I’d like to invite you to dive into the word Makrothumia. The word sounds foreign, like a word out of a Star Trek movie but it’s actually a Greek word. Makrothumia means long-suffering or patience.
The apostle Paul identified patience as one of the qualities, or fruits of the Spirit that Christians should possess and develop (Gal 5:22-23). In describing the Agape love of God, patience is the first word used (1Cor 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind…”) and when writing to the church at Colossae, Paul reminds his readers that they should cloth themselves with patience.
“12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Col. 3:12
Immersing, or clothing ourselves in patience is not an easy task. Sadly, instead of wearing patience as clothing, we instead find our patience wearing thin.
In troubling times like these, we certainly need to practice patience. Lack of patience has led some to blame God for their troubles and without understanding, some believers have walked away from the faith. Others short on patience, have withdrawn from society having found people frustrating to deal with.
Parents find their patience tested by the constant need for attention, approval, and care that their children require. Yet, perhaps the greatest test of patience comes to those who are married. Spouses communicating daily but not always seeing eye to eye can at times find their patience stretched thin.
In-laws, co-workers, employers, neighbours, and friends can all test our patience to the limit. In his infinite wisdom, God invites all these people to come together as one family known as the Church. Love compels us to work and worship together in peace and unity. This can only be possible if patience is practised and remembered. If there was ever an opportunity to demonstrate God’s power in loving patience then the church is it. Unfortunately, history demonstrates that when patience and love are not present, the church loses sight of their mission. Without patience, division, dysfunction, and destruction can rule.
There’s no greater example of patience than that of Jesus. Reflecting on the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), it’s hard not to notice how patient Jesus was with people. Jesus displayed patience when Nicodemus came to Him at night. Nicodemus wanted to meet at a time convenient for him and not necessarily for Jesus. Again, when the crowds followed Jesus (some wanting only food or healing), they were relentless in their pursuit. Even as Jesus tried to get away for a time of rest with His apostles (Mark 6:31-34) the crowds pressed ahead. Through this and the many other interactions Jesus had with them, He demonstrated immense patience.
At our hands Jesus was betrayed, disowned, accused and abused, rejected and crucified, yet he persisted with patience. Jesus was incredibly patient from start to finish. Even when some of His own disciples turned against Him he was committed. Through mockery, insult, betrayal, and denial, He again demonstrated his patience as hung on the cross, praying:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Jesus wants us to follow His example by demonstrating the power of Patience.
Perhaps more than anyone else, the Apostle Paul treasured the patience of God. He had been an enemy of the gospel, yet through patience God granted him a new lease on life. Later in life Paul understood the depths of that loving patience and he wrote to Timothy about it:
“… I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (I Tim 1:16)
Paul describes the patience of Jesus using the word hapas, which is translated “immense, immeasurable, and perfect”. Jesus’ patience is immense, immeasurable, and perfect, but what about mine? What word might my Lord choose to describe my patience? Am I patient enough? Patience does not just happen! It does not grow overnight and it does not develop without great effort.
Every day we are invited to work on this gift; every day we represent Jesus and continue His mission during our time on this earth. What better time to extend the patience of God that the world might know Him and may God’s power in patience go with us into the world!