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The Tragedy of the Impatient Heart

March 8, 2010

I Corinthians 13 is a remarkable passage to use in order to investigate the motives and idols of our heart.  How do we love?  Is our love patient and kind or is it envious and boastful?  What are we craving that prohibits us from loving others?

Sadly, I tend to read this passage without reflecting on the implications of the nature of how I love. Its overly familiar to someone like me who has been in the church for a number of years.  I read verse 4, “Love is patient” – ok, I must be more patient with others, my wife and children. Then, “Love is kind” – ok, I need to work on being kind. And on and on and on, until I’ve read the entire passage in a way that secures no possible change in my heart.

A perceptive reader, however, will read “love is patient” and then ponder, what does it mean for me not to be patient with others? It will mean a number of things, but at the very least it means that you value your own needs – perhaps idolizing them – in such a way that the needs of others become barriers to meeting your own.  It means that you crave your time in such a way that you will lash out against those who threaten it. You will be easily offended (they are wasting my time!), irritable and resentful (see 13:5), and will respond to others, not in light of the Gospel, but in light of your momentary lusts of the heart.

An even more perceptive reader will read this passage in light of what Paul has already written to the Corinthians.  He has rebuked them for not waiting for the poor among them to take the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11) and has urged them to care for one another as one body (chapter 12).  I Corinthians 12:26 describes the church as one body, where “if one member suffers, all suffer together.”   The tragedy of the impatient heart is that it idolizes its own needs and craves its own time to such an extent that it is unable to suffer with those who are suffering.  To the impatient, Scriptures writes, “Do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” (I Corinthians 11:22).

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