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The Bible gives us several commands and one of those is to be patient with one another. If we are honest, this is very hard for us to do. By nature we are depraved therefore we are selfish people and incapable of doing anything on our own. Therefore, we are utterly dependent on God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Friends, in all determination and in every aspect of our Christian walk we are to run to Christ for help and enablement—without Him we cannot do anything (John 15:5).
When we talk about “Patience,” W. Barkel gave us this stunning statement: “Patience is the believer’s spiritual strength which he has in God, whereby he, in the performance of his duty, willingly with composure, joyfully and steadfastly endures all the vicissitudes of life, having a hope that the outcome will be well.”
With this in mind let me draw your attention to 1 Thessalonians 5:14. In this letter Paul is encouraging the readers to be patient toward the church family (v.14). What does this mean for us today as a church and how can we put this into practice? Reading the verse carefully, we can observe that Paul is writing to three groups in the local church, whose attitude and behavior needed quick and urgent attention: the idle, the timid and the weak. He has a deep concern that the church deal effectively with the prevailing issues. From the grammar we can understand the urgency, all the three verbs mentioned in the verse are in the present imperative which is a command to carry out as a perpetual duty.
Paul balances the three preceding commands with the three attitudes that are necessary if we are to carry out the command. The first one is found in verse 14 and the other two in verse 15.
So he said to be patient with everyone. The word patient comes from the Greek word “Macrothumeo.” The term simply means to be willing to keep trying over and over again, to have a prolonged restraint of anger or emotion. It mean one’s temper is long and does not give way to quick and short outbursts of temper. In other words it is long-suffering; the admirable quality that refuses to any retaliation in the face of provocation or irritation. This word ”macrothumeo”can also be described as manifesting a state of emotional calm or quietness in the face of provocation or unfavorable circumstances especially towards people who act unjustly toward us.
So with this range of meanings of the word at hand, we understand that Paul is calling the church to be patient, to be willing to keep trying with one another, to restrain anger or emotion, to be long- suffering, not to be short-tempered with those who fail, to refuse retaliation, and to manifest calm when faced with unfavorable circumstances. And he encouraged the church to be this way with everyone. That means with all people, without exception. Not only with people we like, but also with those we don’t like to be around us (and we have many people like that in our churches!).
The call from 1 Thessalonians 5:14 is a crucial one to heed because we don’t want to see division and discord in our churches just because of minor issues. For this very reason we are to exercise extreme patience, and not give up on one another. I am far from perfect and I am seeking to grow in this area. And this is my prayer for our churches, that we would grow in patience with one another.
Along with remembering and putting into practice Scripture’s commands and exhortations to grow in patience, we should always remember God’s long-suffering toward us. Patience is a divine attribute (Ex. 34:6). God reveals himself as being compassionate and slow to anger and abounding in love, and this is a constant refrain of Scripture. He is the same God who cannot tolerate sin and poured out his judgment on the cross. And amazingly it is the cross which makes it possible for God to show us his boundless patience. I would have been in hell experiencing the full wrath of God but it is God’s love, patience and grace that made the death of Christ. Romans 2:4 says that God’s patience leads to our repentance. Romans 9:22 points out that only God’s patience prevents Him from destroying the object of his wrath, and Paul glorifies the Lord for his unlimited patience that saved him(1 Tim. 1:6). I once heard this said: “Every time that my impatience reveals itself towards others, I am declaring that I haven’t understood the immensity of the need for forgiveness in my own life and the absence of patience in my own heart.” This truth humbled me and pushed me deeper in my fellowship with other members in the local church.
Finally, very practically, we are to avoid retaliation at all costs. Let us make sure we don’t pay back wrong for wrong (1 Thes. 5:15). Paul addresses the whole group concerning the activities of individuals. Paul is giving us the responsibility to make sure that we don’t allow anyone in our family of faith to get away with retaliatory behavior (Rom.12:17-19). Retaliation is never an option for a believer. So in the present context, not to repay means we don’t strike back someone who may have hurt us in the process of helping him or her. In moments when we feel pushed towards revenge or to vent out frustration, let us reflect on the patience and the kindness of God towards us. And as we grow in doing this, the world will know that we are disciples of Christ. Let us run to Christ in all earnestness for the patience we so desperately need in our churches.
Soli Deo Gloria Amen