“It is patience which firmly fortifies the foundations of our faith. It is this which lifts up on high the increase of our hope. It is this which directs our doing, that we may hold fast the way of Christ while we walk by His patience. It is this that makes us to persevere as children of God, while we imitate our Father’s patience.” -Cyprian, On the Good of Patience, 256 AD.
The popular expression “patience is a virtue” derives from a fifth-century epic poem, “Psychomachia” (which translated means “soul war”). In the narrative, virtues and vices are personified forces that duel one another on the battlefield. One of the fights is between Patience and Anger. Anger assaults Patience with her attacks. Patience is able to hold her ground and take every attack Anger throws at her. Anger is so frustrated that her assaults are not working that she self-destructs, killing herself. Patience is victorious because she endures the punishment of Anger and does not respond in kind.
Love is the greatest Christian virtue, and patience is a vital component for being a loving person. While the statement “patience is a virtue” is not found in the Bible its sentiment is there. The opening line to the Apostle Paul’s love hymn is “love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Furthermore, patience is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 ESV). To be like Christ is to be patient. It is to be able to endure hardship, to resist being flustered easily and acting out in fear or pride. It is to be at peace knowing that God is in control.
The early church grew because of it’s patience. Alan Krieder’s book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, explores how patience was vital for the flourishing of Christianity before Constantine’s conversion. The church grew because their was an emphasis on the slow process of creating disciples of Jesus Christ rather than just winning converts. It was common for new believers to take up to three years of christian training before they were baptized. The model is based on Christ’s ministry, who took three years to train his disciples before they were ready to live out the great commission of making disciples of all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The emphasis of quality Christianity over quantity Christianity led to genuine christian communities that reflected the lifestyle of Jesus Christ.
Without patience it is impossible to follow Jesus. If we are impatient we will become dismissive of the Heavenly Father’s love for us. Patience keeps our hearts humble. It is what allows the Holy Spirit to work within us. Patience is a virtue indeed.