We know that patience means waiting. By virtue of experience, it is no stretch to say that patience, considered a virtue, is a trait with which we can struggle most often. Nevertheless, we find ourselves waiting on drivers in traffic, employees, employers, children, parents, companions, and everyone else at every moment of our brief, little lives. Even in a sentence which seems to go on and on, we struggle to endure, but often find a reward through persevering. The purpose of continuing to wait on another, as I see it, seems to be based on two ideas: duty and love.
Pertaining to duty, we await the anticipated actions of another because of some prior knowledge about their ability or capacity to perform according to their promises or assurances; this involves trust that the other will fulfill their duties. If we look at the Christian experience, we see the idea at work with the Christian awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is not that the factor of love is replaced by duty, but love is not the factor which fuels the patience. Our love is predicated on His actions (“We love because He first loved us”), but we await His work, not simply because of our love, but our faith in the limitless ability of the One Who promised to accomplish certain things.
Peter writes that the patience of the Lord means salvation (1 Peter 3:15), prefacing in such a way that we should take special care to remember. Even in this, saying to “bear in mind” or to “account” or “consider” would almost demand meditation on the matter. His patience in keeping His wrath at bay for the salvation of those who would come to Him reflects the words of Christ Jesus in John’s Gospel account, wherein He says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). His patience in staving off His wrath does not rely upon our ability or capacity (“There is no one righteous, not even one…there is no one who seeks God.” [Rm 3:11]), but is founded only upon the love He has for what He has made, despite their offenses towards Him. Time and time again, the idea of His longsuffering fills the Scripture and is shown fully when, though we were sinners and in a state of enmity against Him, He gave His only begotten Son to be a ransom for many (Mk 10:45).
Paul begins what is likely his most frequently quoted writing with the idea that “love is patient”. If we are to say that we love, as we should be able to say, then our love will, among other things, show a willingness to suffer in wait for the beloved to act – even when the expectation of duty has passed. When we enter into periods of strife in our relationships, our statements of love are only as valuable as our willingness to endure. As we marry, we pledge to endure the worst and to persevere. As we prepare to marry, our endurance is tested and our mettle bears witness against the very things we claim about one another. Is our love for another marked by patience? If not, then it is for show and insubstantial.
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