“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” — Romans 8:22-26, Groanings of the Spirit (English Standard Version, 2001 by Crossway)
Patience is a word I am not good at heeding.
Like so many of us who grew up in the later part of the 20th century, we have grown accustomed to immediate gratification. We want what we want right now.
It seems that the entire country is tired of waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to be over, and right now! People are protesting and demonstrating the stay-at-home orders from Michigan as well as across the length and breadth of our great nation. It seems our collective patience has grown thin and is being thrown out the window, as the saying goes. We have had enough of our freedoms stifled by the government and other authorities.
Yet scripture tells us further on in Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
We are going through an extended time of tribulation, inconvenience, and testing.
The coronavirus is not the longest of trials that have tested Christians. Throughout history, Christ followers have had to deal with tyranny, injustice, persecution, and even the threat and reality of dying for this faith.
We are no different. As we cling to our faith in God through Jesus Christ, we must realize that we are in good company. The apostle writes in Hebrews, Chapter 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Endurance is also part of patience. Those two qualities of Christian character walk hand-in-hand with a person having a Christ-like attitude about any situation or trial you and I may be facing.
Is the current situation fair or just? That is one for the governmental powers to decide, because any edict or law enacted by any authority is tainted by human sin. There is no law passed by human agency that is without a flaw.
Yet, again, scripture speaks to us about such temporal authority and how a Christian ought to respond. Again, in Romans, Chapter 13, we read: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
You and I may not like what our governing authorities are doing, but that does not mean we should disobey just because we are uncomfortable having our freedoms curtailed. Jesus certainly did not like what the Sanhedrin or Pontius Pilot were doing to him, but he did not resist or seek to avoid the decree of his death on a cross. I know many Christians think that civil disobedience is part and parcel with Christian behavior, but, if you look to our Savior, that is just not the case.
Where does that leave us?
We need to understand that the life of a Christian is a life of service, sacrifice, and submission to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
If we can do that, even when it is tempting to go our own way, remember Jesus and realize that there are times when we must take a stance for the behavior that Christ modeled for us.
That attitude of giving your life for the sake of Christ and his kingdom is nothing new, but something we often forget.
Patience is a profound weapon of the Spirit. God looks for us to patiently endure through the current plague of COVID-19. God is looking for us to serve safely who and where we can. God is looking for us to show those around us what it means to live the life of a servant, bound to Christ, and marked with his cross forever.
The Rev. Randall (Randy) Conley is the pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Hubbard Lake. He is married to his wife of 21 years, Robbie. He has written articles on faith and theology for several publications in his denomination. He enjoys preaching, teaching and gardening at home.