The Delightful Purpose of God’s Patience

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? – Ezekiel 18:23

Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4

This photo of a fir tree in Alaska with water dripping from some of the needles, reminds me of God’s “grace, like rain, flowing down on me.” (Photo taken July 2016)

I have a friend who is not married and living with a woman to whom he has been faithful (as far as I am aware) for 20 years or more. In fact when I discovered they were not married, I was a bit taken aback; I had no clue prior to his admission. His admission, furthermore, wasn’t so much an admission as it was a matter of fact. I think he was being just a bit provocative by telling me, seeing if I would react or challenge him. Another two friends have found each other late in life and appear to be living together. I won’t draw any conclusions about them, but I do wonder. Then there are others who simply don’t seem to care about God in the least, and still others who are antagonistic toward God and religion. 

I wish I knew how to speak into their lives about their lifestyles, choices, faith, or unbelief. Perhaps a more courageous person would offer a challenge. I’m thinking of Jesus and the woman at the well (cf. John 4), asking her to call her husband and then challenging her about her relationship with the man with whom she lived. But I don’t even know how to get the conversation going. 

My approach of kindness, patience, and quiet faithfulness is neither bold nor brave. To some extent it is a bit of a cop-out – a live-and-let-live approach to life that is so very politically-correct these days. Perhaps I could get a bit more of an edge, offer a bit more challenge, poke a little bit here and there. 

On the other hand, however, I am comforted by these verses: God is kind and patient. Though not without purpose, God waits, yearns, offers opportunities and spaces for people to come to their senses, and receives them with grace and love when they repent. Rather than growing more bitter and resentful as he waits for us to come to our senses, he waits in anticipation of sinners finding grace and life with him, and not in their sinful pursuits. 

Perhaps that is the key to my dilemma: patience in anticipation of offering grace. I might rather imagine myself as some sort of modern-day John the Baptist, but I’m not. And the people he challenged most harshly were not the sinners but the self-righteous religious leaders. So I will pray for these friends. If I have the opportunity I might ask them about their living arrangements and their relationship with God. But I will surely stand at the ready when the time comes that they seek God’s ways and grace. I will delight that God’s patience has had its intended effect. 

Truth is, they’re not the only ones who need God’s patient grace. I do too, and I am deeply thankful for it.

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