Patience. When many of us think of patience we may have different ideas that come to mind. For some, they may think of patiently waiting on the phone with a slow customer service experience with a company. For others, they may think of being patient with a difficult student in class. And for some people, they may think of patiently waiting to receive their brand-new smartphone in the mail.
But when we take a closer look at the original Greek word for patience (makrothrumia) we see that it has to do with being patient with other people. Some translations use the word “forbearance” while some translations use the word “longsuffering”. In the Old Testament, God’s patience is often described as him being “slow to anger”.
It helps to think of being “slow to anger” as a spectrum where on the one end of the spectrum we have “blow anger” and on the other end of the spectrum we have “no anger”.
So, on the one end of the spectrum we have “no anger” and this is in fact a form of impatience. But we may ask, “What’s the big deal with no anger? Isn’t that a good thing? Come on – surely this must be okay…right?”.
Well, Exodus 34:6 says this, “6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”
What this scripture makes clear is that God is not void of anger; rather, he is SLOW to anger. As we see in this scripture God is not only slow to anger, but he is also abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Therefore, responding to someone with “no anger” is not faithful and not loving because it fails the other person. Someone with “no anger” fails the other person by not seeing the sinner behind the sin and when the other person wrongs them the person with “no anger” chooses not to patiently stick around with them to help them learn, grow, and change.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have “blow anger”. Now “blow anger” is pretty self-explanatory, it is the person who blows up with rage, who has a short fuse, and a quick temper. Some people may even ask, “Well what’s so bad with this? Why can’t I blow up with anger? I mean if the other person did something wrong then don’t they deserve it?”.
Well once again we need to look at that scripture from Exodus 34:6 which says, “6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”
So, we see that God is not only slow to anger, but he is also merciful and gracious. And that is why “blow anger” is problematic. “Blow anger” shows the other person no grace and no mercy. “Blow anger” has complete tunnel vision as it just sees the need for immediate justice and vengeance. Once again, “blow anger” fails the other person by not seeing the sinner behind the sin and not patiently sticking around with them to help them learn, grow, and change.
But what exactly is patience? What does it mean to be “slow to anger”? Well, being “slow to anger” is most beautifully seen in Jesus Christ on the cross. On the cross we gave Jesus every reason to be impatient with us. Yet he did not blow up with rage and he did not walk away with indifference.
Rather, Jesus stayed on the cross and patiently endured the hard circumstances, completed his work on the cross and brought us redemption. And it was through this patience on the cross that he brought us new life in him. It was through this patience on the cross that he brought us back to God to be reborn as children of God.
Glory be to God that he saw us sinners behind our sin. Glory be to God that he chose to be patient with us and through that patience he saved us and gave us hope! May the patience we have received in the gospel move our hearts towards being more patient with others through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit!
Questions for Reflection
- What are some times in your life that you received patience from someone?
- What are some times in your life that your experienced God’s patience?
- Where are some areas in your life that you can live out “patience”?
 The Holy Bible (ESV)
 The Holy Bible (ESV)