Christian Patience (Cyprian)

Cyprian was a major figure in the 3rd century A.D. Christian church. He was a preacher and teacher in Carthage who fled from persecution at least once in his life and also had to hide from some who wanted to kill him. He finally turned himself in and was martyred in 258 AD. Thankfully, quite a few of his writings remain.

I recently ran across Cyprian’s treatise called “On the Advantage of Patience.” I believe this topic is one that Christians should focus on while navigating through our cultural context and situation today. Cyprian noted that patience begins with God. Since our heavenly Father is patient, Cyprian argued, we should seek to be patient as well, “because it behooves servants to be obedient.” Furthermore, if God commands patience, it must be good, and we must seek it. Practicing patience is walking in the way of Jesus. Here’s how highly Cyprian speaks of patience (I’ve updated the language):

“Patience is that which commends us to God, and preserves us. Patience is that which mitigates anger, which bridles the tongue, governs the mind, keeps peace, rules discipline, breaks the assaults of lust, keeps under the force of pride, quenches the fire of hatred, restraines the power of the rich, relieves the need of the poor, maintains in maidens unspotted virginity, in widows chastity, in married people unseparable charity; which makes humble in prosperity, constant in adversity, meek in taking injury; it teaches you to forgive quickly those that offend you, and never ceases to crave pardon when you offend others; it vanquishes temptations, suffers persecutions, and finishes with martyrdom.

Patience is that which grounds surely the foundations of our faith: this is that which augments the increase of our hope: this is that which guides us, so that we may keep the way to Christ, while we do go by the suffering thereof: patience is that which makes us continue as the sons of God, while we imitate the patience of our Father.

 This quote is found in Cyprian’s “On the Advantage of Patience” in Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 5.

(FYI, Henry Bullinger noted this quote by Cyprian in his third volume of sermons (The Decades), sermon three.)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

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