I have a confession to make. I used to get home from school, and listen to this song. I might cringe now when I hear it. It’s pretty awful. But teenage me must’ve found something meaningful in it. The lyrics are rock n’ roll romance. (I think it was Axl Rose’s whistling intro which really caught my attention..)
The patience that Paul writes about in Galatians and in his other letters, is something more than the soppy sentiment of this song, or the equally slushy Take That hit of the same name. Just like our previous posts, we will look at patience as part of our Christian mission and then see where it takes us.
What is patience? Is it just waiting for our turn to speak? Is it those terminal minutes on hold at the utility company? Is it a boring waste of our precious time? Or is it a gift from God; a fruit of The Holy Spirit, there for the edification and building up of the church?
We live in a culture that doesn’t do patience. We like our food fast. We like our TV now. We want the test results immediately. We want to go the quickest way. Getting lost isn’t an adventure. We will half-listen to everything. We like to multi-task. We want a response. We want it now. We want the church full today. We want it all to be sorted. Being patient is boring. Nothing happens fast enough. Where are the results…?
The patience that Paul writes of in Galatians has the echoes of a different way. It carries ideas of deference, self-deprecation, waiting with confidence and endurance. The KJV translation is long-suffering. This puts into perspective our ‘now’ culture. We don’t like any kind of suffering. But we know that Paul encourages us to be long-suffering as a vital part of being a Christian (e.g. the end of Philippians 1).
Can we defer our Christian mission? Can we wait with confidence for our part in God’s mission to become clear. Let’s encourage each other to endure. Yes it might end up being the ninth revision of the mission plan, yes there might be people just getting in the way, yes we might be frustrated at the pure inaction of things. But endurance is good for us. If our hope and message is worth passing on to others in our community, and we believe it is, then it’s worth waiting for. Waiting for the right time. Waiting for an opportunity. Waiting for the right team to make it happen.
Patience as a fruit of the spirit is unfashionable and possibly gets overlooked in Paul’s writings. Mainly because it takes the onus away from us. When we are waiting for something, we often have to surrender control to something or somebody else, we cannot control the bus, the postal service, the healthcare professionals or the prospective employer; however much we might want to! The same is true when we are waiting for something to happen in Christian mission. The way patience will become a fruit that we taste in our Christian mission, is by deferring to God and his timing and his character. If we allow that to be our mission, then our church’s mission might flourish. All we need is just a little patience….