The older I'm getting, the more intolerant and impatient I realise I'm becoming. I can make excuses such as lack of sleep, various aches and pains or other people get on my nerves, deliberately.
How then can I handle Paul's love chapter in 1 Corinthian 13? It opens with 'Love is patient.' That's enough to irritate me. Other aspects are fine, well mostly. We may wonder why he begins with this aspect rather than another. To appreciate his reason we must read the preceding chapters. There we discover a congregation infected with inferior and superior attitudes mixed with unbelief, ungraciousness or ignorance.
To be fair, these believers had been saved from out of a most immoral, religiously defiled society. The grace of God had transformed their destiny. Now it had to be allowed to penetrate their attitudes, worldview, personality and temperament. This would require an understanding of God's call upon their lives, honesty about themselves and mercy towards others. Such an outlook requires spiritual maturity, nurtured by God's word. The patient facet of Love must flow from knowing God's character. He is holiness and He is love. What we are unable to be and offer, our Lord longs to supply.
So, when Paul begins with the fact that love is patient it is a reminder of how Yahweh dealt with them. Now He calls them to express their gratitude to God in extending a similar grace and love to others. Such a love bears the foibles, inconsistencies and annoyances of others. So easy to write and read, so exhausting to do, continually. How can we keep it up? Only through a growing relationship with Christ Jesus and walking in step with His word. Included will be drawing upon His word's wisdom about healthy habits. It is sometimes knowing your limitations and maintaining a type of distant relationship. Call it spiritual respite care.
Patience feeds upon the hope that God is involved in the relational area through over-ruling, transforming, providing. In the Old Testament especially we can read of people and situations in which God did all that and more. The life of David is a great example on the way to becoming king. His trust in the promise of God kept him from yielding to revenge or succumbing to depression. Time and waiting and enduring situations or people seem to be the arch enemies of patience. David wasn't perfect, he was however, keen to trust and wait. Yahweh was able, for David, and is able for us, to turn such enemies into forming a faithful patience within.
Being in impatient situations, and failing, allows God to draws us to Himself in Love. When we admit our failure, apologise for it, we find a new beginning. In return, God wants us to do the same for those who fail us, annoy us, don't understand us or reject us. Humanly speaking we may wish them harm. Belonging, as we do to our Lord we are required to express love, His love towards them. Love, however, is a call to express the humanly impossible, by treating others in the way God has treated us. In this aspect that means being patient.
Well, I guess I cannot use old age as an excuse anymore before our Lord. Time for me to practise what I'm writing. But please, be patient with me also.
Ray Hawkins. Sept 2015.