(1 Corinthians 13)
Many of you may be familiar with the words the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth 2,000 years ago: "Love is patient; love is kind. ... patiently endures all."
The text often is heard during marriage ceremonies for its poetic beauty and its focus on love. It is the hope of those being married that love will indeed bear with grace all they likely are to encounter in their years together. And, if these newlyweds are thinking along the same lines I was more than 40 years ago, they are absolutely convinced their love couldn't be any more secure and strong.
Well, sooner or later we all know that reality will set in; not the kind of so-called "reality" we see on TV, but real life that happens off camera. It is then that it will be most helpful to better understand what Paul was trying to say to a "real-life" church dealing with real problems that are not resolved before the commercial break.
Those problems will find resolution, not with a smarmy kind of puppy love or toe-tapping patience, but rather with God's love and biblical patience. The ancient Greek word Paul used for patience in this particular letter is taken from two separate words: far off plus anger. Paul knew that our impatience was driven by anger at some level and was likely to interfere in relationships. So, putting anger far off suggests that caution must be taken when we begin to feel impatient with our spouse especially, but it isn't such a bad idea for all of our encounters with others.
When David stood over the fallen King Saul, he showed this kind of patience by putting his anger far off and refusing to plunge the sword for the final blow. But it is not just those who reach the summit who must rein in their vengeance, that anger-driven need to "get even." Those who live under great stress physically, emotionally or spiritually are no less called upon to exhibit biblical patience. It is far too common in our society to see "victims" lashing out in anger at those responsible for some perceived injustice.
Again, the ancient Greek presses us to reconsider. Patience also means "to remain under." There is an aspect of endurance involved here-bearing our burdens, even mistreatment, with patience. There is no finer example of this virtue than the Lord Jesus Christ's hanging on a cross asking forgiveness for his persecutors. Jesus put his anger far off. Yes, he was indeed angry, but notice where he placed it: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!"
He did not direct that anger at his nearby persecutors. God can handle our anger better than any human being. Send your anger far off to God first. That simple step likely will prevent the inevitable need to apologize later on. It just may save a cherished relationship.
Woods-Henderson is the pastor at Northway Presbyterian Church in Loyalsock Township.