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  • Writer's pictureRobert Hasler

Waiting on Patience

Practicing Christlikeness amid broken people and places



Washington, D.C. has been called many things but probably never a patient city. Participating in the daily commute on subways and sidewalks will showcase all manners of people bustling to and fro with hardly a minute to spare. 


Not much changes once you arrive at the office. The average day on Capitol Hill might include several deadlines, multiple meetings, and no less than a few fires to put out. In our age of instant communication, there is hardly an opportunity to slow down. Reporters need quotes, bosses need talking points, and constituents need answers. 


The hurried pace of Capitol Hill presents a dilemma for Christians who work there. There doesn’t seem to be any time to be patient, and yet the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:22 that patience is a defining characteristic of the Christian life. What are we to do?


First of all, we must remember that slowing down and not losing our temper in the midst of chaotic situations is only one aspect of patience. In fact, it is only the surface. Patience, as it is meant here in Galatians 5, implies much more than simply keeping your cool. 


The pastor and theologian, J.I. Packer defines patience as “the Christlike reaction to all that is maddening.” The Bible identifies two maddening things in particular and calls us to respond with Christlike patience. Let’s take them each in turn. 


The first is patience with others. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, the Apostle Paul calls for patience in a specific context: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” It’s one thing to exercise patience in traffic, but what about when a coworker drops the ball on a project and leaves you out to dry? Or what about the boss who never offers a word of encouragement or the intern who can’t seem to get to work on time? Christlike patience does not mean keeping a smile on your face while you explode inside. After all, Paul suggests different circumstances require different approaches. Still, whether we are admonishing, encouraging, or helping, we are to do so with Christlike patience. 


Christ demonstrates that kind of patience throughout the Gospels. Think about our Savior’s relationship with Peter, a disciple who was undoubtedly eager to serve and follow Jesus but often struggled to fully grasp Jesus’s teachings (Mark 8:31-33) and infamously failed to keep his most solemn promise (Mark 14:66-72). Sometimes Jesus responded by rebuking Peter but not always. Still, no matter what, Jesus never abandoned Peter. He never belittled Peter or accosted him for his failings. Rather, Jesus, as God incarnate, exemplifies what the Old Testament says about God: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6)


Praise God that he is slow to anger, especially when we consider our own sin. How often do we, like Peter, deny God in our words, thoughts, and deeds. And yet, he does not punish us as we deserve. For he delights in seeing us return to him in repentance. He is slow to anger, but quick to forgive. Like the father of the prodigal son, he does not see us coming down the path with arms crossed and brow furrowed, muttering curses under his breath. Rather, he runs to meet us, embraces us in his arms, and clothes us with his finest garments. What would embodying this kind of Christlike patience to broken people look like in your office?


Responding with Christlike patience to broken people is one thing, but what about broken circumstances? What about long seasons of suffering and trials? What does patience look like then?


Sometimes periods of suffering are the result of sinful actions on the part of another. Sometimes they are simply the realities of living in a fallen world. Regardless, being patient in such miserable conditions can be exhausting. However, we can take comfort in God’s sovereignty. Nothing, not even the worst of situations, happens apart from his sovereign control. When we remember that, and that God uses suffering to grow us into the image of Christ (Romans 5:3-4), we can pray along with David: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).


Moreover, we know that a day is coming when there will be no more suffering. We look to the day when we see Christ face-to-face and enjoy eternal life with him in his kingdom. In the meantime, patience during this earthly life requires, as the Apostle Paul says, hope upon hope (Romans 8:25). As those who have been filled with the firstfruits of the Spirit, we have every reason to hope that the Lord will finish the good work that he has started in us (Philippians 1:6). Even the hardest of circumstances are but temporary for we have eternal life in Jesus Christ. 


Everywhere we go we will find broken people and broken circumstances. Capitol Hill is no exception. In that environment, Christians have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the Christlike patience that leads to forgiveness and hope. Pray that the Spirit would cause this fruit to bloom within you and wait patiently for those opportunities to glorify God by putting it into practice. 




Robert Hasler is Project Leader of Ministry to State's Public Theology Project and cohost of The Statement.


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