Is Love Really Patient?

Is Love Really Patient?
Perhaps one of the most well known chapters in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13 - the "love chapter" as some call it. It is in this great passage that Paul discussed the love which was to exist between Christians of the church family in the ancient Greek city of Corinth. This passage is often quoted at weddings and is indeed very beautiful and fits that context.

One of the verses claims, "love is patient" (13:4). This perhaps is a very difficult aspect of love. On an emotional level, we'd like to think it would be easy to be patient with a person with whom we are in love. But this passage is moving beyond the emotional level and describing love as action. In this sense love is described, at least in part, by being patient.

Being patient is easy enough when life is going well, communication is open, conflicts are absent, and everyone is on the same page. However, patience is difficult when it comes to helping others develop, grow, or stretch themselves in some way. One of the difficulties for Christians is practicing patience as a part of love. It can be frustrating for a veteran Christian when someone just doesn't seem to get it, or when they make decisions and take actions which seem outrageous to us.

Love requires patience for others as they grow. Those who have been Christians for years may have a hard time appreciating how difficult it is for some people to change behavior. This is especially true if the mature Christian grew up in a family that was active in church. A new Christian may be facing overwhelming change: new friends, strained family relationships, or switching occupations. (Certainly if changes are needed in these areas of life, they should be made). But love recognizes the difficulty and seeks to work as a gentle catalyst for change.

Patience comes in when we realize how daunting of a task this is for a new Christian. Perhaps we fail other Christians in one of two ways or both. One failure may be that we help a new Christian a short way in his or her new walk, and when difficulties come we throw our hands up and abandon him or her. Do we ever tell ourselves, "oh, she wasn't that serious anyway"?

Another failure may be that we lead a person to Christ and then just leave him or her. This can really lead to tearing our hair out, so to speak, if this person flounders for several years and should be far along in his or her spiritual walk. We encounter this brother or sister expecting a certain depth of knowledge and life, only to find someone who hasn't grown much. In this case patience demands a very cautious and humble nudge to help the person see the need to start growing again.

Patience is that attribute that invests quite a bit of time in a new Christian at first, preparing them to walk on their own, if you will. It's the love that prompts us to give a growing Christian the opportunity to seek new endeavors of faith and work, rather than doing it for them. Over time, they do not need our constant avaliability.

Love is patient as seen in the parent child relationship. It is patience that allows parents to answer every beckon call of an infant. It is patient love that sees the young child try to do the laundry, only to make a bigger mess. Rather than getting angry, we recognize the growth in the attempt and do the towels again! Eventually, the child develops into adulthood with his or her own family.

Loving patience is diligent encouragement, guidance, and follow through. It is not love when we give up on a person. It is not love when we don't see past the honest mistakes of the sincere person struggling to live a godly life. Paul writes, "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:1-2, NASU)

Patience is not an excuse for condoning sin. But we know that we all continue to sin from time to time. Patience from love allows us to help one another take the daily steps necessary to overcome sin in our lives. It's the deliberate work to help someone grow in their depth and application of scripture. This knowledge and application is not an overnight thing. It builds slowly over time. Christianity works when Christians are authentically concerned with helping one another grow realizing that love is patient in seeing it through.

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