Be Patient with One Another

Ephesians 4:1-3

Last week CNN reported on a story that originally began on November 16th of last year. Maybe you heard about it when it was on blast at CNN, Fox News, and other news outlets where they talked about it 24 hours a day for 5 days. Maybe you are not really tuned into social media so you might not have heard about the original story. Or maybe you heard about it and in the age of moving from one moral outrage to the next, you have forgotten all about it.

The story is a follow up of an incident between Dominique Moran who was working at a Chipotle in St. Paul, Minnesota and a group of young African Men. A video went viral when Mrs. Moran asked the young men to prepay for their food, but allowed a white customer to order without prepaying. In an instant Mrs. Moran was labeled a racist and within 24 hours she had received tens of thousands of hate messages and death threats. She was fired from her job and was forced to leave the college she was attending on a softball scholarship. She was a villain and this video was plastered all over social media and the nightly news. Her mom in Southern California even saw the video of her daughter on their 6:00 news.

Her story is not unique. It seems that every week, if not several times during the week we see the same story. Someone posts a poorly shot video or picture they have taken with their phone, accuses the person of doing something racist, and in ten minutes a community of keyboard commandos go into full attack mode. The picture or video goes viral and the person is instantly condemned as guilty, publicly shamed, which results with them losing a job, losing a scholarship, and being treated as a pariah on society.

A few days or weeks later someone does some digging, asks good questions, and we find out that the story is a lie. Mrs. Moran is not a racist, the teenagers have a history of ordering food and trying to pay with a stolen credit card. While the card is being declined, they take the food and run out of the store. So they are not refusing to offer a service, to to serve these young men because of their color. They just don’t want to be robbed again.

There is this old saying that a lie will go around the world while truth is still putting its boots on. In our society that has everything available to them at an instant, we have forgotten the virtue of patience. I try to remind folks, it seems like every few days, when a new moral outrage hits social media what Solomon said in Proverbs 18:17 There are two sides to every story. The first one to speak sounds true until you hear the other side and they set the record straight. If we will just take a moment to practice a little patience we will save ourselves and others from unimaginable pain. 

While I believe that our lack of love and patience can be tied to social media, that’s not where it started. Our lack of patience began back in October 1959 when Jiffy Pop popcorn made its fist appearance.

I can tell by your faces that you are having a hard time following my logic, so let me explain. Before Jiffy Pop everything we did took time. You see Jiffy Pop was the first convenience food. Before Jiffy Pop hit the store shelves there was a process you had to g thought if you wanted popcorn. You had to find the pan you were going to use, measure the right amount of oil, and the right amount of seed.  Then you waited for an eternity as the oil heated up enough to cause that magic moment when the seed explodes. 

But on that fateful day in 1959 you could go to the store pick up a little tinfoil pan and stick it in the drawer. When you wanted Pop Corn you just put the pan on the stove and shake it for 3 minutes and the house filled with the marvelous aroma of freshly popped, heavily buttered popcorn, and your belly was filled with Popcorn in a Jiffy. 

That was the moment when we began to be seduced by the possibility of the instant. Next thing you know we are crossing the Atlantic in a supersonic jet faster than you good get a good night sleep. The interstate highway cut a trip into half the time and we could get anywhere in record time.

Then came the microwave oven, instant oatmeal and coffee, and TV dinners. Now we get our news as it happens. The morning headlines are already old by lunch time. We won't settle for anything less than real-time stock quotes. Waiting for anything has become not just an inconvenience; it has become a cultural sin. We are addicted to the immediate.

Now immediate isn’t always a bad thing. If you or a loved one is in the middle of a medical emergency, immediate care is a very good thing. You see it’s not the speed of life that is wrong I think the problem comes when our addiction to immediacy spills over into our relationships with other people.

If there is something that we believe needs to be changed in our relationships we get the courage to bring it up and talk about it and if the change doesn’t happen immediately we get frustrated with the other person. 

You ask your husband to show more affection, you ask your wife to give you a little personal time so that you can get your bearings, you ask your children to be respectful and 15 minutes later when you walk into Wal-Mart and he doesn’t grab your hand, or you are outside enjoying the silence and she comes out and asks you what your thinking, or the kids are bouncing off the walls you throw up your hands and say, Things will never change. Well, they may not. Or it may be that you need to give that person a little more than 24 hours to change a pattern of behavior that took decades to develop.

We do it with our siblings, our co-workers, even strangers in traffic. I don't have any scientific or sociological studies to back it up, but I'll bet there's a correlation between Jiffy Pop popcorn and road rage. It’s just harder to be patient than it ever has been.

Well that’s your lengthy introduction let’s get to the lesson. As Paul was writing instructions to the Church Family in Ephesus, he takes a moment to talk about the unity that must exist in the Body of Christ. In our text that was read for us this morning Paul writes in verse 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Being patient with one another is a tall order in a Jiffy Pop world.

We need to be patient with each other because we have all sinned.

One of the things that is so attractive about the Apostle Paul is how deeply devoted he was to Christ. He had sacrificed everything to become what Jesus had called him to be. His greatest desire was for everyone he came into contact with to also believe and live with that same passion and devotion. Paul reminds the Christians at Ephesus about the Church that Jesus established at His death; this is the blue print, this is the intention. He says a church that is a place where people love one another, it is a place where they work at creating an atmosphere of joy. The church family is a place where they promote peace between each other because we have learned how to be patient with one another. 

Actually the word that Paul uses in our text is that Children of God strive to be μακροθυμ?α (MarkRoth-A-me-a) which means that we willingly preserver, and endure the wrongs of others. The King James version says that we are to be long suffering with one another, because we understand one another.

