He had the patience of Job. At least that is what they said of him. And I now see why.
He was my high school PE teacher and basketball coach. I can’t remember a time I ever saw him genuinely angry, quite a thing to say about a coach. I gave him many reasons to be angry. He probably should have benched me most games for the tirades I was unfortunately prone to when playing basketball. During game, he found me exasperating, and he showed his displeasure with grimaces and hands thrown in the air. But he never raised his voice with me or made me run extra. In fact, no one knew of a time when he had done that with students, even though teenagers are notorious for their unreasonable behavior.
Why would he do that? I have to wonder if it wasn’t for the same reason that God does the same with people.
Now that I am a teacher, I would imagine people said of him that he was a pushover. Other teachers who ruled with an iron fist probably looked down on him as lax and irresponsible. Maybe there were even students and athletes who doubted that he would ever lower the boom and took advantage of it.
It seems there were people in the background of Peter’s second epistle who were thinking the same about God.
This is what they will say: “Where is the promise of his [Jesus] royal arrival? Ever since the previous generation died, everything has continued just as it has from the beginning of creation.” (3:4)
Where is this promised re-creation? Judgment? I don’t see that happening. People get away with wrongdoing today just like they did yesterday and the same will happen tomorrow. I would like to believe that there is a better day coming, but all I see is the same darkness. Some days it seems to be getting darker. So goes the thinking that some addressed by Peter were thinking.
But there was a reason for God’s patience with wrongdoers:
The Lord is not delaying his promise, in the way that some reckon delay, but he is very patient toward you. He does not want anyone to be destroyed. Rather, he wants everyone to arrive at repentance. (3:9)
And when our Lord waits patiently to act, see that for what it is — salvation! (3:15)
I had many great teachers, coaches, administrators, and mentors in high school, but few were as influential as my teacher and coach mentioned above. I often see that I have unconsciously gravitated towards his way of teaching and mentoring. The way he was willing to laugh with his students. The way he would grab your arm for emphasis. The gentleness with which he said and did everything, even though he was six and a half feet tall and had the body of a former college athlete. I realize now that he saw what we — what I — could become, not just what we were at the moment. I know he was longing for the day I learned the lessons he passionate taught. I know he was being patient with my learning curve. Had he done it for us, we never would have learned. Had he (and others) given up on me, I am not sure I ever would have come around. He was patient for a reason.
God is also patient for a reason. Likewise, God wants all to “get it.” He is being patient with our learning curve. He is even being patient those who do us wrong (though we might wish otherwise) hoping that all will come around to his way of love and goodness.
What a provocative patience!