Love is Patient and Kind or: How One is the Key for the Other
(1. Corinthians 13:4; NLT)
“Patience is what you have when there are too many witnesses.”
It’s amazing the wisdom you can find on the internet!
I believe it’s no coincidence that the definition of love starts out with patience. I realized that I thought of myself as a rather loving person, and when I was challenged to read 1 Corinthians 13 every day my inner man almost audibly inhaled sharply. Being patient, well... Patience does not come naturally to me. I prefer doing things and have them done fast; my way, please. Now. Thank you very much. And that is not even talking about the countless groups of innumerous tourists being in my way when I am already late for work or the clerk in the shop taking her time to finish the chat with her colleague before she acknowledges my presence or... So, these are some of my challenges, but I am sure you might have some of your own.
I quite like the older version ‘long-suffering’ for the word ‘patient’. It just makes it so much clearer what patience really is and what hard work it requires, doesn’t it. Joyce Meyer likes to pronounce it ‘loooooooong-suffering’ reminding her audience that it is about putting up with someone or something for a long time, which is exactly what God does with us.
The thing is, we cannot really love unless we have experienced the never-ending, unconditional, overwhelming love God has for us. Love that cannot be quenched; love that has been tested; love that is sacrificial; love that is patient with us, putting up with all our stubbornness, sin, doubting, niggling, knowing it better. All of the above! I dare you to ask God to fill you anew with His love every time impatience wants to well up in you and see what happens.
We need to face it: If our circumstances are difficult and bring out the ugly in us, they bring out the ugly that is ALREADY in us and it’s time to assume responsibility for this. As it says in James 1:2-4: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (MSG)
You might have been reminded of a situation that tests your patience or a specific person who manages to press all your buttons. Graham Cooke calls those people ‘grace growers’; a more than apt description, I would say. Not for nothing does the bible describe Christians as a family. And as in every family there are members you click with and love dearly and want to spend your birthday with and then there is the little brother who just won’t stop annoying you, the cousin who keeps continuously talking about herself and the uncle who cracks really bad jokes and laughs the loudest about them himself. And they all come to the family get-together and at least one of them will end up next to you at the dinner table. Consider it a sheer gift…
Now what? I am in a situation with a grace grower being at his best at winding me up; I am feeling my patience being stretched thinner and thinner. I remember to pray for God to fill me with His love but it’s still there, this impatience wanting to break out and help me break free. The answer is in the next part of the verse: Be kind. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, it says in Romans 12:21 (NIV)
What is the kindest way to respond you can possibly think of in the situation that puts your patience to the test? That’s the way to go in order to become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. Planting kindness is a good way of reaching out and steering the focus away from us, which makes it easier to be patient with one another.
Lord God, thank you for the loving kindness you have for and show towards me every single day of my life no matter how well I am doing in my walk with you. Thank you that your love for me never stops and is patient with me and all my short-comings. I confess that often I have not got it right and acted impatiently when I should have been kind. I ask for and receive your forgiveness for that. Fill me today with your love and remind me to act kindly when I am tempted to do otherwise. Thank you that you have put the seed of both patience and kindness in me. I want to be more like you and cultivate this fruit of your Spirit in me. Teach me how to love like you love me.