eCare - Practice Patience

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eCare - Practice Patience

Dear Friends in Christ,

I mentioned in last week’s eCare that the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, challenged the members of that congregation to love one another as the only way in which division, disharmony and strife in the church could be corrected or prevented. Here at Beverly Heights we are graciously free of such difficulties between members of the congregation and that is something for which we must all be grateful. That is not to say, however, that disharmony does not occur from time to time, particularly during times of stress and change like the transition our congregation is going through now. It does occur from time to time and the antidote is, as it has always been, love.

Having underscored the indispensability of love in the church in my last eCare I now want to begin systematically addressing the character of such love as identified by Paul; this week we begin with “…love is patient.” The love that holds our congregation together is a self-sacrificing focus on that which will cause our brothers and sisters in the church to thrive. Love for fellow members of the congregation is an emptying of myself so that they might enjoy the fullness of life in the church. And that love is a patient love.

Patience is a steady perseverance through and a quiet bearing with provocation, annoyance, complaint, loss of temper or other irritation. Most often “delay” is at the heart of impatience, a thwarting of realization of what one wants, expects or is working to accomplish. Patience is the ability to suppress restlessness, anxiety and anger when confronted by delay. Without patience all manner of emotional outburst ensue, relationships are damaged, recrimination is rife and the church fractures.

Where are the fault lines along which the patience of church members is tested? For some their patience wears thin when plans for the future of our congregation are not forthcoming in what they believe to be a timely way, or when plans that are put into place do not materialize fast enough. Patience is tested when leadership decisions are made with which one disagrees.

The very fact that the future is unknown causes annoyance quite often, as if the church is a Never-Neverland where whatever we wish we have, things materialize out of thin air, everyone is happy and all is peaches and cream. One notable cause of impatience in the church is the assumption that “the same old people are doing all of the work and no one else is being included.” Of course, it’s not possible or wise to publish how many people declined an invitation to serve before “the same old people” were asked to serve once again (Now we’re talking about MY impatience!).

The antidote to these kinds of situations is the practice of patient love: a self-sacrificing focus on that which will cause our church to thrive. Such patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Such patience was exhibited by Jesus as He dealt with demanding crowds, critical leaders, dismissive family members and recalcitrant disciples. Such patient love was what Jesus had in mind when He commanded His disciples (then and now) to love one another.

As we move through this challenging and exciting period of change in the life of our congregation there are myriad opportunities for annoyance, provocation, complaint, loss of temper, irritation, restlessness and delay…and that’s just from the kids in the nursery! Think about how their parents feel! And I’m just not talking about things coming up in the future; we’ve had many of these challenges, not only in the past few months but during the past 33 years we’ve been together. You say “Well I didn’t know that…are things that bad?” Of course not! And the reason you didn’t know about these challenges to the unity of our congregation is because you have been practicing patient love and our congregation has enjoyed a long period of peace, unity and fellowship.

When the Bible speaks of patience it often does so with the use of the term “longsuffering.” To be longsuffering is to suffer long with some sort of annoyance, irritation or complaint. Throughout the scriptures it is the Lord, Himself, Who is described as being longsuffering or patient. Not only is He annoyed and irritated by our constant rebellion, stubbornness and sin – He is offended by it and justice would suggest that He immediately lose His temper and pour out His righteous wrath upon us. But, so often, He doesn’t; He is patient, suffering long over our disobedience in the hope that we will come to the end of ourselves and come to Him seeking forgiveness and restoration.

The Lord practices patient love toward us because He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him. Rather, He sets aside (sacrifices) His just anger so that we, the objects of His love, might thrive through uninterrupted fellowship with Him.

Our God is a practitioner of patient love; how about us!

Faithfully in Him,