Agape love, the love Paul writes about in I Corinthians 13 has the characteristic and quality of being Patient. Another phrase used in other Bible versions is “suffers long”.
As an illustration of long suffering, you might remember back to your early years when you first learned to walk, talk, and tie your shoe. Well, if you could remember the first steps and words, you would have seen parents that were super patient, long suffering, and encouraging as you took a small step, first with help and then alone and finally, you left crawling behind.
In the Bible, a good illustration of long suffering and patience is found in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. Here is a servant brought before his master and in his plea for mercy, he says…
So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (Mat 18:26)
Do you know what the master did? He forgave the whole debt. Many dispute how much it was in today’s dollars but whether millions or billions, it was more than could be paid in a lifetime or ten!
So the servant, probably astonished at his good fortune went straight out and found a fellow servant who owed a small amount. Again, we don’t know the exact amount but it would be a manageable debt to be paid over time. This fellow servant also begged for mercy and in what should have felt like deja vu, he pleaded:
So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ (Mat 18:29)
Only the servant would not be forgiving or patient! In other words, he would not show love.
In the context of Matthew 18, all about forgiveness, we cannot miss the lesson to be learned: Love is willing to bear with those who need patience. Not everyone “cleans up” as quickly and some rough edges take time to go away. We are not taking about patience with Sin but with sinners.
Impatient people (e.g. unloving) forget that they also had their sins forgiven and, not only are not better than the other servants but, in many cases, were worse than them to begin with.
Love is patient. Are you?