I was reading 1 Timothy 1 this morning. In verses 15-17 Paul talks about being a rotten sinner before coming to Christ. He says in verse 16 that he received mercy so that in him, Christ would demonstrate His patience with us. He says this may be an example to unbelievers. We often talk about being a witness for Christ, that others see Jesus in us. This is an interesting angle on the whole matter.
This passage is teaching us that God gives us mercy and displays His patience so that lost people would see His patience and be drawn to Christ. Many unbelievers think Christians are hypocrites (many are). But do they see God’s patience within the “imperfections” of believers? We should live our lives in such a way that we are growing closer to Christ. There must be a distinct difference in how we live now compared to how we lived before coming to Christ. So that the world (specifically the unbelievers who know us) can see the difference Christ makes in our lives. It does no good to complain about the criticisms leveled by unbelievers. If they knew believers personally who are living to grow closer to Jesus, then perhaps they would think differently about Christ.
So often we think that God is patient with us for out benefit. We feel good about ourselves when we reflect on His mercy and decide it is given to make our lives easier. This passage is telling us that God grants patience and mercy for the sake of unbelievers, that they would see Jesus. When this happens, Jesus is glorified. Too many times our Christian life is introspective. Here, Paul reminds us that God is working in our lives to change us so that unbelievers are brought to faith in Christ. Our role is to walk in obedience to Him so that He can display His mercy and His grace and His patience in and through our lives.