A little over a year ago, I began periodically posting about the abundant life we can have when we exercise love Jesus’ way. Numerous people have tried to define and express what love really is, but there is no better explanation than the one that the apostle Paul “posted” in his first “blog” (letter) to the church in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago. This is because his words were inspired by God himself. Unlike Paul, I have not heard the voice of Jesus audibly, but the Spirit of God teaches me things every time I open his word. This is not just for those who attempt to write blogs or books, but for every person who believes that Jesus is their Savior and Lord. I hope my words will bless you as I continue to share what the Holy Spirit is teaching me about love.
This post deals with love in contrast to quick anger or provocation. Below are just some of the various translations and versions of 1 Corinthians 13:5.
Love is NOT easily angered-NIV Love is NOT provoked- overly sensitive-AMP
Love is NOT irritable – NLT Love is NOT easily provoked – King James
Love is NOT provoked- NASB Love does NOT fly off the handle- The Message
Although there is a place for righteous anger over things that displease God, common sense tells us that love and illegitimate anger cannot be bosom buddies. The God-given wisdom of King Solomon supports this by directing us not to make friends with a hot-tempered person or associate with one easily angered, or we may learn their ways and get ourselves ensnared (Proverbs 22:24-25). Being easily angered or provoked means that we let things or people set us off which can spur us to react in ungodly ways or as the Message puts it “fly off the handle.” This is exactly what Satan the master of entrapment wants to happen.
Just a few months ago I walked right into Satan’s trap of becoming easily angered. I hate to admit that because being a fifty-something year old woman, I thought I had mastered the art of not letting people or situations provoke me. This just proves that God’s word is true when He said through Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.”
It all started with a trip to the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Like most people, you probably would not put the word “love” in the same phrase or sentence with the DMV. God has a unique way of revealing areas of our life where we really don’t have it altogether as much as we like to think. My particular revelation came immediately following several visits to two different DMV offices within a few weeks of each other.
News Flash! I haven’t mastered the art of not letting people or circumstances provoke me!
I asked God to forgive me for not loving His way and sat down at my laptop to pen the details of my DMV experience, all the while thinking God was finished with me in this matter. Once completed, I saved the document with all intentions of editing and posting it later. But there was something nagging at me that I couldn’t put my finger on, so I left it alone for a later date when I had more time to devote to writing.
It didn’t take long for my “Holy Spirit finger” to point out what was nagging me.
You see, my DMV story was how I became easily provoked by a stranger, but God wanted me to realize that I had a more serious problem with getting irritable with those close to me and that my reactions are observed by others.
Case in point, my healthy eighty-six-year old mother who has one extremely frustrating problem. She can’t hear very well! She does wear hearing aids, but most of the time she either hasn’t got them turned up or she forgets to do what the doctor tells her to do with them. Have you every tried to talk to someone on the phone who can’t hear what you are saying? It’s exhausting to say the least. Even with the Caption Calling phone that writes out what the caller is saying on a screen, she still has difficulty.
Not long after God reminded me of my “anger issue” I called her to tell her the documents that I needed to file her taxes. Somehow she didn’t understand. I know it must be distressing for her as well, but in her desire to know what we are saying, she doesn’t wait to let the caller finish their sentence and talks over them. I lost my patience with her and asked her in a very dishonoring tone to please just listen. Immediately after I ended the call, my husband sitting across the room pointed out to me how ugly I had been. Oh, why did I let such a little incident provoke me to anger?! I called a couple of days after the initial phone call to apologize (yes, I know. I should have done it that day!) She said she didn’t even notice.
You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal if we get angry at someone or a particular situation if we aren’t hurting anybody?” After all my mother didn’t even notice how ungodly and dishonorable I was treating her. (Side note- “Honor your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise- so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.”Ephesians 6:2-3.)
But God noticed.
And what about others? When the unbelieving world looks at me, what do they see? Would anyone be attracted to Christ by watching me lose my temper? When a new believer sees me acting un-Christ like, how does this affect their walk with Christ?
According to James 1:20, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (NASB).”As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, when God looks at me, he sees me as righteous because Jesus shed his blood for me on the cross, taking away my sins. But this does not give me permission to act out in anger whenever I feel slighted. If I am allowing my anger to rule, when the world looks at me, they don’t see the righteousness of God. My witness is tarnished, possibly destroyed.
According to Romans 8:29, God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son (Jesus). That means we are to grow more and more like Jesus who taught us that he and the Father are one. God, the Father proclaimed many times in His word that He is slow to anger. And I am so grateful that He is! (Here are just a few verses that remind us of this: Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15, Joel 2:13).
So, the question is, “Are we slow to anger and becoming more like God the Father and Jesus the Son in regards to how we react to people and circumstances?
If we are still letting people and circumstances get under our skin, then the answer is a resounding NO. As God’s children, we should be compelled to confess our sin and ask God for the strength not to react in a way that does the gospel of Jesus harm especially to those who truly need Him. I can attest that reacting negatively to people who grate on your nerves affects not only your spiritual health but your physical health as well. (Satan obviously doesn’t want me to write about this subject because he keeps putting sandpaper people in my path! So, I must follow my own advice- Oh Lord, forgive my ungodly reactions to people who grate on my nerves and give me strength to be Jesus to these people.)
If we are slow to anger, then YES, we are exercising love God’s way that will only lead to experiencing the abundant life that He died to give us. This is where I want to be!
How about you?