The phrase "love is patient" is part of a well-known Bible verse found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which is often referred to as the "Love Chapter" or the "Love Passage." The full verse is as follows (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV):
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
Love is Patient
The opening statement in this passage, "love is patient," serves as an essential foundation for understanding the nature of love. Here's the meaning of "love is patient" in this context:
Enduring Patience: This statement emphasizes the idea that true, godly love is characterized by patience. It means being slow to anger, not becoming easily frustrated or irritated, and showing forbearance despite difficulties or shortcomings.
Unwavering Commitment: "Love is patient" implies a steadfast commitment to caring for and nurturing the well-being of others. It suggests that love doesn't give up on people or situations when they become challenging or testing.
Long-Term Perspective: As described in this passage, love is not focused on immediate gratification or self-centered desires. It looks beyond the present moment and considers the long-term welfare and growth of the person or relationship it is directed toward.
Empathy and Understanding: Patience in love involves empathizing with others, understanding their struggles, and offering support and compassion, even when they make mistakes or face difficulties.
Divine Love: This passage, written by the Apostle Paul, is often interpreted as describing God's love for humanity and the type of love that believers should strive to embody in their relationships with others.
"Love is patient" is just the beginning of a broader description of love's attributes in the biblical context. It's a foundational concept in Christian ethics and serves as a guide for how Christians should love and treat others with kindness, understanding, and long-suffering, mirroring the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.
In the now-famous “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about love that is put into practice. More than just a feeling or emotion, Paul writes less about what love is and more about what love does. Transformed by the love of Jesus Christ, this kind of love should be a natural overflow of the believer’s heart and evident in everything they do. Unfortunately, for the Corinthian church, this was not always the case.
The words used in 1 Corinthians 13 to describe love are the kind of active verbs Paul was challenging the Corinthian church to adopt: patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, trust, hope, and perseverance. Love, Paul argued, was the greatest outward testimony of their inward transformation.
At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). He then goes on to say that if Christians are able to prophesy, can understand the mysteries of the universe, and give to the poor but ultimately lack love, their actions are meaningless, and there is no spiritual gain. Love must be at the root of everything Christians do and evident in their actions.
What Did Paul Mean by 'Love Is Patient'?
When Paul writes that “Love is Patient,” he urges Christians to adopt a purposeful, persistent, and perspective-driven love. This is why 1 Corinthians 13 is often recited at wedding ceremonies while exchanging vows.
Patient love is persistent love. It is the kind of love a wife or husband has for their spouse. “For better or for worse,” they have chosen to be faithful and remain committed to each other, and this commitment is long-standing.
Patient love also means choosing to love the other person even when you don’t feel like it, or it isn’t easy. Even when someone has wronged you, you choose to love them anyway and won’t call it quits just because you’re tired, frustrated, or hurt. In many ways, patient love is the perfect foundation for the other means of love Paul goes on to write about.
When you have committed yourself to a type of love that isn’t self-serving or short-sighted but rather persistent and focused on the well-being of others, you learn to act kindly towards those you are called to love. You become more forgiving, gracious, and trusting.
Love Never Fails
In the context of marriage, patient love describes God’s love perfectly. Even when we are unfaithful or unloving, He remains faithful and patient. His love is steadfast and long-standing. This is the kind of love He challenges Christians to have for others.
Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to be patient in their love for each other and patient in their love for others. There is unity, purpose, and strength when church members are patient and committed to loving each other. Furthermore, when Christians adopt a patient love for the world, they develop a kingdom perspective that allows them to see people through the eyes of Christ. People are seen as precious, and Christians aren’t tempted to rush God’s timing or try to do too much on their own. They become more patient and persistent in their prayer and emphasize the little acts of love that have eternal significance. Patient love doesn’t look for immediate payoff or instant gratification either. It sees the big picture and focuses on the eternal worth of every human being, whether saved or not.
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Joel Ryan is an author, writing professor, and contributing writer for Salem Web Network and Lifeway. When he’s not writing stories and defending biblical truth, Joel is committed to helping young men find purpose in Christ and become fearless disciples and bold leaders in their homes, in the church, and in the world.