One of the writers of the Jesus story, Paul, begins his famous expose on love with this saying, “Love is patient.” You have probably heard this saying many times. It’s read at most Christian weddings. (At those weddings you don’t hear it read, it’s usually because the bride and groom have heard it at too many weddings!) I personally prefer the more classic translation, “Love suffers long,” because it is more provocative. “Long suffering” says something to me that I’m not comfortable with. Patience is usually understood as waiting a long time. When we realize patience is suffering a long time, it hits our heart in a different way. There is a big difference between waiting and suffering.
Love suffers long because the lover realizes their beloved one is imperfect. True love is not given because the recipient deserves it. Love is given because the lover is willing. Love gives a person room to be in process. In this way, love is willing to suffer because true love knows that people are growing. Love is willing to accept someone as they are. Love knows full well that no one will reach perfection this side of heaven. That’s why love is so messy, yet gloriously rewarding.
The love of God displays this kind of patience. You and I know how challenging and undeserving we can be. Think about it for a minute and many instances will come to mind. We understand how little we trust and how much we try to run from God. How our agendas can get in the way of our relationships. How we love ourselves more than we love God and others. Yet God’s love continues to flow to us and through us, by the Spirit. Jesus said that the greatest love was to lay down one’s life for a friend. Then He embodied true love by dying for you and me.
So today, dear friend, suffer long in love. Give room for people to be who they are, believing that God is at work in them. Be patient in love. And when you do not have any love to give, receive love from Jesus who suffered long because of His love for you.