More Patient Than We Know

Parables of Jesus for the Modern Pilgrim.

So many times we project our own emotions on God. We can all too often think he is like us. We are usually very wrong. God is Light and in him is no darkness.

I, on the other hand, act out of hurt and pain. I misunderstand my brother’s motives. I can misunderstand God’s motives.

In the Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree, Jesus corrects a common misunderstanding about how God responds to sinful people.

Luke 13:1-9

This passage opens with people talking about a news story. They wanted to get Jesus’ take on the situation. Some Galileans had been killed by Pilate as they were making sacrifices. It was a, “did you hear what happened to them, Jesus?” kinda thing. The inference here is that God must have been punishing them for being such terrible people. Do bad things happen because they are bad people? Did they deserve it?

As usual, Jesus sets the record straight. He even tells another story to make his point. The men who were killed, either by Pilate or by the wall falling on them at Siloam, were not any worse than anyone else.

God doesn’t work that way. 

We see this attitude when Jesus is asked about the man who was blind from birth, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?” “Neither this man or his parents sinned,” Jesus replied, “but this happened so the works of God might be displayed in him.”

In Luke 13, Jesus tells them a parable to illustrate the attitude of God toward us.

A fig tree has been planted in a vineyard. For three years, the owner of the field came looking for figs. Nothing. So he tells the vineyard keeper to cut it down. But the keeper asks for one more year of care. Then, if there is still no fruit, it will be cut down.

The symbols are pretty easy to see. We are the fig tree and God is the owner. God has planted us in the Kingdom of God and is looking for us to be fruitful. He patiently waits and watches. But even our patient God has a limit. He tells the keeper to cut it down. Perhaps the keeper is Jesus or the Holy Spirit, for he intercedes for us, asking for more time. He commits to doing all that can be done to help us grow – fertilizer and time. Only then, if there is still no fruit, will God’s patience run out.

The beautiful patience of God is something that we rely on every day. God is merciful and should never be accused of a vengeful spirit. 

Listen to the words of Peter,

“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.”  2 Peter 3:8-10.

It may have looked unexpected for the wall to fall on unsuspecting men. Why do bad things happen? It’s a mystery. But what I do know is this. God wants everyone to repent – to change their ways and live a changed life.

He waits.

He looks in hope for the fruits of a changed life; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If we ever find ourselves accusing God of rash behavior, we need to take another look. God can be nothing else but patient with us. He is never in a hurry. And for that, I am forever grateful.