The Merciful Patience of God
I have been studying Romans, it can be a tough doctrinal book, lots of talk of righteousness, judgment, propitiation, spiritual sonship, and throw in the paycheck for sin, well, let’s flip over to Psalms and read of green pastures and quiet waters. (Selah)
But I have to say, reading Romans 2:4 caused me to take pause. “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (NLT)
God is patient. There are two major words used in the NT for patience, first hupomone (Greek) – bearing up under, motivated by hope, it is being patient in circumstances and with things. (See Hebrews 12:1) But Paul is emphasizing the other – makrothymia, a most beautiful word, used only 14x in the NT. One is in Galatians 5:22 among the God qualities listed as one of the Fruit of the Spirit. It is most often translated as longsuffering, it is relational, patience with people (sometimes the long and the suffering trip over each other when dealing with others) and yet it is motivated by mercy. What a picture it paints, ‘longsuffering’ – meaning self-restraint before proceeding to action. Mercy. The quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so. Mercy!
It is evident in mankind’s cycle that we misunderstand God’s judgment, with the seeming lack of it – thinking we will ‘get ours’ in the end. However, we fail to see and or acknowledge God’s patience! His patience does not overlook. His patience offers opportunity. As mentioned above, patience is before – I believe this is what Paul is talking about: “It simply sees further than man. It has the end in view. It has true insight which knows best.”*
Man misuses God’s patience. Many seem to operate under an invisible banner of GRACE – thinking, God has, is and will extend His grace, with the attitude “After all, I’m a Christian, I have God’s favor!” Oh you do and He will, but carrying that mindset to everything, including our repeated disobedience, as if a warm blanket to cover and excuse our behavior, the behavior we KNOW is not God-honoring. If we were to really take a hard look at it, we treat God as our ‘clean-up boy.’ (Spiritual clean-up on aisle 3). Folks we become grace-abusers. I have been there, done THAT! I ended up face down in the muck and mire. (I’ll take that ‘Selah’ now!) God gave me what I didn’t deserve, (grace) held back what I do (mercy). God’s holy coordination in action!
God is wonderfully kind, tolerant and patient with us! May we NOT take it for granted, abuse it or misuse it! His merciful and gracious qualities are intended to turn us!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.”– Hebrews 10:24)
*Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (hupomone) the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)