Posted by: Anne | February 6, 2016

What does it mean that love is patient?

Question: “What does it mean that love is patient?”

First Corinthians 13 is the most beloved chapter in the Bible on love. Often recited at weddings, this chapter serves as a pattern for the ideal marriage. Yet many have not reflected on the larger context and its implications for today. In verse 4 we read, “Love is patient.” Three words fraught with meaning.

After making the point that love is a necessary ingredient in all ministry (verses 1-3), the apostle Paul begins to describe love. “Patient” is at the top of the list—“long” patience or “endurance,” according to some other translations. Godly love and a patient spirit go hand in hand.

An insistence on one’s own schedule is selfish, and it is opposed to godly love. Patient endurance and long-suffering are hallmarks of a loving character. Love melts away the impatience and frustration that so often hamper one’s dealings with others. When the object of one’s love fails or disappoints in some way, what is the proper response? According to 1 Corinthians 13:4, the loving response is patience.

The root of the Greek Bible word here is makrothumia, which is comprised of two shorter words: “macros”, which means “long”; and “thumia”, which means “passion” or “wrath.” Thus a very literal translation of the word might be something like: “long wrath.”

You have probably heard the expression before: He/she “has a short fuse”. When that is spoken about someone, it means that it doesn’t take much to get them upset. Say a word, and they get angry. Do something, and they quickly get offended. We say they “have a short fuse.” Well, the Bible tells us here that love is the opposite of that. Love has a “macro thumia”; it has a “long fuse”, if you will! In fact, that wouldn’t be a bad translation of this phrase: “love has a long fuse.” It is not easily angered or upset.

Now we need to remember that in Biblical Greek, this is a verb: “makrothumei.” We have translated it in English as if it were an adjective: “love is patient”, because we don’t really have a verbal form of “patient.” But just remember, in Greek, this is a verb: we might translate it something like, “love long-fuses”. The King James’ “Love suffers long” is actually one of the better translations of this verse.

And it “suffers long” and is “long-fused” towards people. In studying this word this past week, I was struck by how similar this word “patience” is in meaning to “perseverance.” They have some similar qualities. But “patience”, “makrothumia”, is almost always used regarding people, not just circumstances. You can persevere through circumstances, but you are patient with people – because you love them. Love is patient.

Basically, love is *being* patient.

Read more at the sources:
1st set quoted is from

2nd set quoted is from

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