“Love is patient” – 1 Cor. 13:4
Have you ever wished you had an un-send button on an email? Have you ever blushed when you realized that your wittiness was harsh or your quick reaction was reckless? As Christians, we have to be discerning in a culture that values speed and efficiency. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these values, they’re not the most judicious expressions of love – love is patient.
Often when we think of the word patient we think of waiting for someone or something. But the word in the New Testament often translated as patient in our English Bibles is the Greek word μακροθυμέω (makrothyméō), and it has a slightly different meaning. μακροθυμέω is a combination of two Greek words meaning “long” and “temper;” it literally means “long-tempered.” It carries with it the ideas of being consistent and enduring through hardships and misfortunes – being someone who doesn’t easily lose heart. And it also brings to mind someone who displays restraint when they are stirred to anger – someone who is slow to punish, slow to avenge, and slowly bears the offenses and injuries from others.
It’s significant that μακροθυμέω was the first adjective Paul used in his love defining chapter – 1 Cor. 13 – because our temper is one of the most basic ways we express ourselves to others. When we’re quick tempered or have a “short fuse” with others we leave doubt in their mind that we truly love them. But when we’re patient – when we’re willing to stick with them through any hardships or misfortunes they’re facing – we communicate that we’re with them. When we’re patient – when we gloss over any misgivings we may have about a person’s intent or even any unfortunate outbursts – we communicate that they’re worth it.
When we practice being patient – being long tempered – we’re practicing love.
This week, practice a rhythm of being long tempered with every person you meet.
Do your best to demonstrate a consistent attitude of love regardless the circumstance. And if someone’s actions stir you to anger, be slow to retaliate. Perhaps, as it’s reasonable, allow yourself a full 24 hours before responding. Take that time to share your frustrations with God in prayer and ask him for patience and the ability to demonstrate love in your response.