Christians in the General Election: Patience and Politics

by Kenneth L. Waters, Sr., Ph.D.

Simply put, patience is the will to wait. More pointedly, patience is the resolve to withhold visceral reaction and vengeful response to an offense in faithful anticipation of a God-ordered outcome. Paul uses the Greek word macrothymía in Galatians 5:22-23. This word can be translated as either “patience” or “longsuffering.” This shows that patience in Paul’s teaching involves a measure of discipline and endurance.

However, patience also involves trust that all is held in God’s hands. While we have assignments to fulfill in the unfolding of God’s will, the yield of those assignments depend upon God and not us. When our labor meets opposition, patience will have us commit our efforts to God in faith rather than obsess over the opposition as if anything depended upon either them or us. When we practice patience, we choose faith and hope over fear and despair.

Patience also involves the wisdom to know that how we conduct our activities is more important than the activities themselves. In the same letter where Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, he shares another agricultural metaphor about spiritual life. He says, “For whatever a person sows, that is what a person will reap” (Galatians 6:7, my translation). Patience will have us wait for the harvest we have sowed; but a heart of patience also realizes that the harvest we reap correlates with what we have sowed.

Slander, character assassination, misrepresentation, ridicule, false accusation, and violence frequently occur without those who engage in these behaviors realizing that they are sowing the seeds of their own undoing. The patient heart shaped by wisdom refuses to engage in these behaviors even when tempted to retaliate in kind. Such conduct ensures self-defeat.

No one expects agreement on political matters. What we can and should expect, however, is civility and fairness in public discourse and behavior. Moreover, we should model these traits. This election cycle has shown us the opposite, with little or no sign of improvement in the days ahead.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, however, we must exercise patience. We must not participate in negative discourse and behavior. We must model positive discourse and behavior. Our waiting then becomes active, not passive. We do so in faithful anticipation. How God will honor patient, loving discourse and behavior will often surprise us. Let’s be patient and see what God has in store.

Read articles in the Christians in the General Election Series:

Love and Politics by Robert Duke, Ph.D.

Joy and Politics by Stephen P. Johnson, DMA

Peace and Politics by Regina Chow Trammel, MSW, LCSW

Kindness and Politics by Pamela Cone, Ph.D., CNS, RN

Goodness and Politics by Robert Duke, Ph.D.

Faithfulness and Politics by Joseph Bentz Ph.D.

Gentleness and Politics by Roger White, Ed.D.

Self Control and Politics by John M. Thornton, Ph.D., CPA

Kenneth L. Waters, Sr., Ph.D., is university associate chaplain and associate dean of the School of Theology