A hermit may be able to live for years without ever saying an unkind word to anyone. Of course, no one is around to test his patience. It’s fairly easy to be nice to myself.
But the Bible knows of no hermit Christians. We are called to live in relationships with other people, which means that family members, friends, and neighbors sometimes rub us the wrong way. A spouse wakes up in a grouchy mood. A child tracks mud on a freshly-mopped floor. A grocery store clerk accidentally scans the same item twice. A neighbor’s dog sniffs out a bag of trash on the back porch and tears it open. A coworker offers everyone else unsolicited advice but performs her own job sloppily.
My response to such tests reveals my true character and level of spiritual maturity. Paul says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Plainly, impatience is inconsistent with Spirit-led living. It’s also inconsistent with the greatest of all virtues: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
An impatient person is easily irritated by the shortcomings of others. Displeasure shows itself in his facial expressions, gestures, exasperated sighs, and stinging words. But a patient person bites his tongue and quells the annoyance swelling in his breast.
A mature Christian finds grace for others by reflecting on the love of Jesus. In countless ways we provoke him. At times we are ungrateful, stubborn, unbelieving, cowardly, thoughtless, selfish, greedy, dishonest, impure, or insincere. The Lord forgives us, though. He is patient.