A Culture of Patience: He has shown His faithfulness to me
What is the most adhesive substance you have come across? Maybe you touched the sap of a tree once, or your child threw oatmeal down your favourite sweater or you call to mind the time you tried to shake that damp piece of paper of the sole of your shoe. We have a weed here in Scotland that we call sticky willies or sticky willows which are problematic to remove if they get tangled up in your clothes. Sticky...hard to shake off…difficult to get rid of...impossible to shift. To our minds in this context of cleanliness and remaining presentable these are negatives. But supposing we were to shift the context. Imagine that we were to say that these words describe the people that God has put in your life. Having sticky people in our lives is a gift. Having faithful people who won’t give up on us is evidence of God’s grace to us.
Having sticky people in our lives is a gift. Having faithful people who won't give up on us is evidence of God's grace to us.
As we have been thinking about the kind of culture the Gospel is designed to grow in our churches we have been able to think through the surrender, humility and gentleness that Ephesians 4 points us to. The next thing we get to consider is saved stickiness. The kind of faithfulness to and patience with one another that points to how God has dealt with us.
A culture of patience sounds like a group of people saying to one another: "I am not giving up on you." "I am in this with you." "You can’t get rid of me that easily." The original word for patience describes being long-tempered. How many long-tempered people do you know? Short? (check). Quick? (check). But long? It pictures the mind of relationships where we are communicating clearly with one another that ‘it is going to take a lot and a long time for me to give up on you.’ It places frustration far off and anger in a distant area code.
We might think of the idea of patiently bearing with one another as putting up with one another. The sense we often apply is of persevering with one another as if there will be people for us to endure. But that is, I think, to miss the point of what this is about. We end each of our services at Harvest Glasgow with the phrase ‘You Are Loved’ but if we are not careful how we think of patience and forbearance actually better communicates ‘You Are Tolerated.’ The calling to patience is not to put on a face or be fake for the sake of some phoney peace.
The calling is to be faithful to one another so as to reflect something of God’s faithfulness to us.
The calling is to be faithful to one another so as to reflet something of God's faithfulness to us.
The song that sings of how God’s ‘love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me’ is so helpful in reminding our hearts of how our experience in the Gospel is designed to inform and transform our approach to being church family. It calls us to avoid being satisfied with fake friendship and rather to be willingly invested in faith-building faithfulness to one another.
Just consider for a moment the diagnosis/definition equation of Ephesians 2. We were spiritually dead (rejecting God), scarred by disobedience (rebelling against God), sin dependent (relying on things more than God) with the requisite sombre destiny of Hell. Yet God showed us His faithfulness. We have seen in the cross of Christ how God’s sovereign stickability is designed to love us, help us, free us, and give us purpose.
God’s faithfulness to you is designed to create faithfulness in you. Faithfulness to Him first but additional to that and, in many ways, as expressive demonstration of that towards others. So when you are struggling to be patient or faithful towards someone God has placed in your life consider His sticky, steadfast love which has secured your soul to His Son.
When that happens, we see one another through the lens of God’s steadfastness (Psalm 26:3); we seek to mirror God’s unrestrained mercy (Psalm 40:11); we settle on faithfulness as the pattern of our lives (Prov. 3:3); and we remind ourselves of the blessing of God’s fresh faithfulness every day (Lam. 3:22–23).
A culture of patience grows among people who have clarity about what God puts up with from us and the price Jesus paid for us to have these relationships with one another. We are church family because Jesus was faithful. We are the people of God because God has been patient with us. We stick together best when the Gospel sticks to our hearts and minds most.