I find it sadly humorous that the people we have the hardest time being patient with are those class of hard-working people known as waiters and waitresses. Their very titles indicate that they are to “wait” on us, to be patient, conscientious, and hospitable. And, we take them up on that. Or, rather, we test them. “My food is cold. My chips are stale. My potatoes are too salty. I should get this meal free. I am definitely not leaving a tip.”
I have something to say here that may be a little controversial: the forgiveness and patience that Christ calls on us to extend even to our enemies must also extend to the waitstaff at the local restaurant.
I could also go on about Paul’s command that we “do everything without grumbling or questioning,” (Philippians 2:14) but I make it a point to only step on one toe at a time.
More importantly, though, God calls on us to become the waiters and waitresses of the world, to be servants of all and slaves of God. That is the very definition of the patience of God and the patience that God requires of us. He sent His Son to serve us by dying for us, and we must be willing to “pay it forward” to the people we encounter in this life.
Paul, commenting on his ministry style, says that this is his goal in interactions with all people, and especially the lost. In 1Corinthians 9:19, Paul writes, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” A servant to all. That takes a divine sort of patience.
For Paul, then, patience was not about waiting out mistreatment in the hopes that his enemy would get bored, or tired, or physically incapacitated, and the persecution would end. Patience was about becoming a servant to his persecutor.
That kind of patience is impossible without forgiveness, and, so, for Paul patience was also about mercy.
When the Psalmist, David, speaks of the patience of God he describes Him as being “slow to anger,” and He praises God for His patience in this way:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:8-10)
Can you say this about your responses to the waiters and waitresses you encounter? Your disgruntled co-worker? Your estranged in-laws? Your back-stabbing former best-friend?
Patience is, after all, waiting. Not waiting in the sense of letting time pass, but in the sense of serving. And the greatest service you can offer is to get over the wrongs done to you, forgive those who hurt you, and start actively loving them again. That’s the kind of patience God has toward us–every day of our lives–forgiving our sins, not counting our iniquities against us. That’s the kind of patience He expects us to extend toward others.
If we serve a God who waits then we must be people who wait.