It’s a Bible verse that you’ve undoubtedly heard dozens, if not hundreds of times: “Love is patient and kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
If you’re like me, it’s one of those verses that you’ve heard so many times that you can tend to just gloss over it. Yeah, yeah, love is patient. I get it. I need to be patient with people. Because that’s what Christians do.
But have you ever truly pondered why love is patient? Why exactly, should we be patient?
Thankfully, scripture speaks directly to that issue. It gives us at least three profound reasons that love is patient.
Love Is Patient Because God Is Patient With Us
The primary reason love is patient is that God is staggeringly, incredibly, overwhelmingly patient with us. No one has been more patient with us than God himself, and in light of
Consider all the different ways God has been patient with us.
Before we believed in Christ, he patiently drew us to himself. Even when we were dead in our transgressions and sins, he continued to extend kindness and mercy toward us.
As Paul says in Romans 2:4, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
Even after we become believers, we still sin against God on a regular basis. We still fail. Sin. Deliberately disobey. We
And yet, because love is patient, God is patient with us. He gently convicts us of our sins and draws us back to himself. He is making us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. He continues to patiently love us and bless us, even when we don’t deserve it.
I’m reminded of the words in the song “His Mercy Is More“:
What patience would wait as we constantly roam
What Father so tender is calling us home
He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more
Love is patient, and we see this most clearly in the way that God treats us. He was patient with us when we were his enemies. He continues to be incredibly patient with us as his children. No one has been more patient with us than the living God.
Slowly read and savor this quote by Jonathan Edwards:
They that love God will be thankful to him for the abundant long-suffering that he has exercised toward them in particular. They that love God as they ought, will have such a sense of his wonderful long-suffering toward them under the many injuries they have offered to him, that it will seem to them but a small thing to bear with the injuries that have been offered to them by their fellowmen.
In other words, because God has been so incredibly patient toward us, we can extend long-suffering patience toward others, even when they sin against us.
Love Is Patient Because It Recognizes Its Weaknesses
A second reason love is patient is because flows out of weakness. In other words, when we recognize how weak, sinful, and fragile we are, it allows us to be patient with the weaknesses of others.
If we were flawless, always doing everything perfectly, we would have no need to be patient with others. But we are far from flawless.
When I look at myself, I see a man who, by the grace of God, is slowly becoming more like Jesus. But I’m also keenly aware of how often I still sin against others. How weak my love for Jesus often is. How little I serve compared to some people I know.
Simply put, I recognize that people must be patient with me.
My parents were (and still are) so patient with me. When I totaled my dad’s car, he was a model of the words, “love is patient.” He didn’t blow up at me, even though it was my fault. Rather, he simply told me that he was glad that I was okay.
Talk about being patient.
And it’s not just my parents who have been patient with me. Countless people have.
As I wrestle with depression and anxiety, I need people to extend grace and mercy to me. When I’m selfish and self-centered, I need forgiveness. When I’m impatient with my wife or children, I need them to be the opposite toward me.
When I fail to remember that love is patient, it’s usually because I’m failing to remember how patient other people have been with me.
Love Is Patient Because Growth Takes Time
A third reason love is patient is because it recognizes that spiritual growth simply takes time.
I think one of the main reasons we become impatient with others is that we expect them to have achieved a certain level of spiritual maturity. When they sin or fail, we can think things like, Shouldn’t they be past that by now? Shouldn’t they be more mature?
But the reality is that true spiritual growth is very slow and takes a long time. Love is patient because it recognizes this reality.
Psalm 1:3 describes spiritual growth like this:
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:3)
Do you notice how slow these verses are? Spiritual growth is like the growth of a tree. Slow. Almost imperceptible. Fruit appears in season, not right away. In other words, we shouldn’t expect rapid spiritual growth in people.
Sometimes it can take people years to overcome a particular struggle or pattern of sin.
When we recognize this reality, it empowers us to be more patient with others. We can recognize two realities:
- I grow slowly
- Others grow slowly
Understanding that spiritual growth is slow allows us to give people space and grace to grow. We don’t expect them to be at a particular level of spiritual maturity.
When they sin or fail, we remember verses like Philippians 1:6, which says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Yes, they may have sinned, but God is still powerfully at work in them, making
Love is patient because it realizes that in both our lives and others, spiritual growth often happen at a snail’s pace. And that’s okay. We can extend love and grace to others as they grow.
Be Patient With Them All
1 Thessalonians 5:14 is a wonderful summary of what “love is patient” actually looks like in real life.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
Throughout our lives, we will encounter some people who need to be admonished. We will meet others who need to be encouraged, and still others who are weak and need help. In every case, we’re called to be patient.
Because God has been so patient with us, love is patient.
Because others have been so patient with us, love is patient.
And because we know that spiritual growth is slow, love is patient.