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“Love Is Patient”

A Short Commentary On 1 Corinthians 13:4[a]

by Dr. Eitan Bar
2 minutes read

The Hebrew Bible frequently discusses the theme of patience, particularly highlighting God’s forbearance with Israel (e.g., Exodus 34:6; Proverbs 19:11; Hosea 3:1; Psalm 103:8). The Hebrew word for patience is conceptualized in two primary ways. The first uses the imagery of a “long nose,” suggesting that it takes a longer time for the “steam of anger” to be released, metaphorically speaking, denoting slowness to anger. The second concept is derived from the Hebrew word—sharing the same word stem—for suffering, which implies the capacity to endure much. Indeed, the ultimate demonstration of patience is seen both in Christ’s suffering and in God’s enduring patience with humanity.

Paul’s call for love to be patient was particularly poignant given the context of his letter. The Corinthian Church was marked by spiritual pride, disorder in worship, and disputes over gifts. In such an environment, patience to bear with one another’s failings, endure personal slights without quick retaliation, and remain committed to community harmony, although personal disagreements were essential.

In practical application, the patience described by Paul can profoundly transform personal relationships and community interactions. Emulating this kind of patience means cultivating an ability to manage one’s immediate reactions to annoyances, injuries, or slights. It involves a thoughtful restraint where one might instead feel tempted to quick anger or harsh emotional responses. In this context, patience involves the ability to manage one’s emotions. Furthermore, it means enduring challenges and hardships—not threats or abuse—in relationships without giving up on the other person or withdrawing affection and support, recognizing that true love often involves a sacrificial and enduring commitment.

Moreover, applying this patience in daily life can lead to deeper and more resilient relationships. In family life, in friendships, and especially in community settings, patience allows for growth and healing. It allows individuals and groups to work through conflicts and misunderstandings without fracturing relationships. It nurtures a space where mistakes are acknowledged and forgiven, where people are given time to change and grow rather than being hastily judged, canceled, or written off.

Therefore, when Paul asserts that “love is patient,” he is not promoting a passive virtue but an active, powerful force that has the capacity to hold communities together. It challenges individuals to look beyond immediate gratifications or retaliations, urging them toward a long-term, steadfast commitment to care and to serve, much like the patience God shows humanity and Christ demonstrated through His life. This patience is a cornerstone of love that supports all other aspects of how love acts and interacts in a fallen world.

This article is from my book, “The Theology of Love: Christianity’s Most Underrated Doctrine.

The Theology of Love

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist