Last week we ordered a book on Amazon, and it was at our front porch in 24 hours. I often think about what my 16 year old self would think of the world in 2021. Much of the world is the same, but there are some notable differences in the past 30 years. One of those differences is the speed of delivery.
Back then you would order something from a mail-order catalogue by literally sending an order form in the mail, or maybe you would call in the order, and then you would do what? Wait. 6-8 weeks was a typical turnaround period to fill your order and get it mailed to you. I think back to the 1980s and early 1990s, and I wonder what could possibly take a company that long to fill an order? Now…? Amazon Prime can get just about anything you want to your doorstep in two days. Sometimes faster, especially now that their blue trucks are all over the place.
This week on the blog we are studying Colossians 3:12-17, a wonderful passage where the writer, the Apostle Paul, lists the new “clothes” that Christians are to put on. So far, he has talked about kindness, humility and compassion. Today we learn about gentleness and patience.
Take a look at the next word in Paul’s list of items we are to put on: “Clothe yourselves with gentleness.” This word, like the others, refers to both attitude and behavior. It is the opposite of harsh. It is speaking softly. Not raising one’s voice. Tone of voice is a powerful thing. In fact communication scientists tell us that the words we speak carry less significance than the non-verbals we use. Body language, facial expression, tone of voice. The classic example of this is something angrily yelling “I love you.” What message gets sent? It’s not love. In fact, the message that gets sent is the opposite of the words spoken! That’s how powerful tone can be. But it is not just words, gentleness should also be expressed in our behavior.
Paul is not saying that Christians should be mamby-pamby doormats. But we should avoid being harsh. Harsh tones and actions and volume can be manipulative and damaging. Some of you have learned how to use harshness. Some of you are experts are it, and you need to confess and repent. Instead, clothe yourselves with gentleness.
Finally, in the list in verse 12, Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with…patience.” The word Paul uses for patience is defined as “a state of emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation—‘patience’.” (Louw & Nida)
Remember the story I started this blog post with? 6-8 weeks waiting for something? How many of us say, “I have no patience for that”? We say we have no patience for a great many things, don’t we? We are a culture of impatience. Especially because of the internet, we are used to having access to so much immediately. Want to know something? Just Google it, and you have the answer immediately. We have been trained to expect immediacy, and thus we have a really difficult time waiting. But we Christians are to be clothed with patience.
You know the saying about patience? If you pray for patience, get ready to deal with a situation that will force you to practice patience. Covid, for example, has been a massive test in patience. We’re about 18 months into a pandemic, and we are growing more and more frustrated with how long it is taking to get past it.
Here’s the thing about learning patience: patience is not just being forced to wait. Patience is learning the right way of waiting. It is waiting with gentleness, with calm trust in God, just like the definition of patience above. Patience is learning to wait without complaining, without irritation. How are you doing with patience?
Here’s another way to look at patience: a Christian need not be in a hurry. We are people who radically combat hurry in our lives. That’s a hard one for me. I started my doctoral program almost three years ago. The first two years were filled with classes, and now the past year has been focused on writing the dissertation. I so want to be done with my dissertation, and it feels like it is going way too slow. I need to clothe myself with patience.
How do you struggle with patience? What will it look like for you to clothe yourselves with patience.
In Colossians 3:12, patience is the last piece of clothing on Paul’s list of items we should clothe ourselves with. But he is not finished. Check back to the next post, as Paul has more qualities, clothes, we are to put on!