This is where I want to have a little story time with Jeremy: Rylan was born in January of 2004 and because of the flu we were told to keep him home for 6 weeks. So he attended his first worship service on February 22nd 2004. I remember that day so vividly because that was also the day that I was fired from our church. I was frustrated, I was angry, I was hurt with the people in that church, and with God. I poured my heart into that Church, I have given up other opportunities to stay with that church family, and I had to support a wife, a three year old, and a 6 week old baby. I made the decision that I was done with ministry and pretty much done with church. We packed up and moved in with my in laws until I could figure out what our next step would be. It was during that time I took a job delivering appliances at a local hometown Sears dealership. When I wasn’t making deliveries I worked the sales floor and sold everything from dishwashers to hammers.

The store was located in a small strip mall that included a furniture store, book store, subway, and a laundry mat. The guy who owned the laundry mat would often come in a buy a wrench, or screw driver, fix something in his laundry mat and then return the tool for a full refund. This became a big problem for our owner who then had to sell the tools at a discount. One day, I was especially frustrated at how my life was going, I was living in someone else house, struggling to pay my bills, selling lawn tractors when the laundry mat guy comes walking in with a screw extractor set he had bought a few hours before. He said he changed his mind and wanted to return the item and get his money back. I am not sure why, but I told him that we didn’t rent tools, and if he had used them I would not give him a refund. He said they were unused and demanded his money back. I took one of the extractors out, smelled it and said it smelled like wood (Which now that I think about it was pretty weird), so I knew he had used it and there would be no refund. He lost his mind and began to cuss me, my family, and even my dog. He threatened to take me out back and teach me to never call him a liar again. And in the middle of his red faced rant I began to laugh at him. I mean I was at least a foot taller than he was, out weighed him by a hundred pounds and was 30 years younger. He stormed out of the store, promised that he would never return, and I went back to stocking the shelves.

As I went to the refrigerator section and started to make some room to bring a new refrigerator out I had a thought. I asked myself why didn’t it bother me when that customer talked about me and my poor dog? And then I thought how bad it would have wrecked me if that conversation would have happened inside a church building. For the rest of the day I wrestled with the question of why it was okay in a Sears and not okay in a Church? That night I prayed for the first time in weeks. And it was during that prayer that another thought entered my mind, I realized that my issue was not with God, and not with the church, my issue was that I expected people I went to church with to be perfect like Jesus. And if I was broken, and sinful, could it be possible that other Christians were also broken and sinful? Maybe, just maybe, I needed to learn how to be patient with folks who are also struggling and dealing with their own sins.

In Galatians 5 starting in verse 19 Paul lists some of the most disgusting and horrible things that humans can do: participating in corrupt sexual relationships, unbridled lust, idolatry, witchcraft, and other shameful vices. But he also mentions some other things, other sins, that good moral people struggle with like hatred, arguing, jealousy, anger, selfishness, contentiousness, division, envy of others’ good fortune, and drunkenness. Basically Paul is saying that you might not have sinned against God in such a way that you would have your picture on the 6 o’clock news but you are not a good, or sinless person. The ugly stain of sin exists in your life as well. All of us have been guilty of disappointing Jesus!

Everyone in this room has at one time or another has compromised our Christian convictions. Maybe we went along with someone or did something because we were intimidated or embarrassed to take a stand. Maybe we jumped into sin with the way we use our speech when we gossiped, lied, slandered people behind their backs, grumbled, or told filthy jokes or used filthy speech.

Maybe our sin was kept inside as we struggled with lust or covetousness. Maybe we have become so prideful in our accomplishments, our intelligence, our talents, our skill that we begin to believe that people are beneath us and not worth our time or energy. 

Maybe we’ve sinned by leaving undone things we knew we should have done, we refused to love, or forgive, or show compassion, or welcome people that are different from us. Maybe we were more worried about our own personal comfort or convenience and decided to withhold the blessings God intended for us to share.

No matter how together you seem to have it on the outside, when you point your finger at a fellow struggler, a fellow sinner it comes off as self righteous as the fox calling the weasel a chicken thief. God never called you to point out the shortcomings of others and make it more difficult for them to come to an understanding of His will or love. You and I have no business pointing accusing fingers! If someone falls into sin, we are called to lovingly and patiently point them back to God. We were not called to fix or save anyone, we were called to be honest with our brokenness and treat other broken people with kindness and understanding.

A mature Christian is a patient Christian, or we can say that backwards; the less patient you are the less mature in Christ you are. Paul is reminding us that we must be patient with our Christian brothers and sisters. While we have a certain obligation to teach, and even rebuke one another in love; the bottom line is that as long as we are struggling with our own sin we need to make sure that we are quick to extend patience to our follow strugglers. Whenever we are tempted to grow impatient with someone we need to stop and think about our own faults and how long suffering God has been with us.

When I read the gospels, one of the things that jump off the page is how often the disciples messed things up, how many times they fell short and let Jesus down, how often they operated off of little faith. And every time they walked in the flesh Jesus still called them to participate in what He was accomplishing in the world. There were times where we see the humanity of Jesus through glimpses of His frustration, like when the disciples were afraid of the storm on the sea, or when they couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy. But Jesus’ overwhelming response was not, O you of little faith. His overwhelming response was, Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. Luke 6:35 

This morning, Christ calls to to follow His lead and to be kind to those who are unfaithful and wicked. The essence of Christian faith is wrapped in the idea that because God is love, and right, that good will win in the end. We are not called to fight evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. We will not  win every battle, but we serve a God who will win the war.

Paul calls us back to a life that imitates Christ in 1 Corinthians 13, where his description of love begins with Love is patient. Those of us who believe in God, really and deeply believe that God is who He claims to be, and can do what He claims to be able to do, recognize that the only wise response to evil is love, because love will always have the last word.

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