What Is Love?

Love is patient.

“Love is patient…” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

It is no mistake patience is listed first. We could punctuate love here. Every other attribute of affection falls under a patient umbrella. When we are patient, we have self control in the troubles and endure through the hard times. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

When we come to the table with a calm spirit, we are not hasty with making decisions. The self control in patience holds back a racing mind from mixing in any fearful conclusions. Diligence doesn’t give up on tenderness because, well, it is patient. “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Patience bears all things and looks for understanding in the situation, in others, in God.

Patience is kind – anger has a tendency to lose its composure and restraint. “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Though it may appear passive, patience actually places a relentless trust in God. “His work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Everything He plans will come to pass, He will accomplish all of his purposes (Isaiah 46:10). Patience rejects resentment and rests in God’s promise.

Be careful to think that patience is somehow permissive with sin or injustice. We are called to “reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction“ (2 Timothy 4:2).

Patience keeps believing the best, keeps searching for Truth, keeps Hope close through the trials because it knows something beautiful is on the other side. The reflection of Jesus is unfailing love and constant patience with people, pain, sin, and God. Patience holds grace closely and gives it away generously.

Patience is not wanting anything outside the will of God. In faith we can be content when things go differently than we had wished. We choose to believe “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). Patience is “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

It’s no mistake that patience is also a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Patience is dying to selfishness. It is “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19). When we allow patience to have her perfect work in us, we can praise a compassionate Father who is a good teacher in the trade. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8).

Waiting is not wasted time, “you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:3). Patience has purpose. It is without worry. There’s no discouragement or sadness when the purpose of patience includes bringing our Father more glory in the wait than in the rush, the rash, or the reckless.

Patience has staying power. In the stillness our resolve strengthens through the refining work of a wait. “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).

Learning to love begins with patience. Patience is persistent for beginnings and restoration. Patience has no end.

When we fall short of long-suffering, when our weaknesses take center stage and our frustrations steal the show, we can freely come to the feet of Jesus and confess every coward act without fear of condemnation (Romans 8:1). We can climb to our feet with rejoicing that these failings have too been covered.

His forgiveness and mercy encourages our hands and feet to press on and grow in giving the same kind of grace that is His patient, persevering love.

When we are tempted to be impatient, this is our invitation to love.

Love is patient.

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