It is interesting that the apostle reinforces patience with the phrase of bearing with one another. Patience suggests purposeful restraint. We find this illustrated in God, who in His divine forbearance did not impose His wrath prior to the incarnation of Christ (Rom. 3:25-26) and even now tarries in patience, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another.” (Col. 3:12-13, ESV)
A friend of mine recommended a book to me called The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire by Alan Kreider. He brought up the book in the context of discussing some training materials I had put together on the topic of forgiveness and he wanted to consider the place of patience in forgiveness.
I have yet to read Patient Ferment but the idea resonates with me. Bringing patience to the life and work of the church to foster distinctively Christian life, community, and ministry like fermenting wine accords well with Spirit-produced fruit.
Things do not happen overnight or by our own efforts. We engage in our holy calling through the activity of waiting on the Lord. Such waiting is not passive but pursuing with patient expectation. It is expectant of the Lord’s working in operational awareness that all we accomplish is by the hand of God (Isa. 26:12).
While a fruit of the Spirit in itself, patience also acts as a leaven to all the fruit of Christian character (excerpted from A Vine-Ripened Life, p. 73).
- Impatience has self at the center. Patience is driven by love that denies self and puts others first.
- Impatience is barren of joy. Patience approaches adversity or inconvenience while considering it all joy to encounter the trial.
- Impatience leads the assault on peace. Patience rests in God’s hand of providence and so is seasoned with thankfulness.
- Impatience breeds unkindness. It can be decidedly mean-spirited. Patience shows mercy.
- Impatience practices evil and inflicts harm. Patience puts goodness on display to the glory of God and benefit of neighbor.
- Patience exhibits faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Impatience fosters the opposite, promoting discord, strife, and those deeds of the flesh that are contrary to the fruit of the Spirit.
How does patience relate to forgiveness? Paul’s instruction to the Colossians gives us a connection. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12–13).
Patience is an active ingredient in fostering a forgiving spirit. Rather than reacting with a reflex of revenge, patience gives us room to consider God’s forgiveness of us as we are subjected to the offense of another against us. Patience wards off volatility and impulsiveness and helps us to keep our bearings of grace.