Faith in Christ may arrive in one’s heart suddenly and unexpectedly, and the impatience of addressing an immediate temporal human physical or spiritual need is often the hallmark of Christian action.
But considered patience, not unthinking rashness, is the key to Christian life, understanding and joy.
That’s because Christ is complete and we are not.
Christ offers us the lifelong continuum of an ever-growing relationship that eclipses the inconveniences of the moment (see “light and momentary troubles,” 2 Corinthians 4:17) and stretches into the joyful, restful peace of eternity. We can come upon our faith in a moment, spring into action the moment after that, and always know there is more Kingdom work to do and more about Christ to learn. Anyone can “be a Christian” right now, but no one can live a Christian life all at once. Would anyone ever say, “I’m a complete Christian?” No. We are, in this life, unfinished business.
The very end of the Gospel of John (21:25) says that if everything Jesus did was written down “the whole world would not have room for the books.” That tells me not only that Jesus did a lot of stuff but that there is a lot more stuff – infinite and eternal stuff; stuff like loving God, loving others, and witnessing for Christ – for us to do as well.
So much to do and learn, in fact, that patience isn’t likely to be the first thing a Christian learns.
Lifelong Christians may or may not have the same frantic pacing as late-to-the-party believers like me, but they have the same sense of urgency of their faith. It’s not the urgency of work for work’s sake, but the urgency of love for love’s sake. And it is patience that ultimately provides the proper Christian perspective and witness of love.
The Bible plainly tells us that love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4) and that love is a fruit of the spirit, along with peace, patience, kindness, etc. (Galatians 5:22). Jesus’ love is seen not only in his sacrifice, but in his relentless patience: he keeps coming after us. The best way to demonstrate our Christ-like love is to exhibit patience instead of frustrations with the people, circumstance and things around us.
This is one of those lessons that, as a Christian, I am constantly learning and constantly failing at (see Romans 7:16-20; re: “doing what we know we shouldn’t”). But when I do occasionally get it right, peace, joy and understanding come into focus.
That’s something worth growing toward.
Even if we never completely succeed, we can trust that Christ already has.
Walters (email@example.com) has patience for, say, Christmas shopping but not for stop lights. Go figure.