The first thing Saint Paul tells us about love is that “Love is patient.”
Now, unless Saint Paul means that love is sick or injured and in need of medical care, he is using the word as an adjective. It is a word we use all the time (i.e. “Be patient”) but it may not be a word we really pay attention to or really listen to when we hear it. That is the trouble with familiarity.
What does it mean to be patient?
The word “patient” comes from the Latin of the early 14th century (that’s the early 1300s for you non-historians). The Latin patientem meant “bearing or enduring without complaint.” So the first quality of love is that it is something that bears and endures but does not complain.
But what is born and endured without complaint? The dictionary I use says that “Patient” is bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.
So love is enduring and bearing provocation. That is bearing and enduring someone who provokes us, whether they are doing it deliberately or not. We endure it without complaint. We endure those who are attacking us and we bear their attacks. We endure those who try to provoke anger in us and we respond by not getting angry or complaining about their behavior. In short, it is bearing with and enduring our enemies. And how do we love our enemies as we are instructed by our Lord and Savior? We put up with them. We do not respond to them with anger. We do not complain about them. We remain calm, tolerant, accepting, and understanding.
The World English Dictionary defines “Patient” as “enduring trying circumstances with an even temper” and adds that being “Patient” is being “tolerant; understanding.”
So our first step in learning how to love the way God wants us to love (and the way God is love) is by learning how to be patient. This means learning that part of how we love is:
bearing with unbearable people and circumstances;
not complaining about people or things;
enduring attacks without anger;
meeting hostility and mistreatment with calm;
(If you are not sure what some or all of that means, then look them up and be it.)
We are to be these things in our interactions with God (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength — the most important commandment according to Jesus) and we are to be these things with others (Love your neighbor as yourself — the second most important commandment according to Jesus).
They will know we are disciples of Jesus Christ by our love; therefore, they will know we are disciples in part by our patience.