becomes problematic in our angry, unforgiving, social media heavy, chaotic, stressful, traffic-filled world is in bearing the offenses and injuries that come from others, while not immediately seeking revenge or punishment and not flying off the handle in a rage. Don’t be like the rage lady in the photo below (been there, done that).
I found a great quote from one of the links in the Precept Austin commentaries to Keep Believing Ministries referring to how President Abraham Lincoln responded to an ugly critic:
During the early days of the Civil War, Edwin Stanton was outspoken in his criticism of Abraham Lincoln. He held Lincoln in utter contempt, calling him a gorilla and a cunning clown. Although he knew about the slanders, Lincoln never retaliated. And when the time came to choose someone to oversee the war effort, Lincoln chose Stanton. When asked why, he simply replied, “Because he is the best man for the job.” After the president was assassinated in April 1865, Stanton stood weeping over Lincoln’s body and declared: “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” Patient love won in the end.
Thinking about this, there are some ways that I can try and work to get to love through creating patience (with the heavy help of the Holy Spirit), referencing the definitions above:
Don’t respond to provoking comments on social media, even if that person calls you out by name. If you have a difference of opinion (and who doesn’t, in this extremely divided country), just scroll past or stop engaging in those controversies or get off social media. Sadly, trying to be patient and engage does not work, as most people are firmly entrenched in their viewpoints. Let it go!
Put the brakes on your brain when it begins to call someone else a “moron” or “idiot” or contemplates using a certain digit on the hand to rate their driving methods, for example. We have to learn to see others as precious children of God (even if they are not in the fold), not meat puppets engaging with us in inadequate or annoying ways. This goes back to that recent devotional I had about always having to feel like the smartest person in the room. Being smart does not make you loving. Also, when stuck in traffic pray the Lord’s Prayer or go through your favorite Bible verses or even daydream about a pleasant experience you had on a vacation. When your daydream is interrupted by someone angrily honking at you to move, wave (with all digits showing) and smile!
Pray about others with whom you have had disagreements or had a bad encounter because of your impatience. Apologize the minute the opportunity presents itself (and mean it - don’t make excuses). Forgive as you want to be forgiven. Yeah, I know, easier said than done, but when I have practiced this lately, I sure sleep better.
Speaking of sleeping, stop doing the film highlights of a bad day or argument as you try to enter slumber. For many years, I often replayed these events months or YEARS after the fact, thinking about what I should have said to gain the upper hand and triumph in my arrogance (yikes!). Give your anxious thoughts to God and ask Him to help you get past your anger. Move on to the new day and stop living in the past.
Sit down with your Bibles and read through the stories about Jesus and His infinite love for you. Instantly calming, instantly uplifting!
We can state this another way: Patience is love. Having self-control and avoiding a desire for vengeance and “gotchas” and truly looking at others as God’s beloved creatures would go a long ways towards solving some of the world’s problems. God’s justice is perfect and will come in His time; we are not delegate judges put here to rate other people on their performances, their intelligence, their politics, their driving skills, or their communication methods when they test our patience. Pass the test!
My next devotional examines 1 Corinthians 13:4b Love is Kind.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father - Please continue to guide me, minute by minute, into a long suffering patience that is based in unselfish love. Help me to look past the trivialities and ugliness that prevails in this modern age and see people as your beloved children. May I someday get an “A+” from the only judge of my life who matters! Amen!
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org