Love is patient. Three words anyone who’s been to a couple weddings will know by heart as well as just about anyone who’s stepped foot inside a church. I myself have heard it umpteen million times, yet I’m still in the dark. As many times as we’ve heard the saying, no one’s cared to explain and draw out a picture for us of patient love. No one, for that matter, has explained any of the adjectives used in this passage to describe love (I Corinthians 13:4–8). Therefore, today, we begin a weekly endeavor into the attributes of love starting with patience.
Look no further than Hosea. If you’ve never read this book of the Bible, you’re really missing out here. In summary, God tells His prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and start a family with her. Throughout the marriage, she is unfaithful, sleeping around and birthing illegitimate children. In spite of all of this, Hosea fights for his wife, searches for her and accepts her back with open arms each time. If this sounds strange to you, good, it should be. I don’t know of a single person today (myself included) who would suffer a marriage like this and yet God has been doing just this with us since the creation of mankind.
See Job. We all know the cliché, “patient as Job,” but do we know the story? Job was an exceedingly godly man whose faithfulness Satan wanted to test. God, knowing full well Job’s heart, allowed Satan to do so. Throughout the course of the book, Job loses everything. When I say everything, I mean everything. After each loss (family, property, health), Job goes and worships God. Do you believe this? Not only does he refuse to complain, but Job goes straight to worshiping God. If this also sounds strange to you, it should. This is why patience is a virtue. To finish the story, God restores to Job all that he had and gives him many times more. God rewards our patience, but only in time.
Patience is not passive. Let us not mistake patience for apathy. Patience is active as we’ve seen in both examples here. Both men did not sit about idly waiting for things to get better, but acted of their own volition to pursue love. Hosea would always go out looking for his wife and when she returned, he was found praying for her, ready to embrace her passionately. Job in his affliction consecrated himself and did everything he could to make sure nothing was standing between himself and God. Once he had done so, he worshiped God with all his strength, or whatever he had left at the time. Neither of these men opted for our form of patience praying that God will just make things better and waiting around for that to come. No, they were pursuing love through it all.
We are fickle. That is human nature, fostered mightily by our society. That, however doesn’t make it healthy. Love is not fickle and so to love more fully and deeply, we ourselves must wean off our fickle tendencies. It’s time to stop drinking this formula and move on to the solid food of patience. If we want to mature as Christ-followers, as people, our love must mature first. We have to evaluate our love and see it for what it is and isn’t, realizing the hard truth that we do not love. We are somewhere in between love and hate, but we are certainly not love. That’s OK, it gives us somewhere to start. Now, today, let’s show the world starting with those around us that love is patient.