"Love is patient and kind"
1 Corinthians 13:4a
“Keep your eye on the ball.” If you ever had a baseball coach, you heard those words. They are the type of words that have a self-contained demeaning, condescending essence. Of course I’m trying to keep my eye on the ball. I’ve been doing that over and over and over again and not making solid contact. (Insert slightly sarcastic tone) What now, Coach? My eyes aren’t closed and haven’t been the whole time. I’m still looking at the ball. That’s the immediate gut response to coaching advice like “keep your eye on the ball.” Coach might as well have said, “Stand on your feet.” But he was right.
Some things are easy to say but difficult to do. Paul’s first words here are such an example. The church in Corinth had as many problematic issues as gumbo has ingredients. In the context of this passage, Paul is gently rebuking them because they weren’t treating each other very well and had their eyes off the ball, so to speak (thanks Coach). Or, as Paul puts it, they were neglecting the most excellent of gifts…love. They were exercising their gifts among each other but not exercising love to each other. But what is love? Paul paints a picture with words, and he begins with:
“Love is patient and kind.”
Of course love is patient and kind, Paul. It obviously is not hurried and mean. Thanks for the advice. But he is right. Patient and kind are easy to say but difficult to do. Instead of digging deep to the inedible core of the etymological apple (i.e. where did the words patience and kindness come from, and what do they mean?) that we disregard the juicy fruit itself, let’s simply consider these two with regards to our own current condition (heart) and ethic (life).
“Are you patient and kind?”
Don’t just think about last week or yesterday—think about right now. Are you hurriedly reading through this as quickly as you can? (Insert slightly sarcastic tone) If you are, do you sense in your own spirit a long-suffering kindness you know will be shown today to your children, your spouse, your coworkers, your subordinates, your superiors, and anonymous others? To the driver to your right or left? To the waiter or waitress who might require 10 minutes before taking your lunch order? To the cashier at Starbucks as you persevere through a line longer than the Great Wall? Or do you sense in your own spirit a hurriedness, a pressure like a gentle clamp that has somehow enclosed itself around your central cardiovascular region, not suffocating you altogether but definitely making you feel scrunched, squeezed, tightened, coiled, maybe even slightly wrenched? If you do not sense patience and kindness within, you will not offer it out.
Let me encourage you to take off the clamp. It will require a small amount of patience because you have to slow down for a minute to listen to a different voice than the busyness and responsibility of the day. That voice comes from the cardio-clamp. Take it off and simply listen:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. –1 Timothy 1:15-16
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. –Ephesians 2:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. You are to be patient and kind, not simply to imitate He who is patient and kind, but because He is patient and kind towards you. That’s right, towards you. You are not too different from the Corinthians, a jumbled mess in need of help or too hurried to recognize it. When will His love run out on you? When will He be short-tempered in His response to your flailings and failings? When will He finally say, “Enough!” and respond with spiritual road rage? Never. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love to His own. He offers perfect patience, even to the foremost of sinners who believe. He shows immeasurable riches of grace in kindness to those He has raised from death to life. If that’s you, sense His patience and kindness towards you in Christ Jesus within. And if you don’t sense it, reread the two aforementioned passages. Then give patience and kindness today.
If you’re like me, you might need to hurry up and read this again in a couple hours.