Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord …. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged … As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. James 5: 7, 10
I commend to you all of our Sunday reading from James (5:7-10), as it talks about what is, for most of us, the hardest part of living faithfully in the world today: patience. I absolutely loathe, for instance, standing in line (Disney World, take note), so it is small wonder that being patient with the bigger things (like the return of Jesus, the remaking of the world into the reign of God, for starters) with any sense of grace? Yesterday, I listened to the evening news as they reported on two men who opened fire in a Jewish grocery in Jersey City, killing three innocents inside, plus a police detective, before they were themselves killed violently. On Saturday, the 14th, we will commemorate 7 years since 26 other innocents were killed by a mentally ill young man in Sandy Hook. All around us we can easily sense a growing unease with the world the way it is and one might ask, “How can I possibly be PATIENT with all that is going on?!”
St. James (above) did not imply that we do nothing as we await the renewal of the world in Christ. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Jesus has done the unforgettable and irreversible work of salvation. We must learn patience with each other, therefore, if the world is to ever truly change and realize the kingdom of God already instituted by Christ. Patience is actually a mark of love. We can speak truth to folks who we feel perpetuate violence, injustice, or simple unkindness but Christ asks that we do it in love or, in other words, patiently. Patience does not imply passivity or acquiescence but it always exemplifies a person who knows the love of Jesus. Dr. King was not a do-nothing prophet but he never wrote off the very people who were making life impossible for people of color in America, because he loved them; he knew that Christ loved them, too. Love, with patience, really can change the trajectory of the many difficult conversations we are called by God’s justice to have. Are we able to stand in that long line of life, sometimes with people who jostle, complain, and hurt others and, yet, endure with a patience born of love? I will, dear Lord, with your help.