Love is not Provoked
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-11, 13:4-8a; 1 Peter 2:21-23
A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, Blockhead, the world I love. It’s people I can’t stand.” Who hasn’t been provoked or irritated by people?
The ESV translates this phrase, “(love) is not irritated.” The NASB has it, “(love) is not provoked.” The Greek term means to sharpen and speaks metaphorically of being roused to anger. Interestingly, the English term paroxysm is derived from the Greek and speaks similarly of “a sudden attack, or violent expression of a particular emotion.” In describing the term used here Phil Ryken wrote, “Love is not grumpy or grouchy. Love does not get ticked off. Love does not go off on a rampage or a tirade. Love does not launch into verbal abuse, or give people the silent treatment, or get into a bad temper, or do whatever else it is tempted to do when people are angry or irritated.”
Let’s face it–people are problematic. They are prone to saying and doing things which inevitably rub us the wrong way. Consider the troubles of the church in Corinth–there were disagreements about theology, idolatry, sexual immorality, spiritual gifts, etc. No doubt there were many situations about which those folks grew irritated. And we know what that’s like. Who hasn’t grown grumpy or grouchy in dealing with other people. If we are honest, we are all fully capable of annoying someone else in one way or the other.
Again we marvel at the example of the Lord Jesus! Read through the gospel accounts–you’ll not find any instances of Him being roused to sinful anger in his dealing with folks. He preached in Nazareth, the place where He had been brought up, and they ran Him out of town. He healed countless folks, but sometimes on the Sabbath, so the religious leaders criticized Him. Day after day, from sunrise to sunset, He ministered to multitudes of people, still you will not read of Him growing grouchy. Some were accusing Him of doing His miracles by the power of the devil. Still He was not roused to anger. The religious leaders plotted against Him. Judas betrayed Him. He was arrested and His disciples abandoned Him. Still you will not read of Him growing irritated or launching into a verbal tirade. He was falsely accused in an unjust trial. He was scourged, stripped naked, and adorned with a crown of thorns and mocked–still He was not provoked. He was nailed to a cross. They gambled for His garments. He’s mocked by all–the soldiers, the thieves who were crucified with Him, the religious leaders, and those passing by. But though reviled, He did not revile in return. Though threatened, He uttered no threats. The One who put the stars in place and created that very hill called Calvary, endured it all without responding in kind to the abuse He suffered. Why? He had come to do the Father’s will and He kept entrusting Himself to the Father. In love God sent His Son to die. In love the Son willingly subjected Himself to it all. He endured all of that for you! People are problematic. They do stupid and hurtful things. But Jesus came to die on a cross for our stupidity and the sin which lies at the root of it all.
Life is filled with all kinds of challenges. Sometimes people do the dumbest and most inconsiderate things. It’s easy to grow irritated, or be roused to anger in response. It helps to remind ourselves of the example of Jesus. The irritations we face pale in comparison to the suffering He endured. Amidst His suffering He kept entrusting Himself to the Father, we do well to do the same. God has not called us to a life of self-serving preservation, but a life in which we are privileged by the Spirit to imitate Christ in dying to self, that we might instead serve Him by serving others. That’s a part of what it means to love like Jesus.
People are Problematic but Love is not Provoked
Lord Jesus. Thank you for loving us! Thank you for Your amazing patience. We think about the cross and all that You endured and are amazed at Your response. We think about all the times we’ve been irritated with others, and for such minor things–forgive us. And how prone we are to being provoked when people do or say things we don’t like. How beautiful are Your ways, O Lord! In You we find hope. You’ve revealed to us a far better way of thinking and living. But our flesh is so reluctant and so resistant to change. Change our hearts, O Lord, that we might put aside our selfish tendencies! Grant us the grace that we might be gracious in all our dealings with others! Amen.