We are justified through faith in Christ alone, which means that our right standing before God is grounded solely in the work of Jesus in our behalf (Gal. 2:15–16). But if we really trust in our Savior, we will love Him, and if we love Him, we will imitate Him (John 13:1–17). Since we can do this only if we are born of the Holy Spirit (3:5; Eph. 5:18), the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22–23 is a helpful way to measure whether we are actually imitating our Savior. As we see spiritual fruit in our lives, we know the Spirit is leading us.
Patience and kindness are two of the Spirit’s fruits (Gal. 5:22–23). Of course, patience is easy to see in the life of Christ. Jesus did not reject His disciples when they acted foolish and continued to misunderstand the nature of His mission. Instead, He kept on teaching them, and He retained Peter in His circle of disciples even though he denied Christ (John 18:15–27; 21:15–19). But the greatest evidence of His patience is seen in His submission to the cross and His refusal to call upon the angels to rescue Him on Calvary (Matt. 26:47–56).
Fear of those who have authority over us or who are otherwise more powerful than we are will readily motivate patience toward them. However, we sometimes find it next to impossible to show patience to those who have less power or authority than we do. Being long-suffering toward those who are somehow weaker than we are is a special form of patience. Christ’s patience is the ultimate example of patience because He is not less than the almighty God Himself (Titus 2:13). As God, He is patient with His people (2 Peter 3:9), and in imitating Jesus’ patience, we imitate God (Eph. 5:1). Moreover, the Lord is patient with all of humanity. He is within His rights to destroy us for our sin, but He patiently draws His elect to Himself and is long-suffering toward those whom He has passed over for salvation.
God’s kindness is seen in this patience, as well as in His willingness to bless us far beyond what we could ever deserve. Thus, we are called to echo His kindness in our relationships. We are not to be petty as we interact with others, but we must overlook minor faults with the love that “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Let this be our goal as we seek to show kindness to other people.
Showing patience to others takes a significant amount of wisdom. There comes a point when even God ceases to be patient with us, and there are times when we will need to stop being patient with someone for that person’s good. Still, patience should be our normal inclination, especially if we are in positions of authority over others. Let us seek wisdom in how to be patient, and may we always be kind to others.