It is not easily angered.
God’s love is not easily angered or provoked.
Every time I have read this passage I think of how this agape love will keep me from being easily angered or provoked, which was something at one point in my life I really struggled with. There is that ‘self’ again, all about me. I looked at this passage as what I would gain or benefit from it. Keep in mind, this passage was written to a church about how they were to use their spiritual gifts through this kind of love. This was not a letter to the people on what they would gain when others demonstrated this kind of love to them. Don’t get me wrong, we do benefit when we learn to love with this agape love. If every believer loved the way we are called to love we would all benefit greatly. But, this passage is not about our benefit, it is about how we are supposed to love as Christ’s followers.
Provoked means to make sharp, stimulate or spur on, irritate, or arouse to anger.
Webster’s online dictionary defines provoked as ‘to purposely cause the occurrence of a feeling of anger or action of violence’.
Again I want to list some synonyms to help us broaden our understanding of this definition.
When I read this definition and some of the synonyms listed I have this vision of two toddlers doing everything they can to annoy one another. The “he’s touching me”, or “she took my toy” whine all of us parents have heard before. Little kids have a way of annoying each other, especially siblings. And, one of them always seems to provoke it!
As adults we may not act in the manner of our toddlers, but there are other ways our attitude, words, and actions can be completely opposite of what God wants us to demonstrate.
For instance, if you know your spouse needs time to sort through a disagreement before talking it out and you continuously “nag” them to talk to you about it, don’t you think that will cause some aggravation?
Have you ever given someone the cold shoulder knowing it would upset them?
Have you been so upset with someone and used hateful words to hurt them or anger them so they would feel just as bad as you do?
I think we have all been guilty of using our attitude, words and actions to provoke other people.
Agape love in our lives will certainly help us maintain our own anger, but this passage is not about anger management on our part, but rather learning how to avoid provoking others that may lead them into sin.
Just like synonyms are a wonderful tool to help us broaden our understanding of a word, the antonyms can be just as useful. Here are just a few antonyms for provoke:
In the heat of the moment do our words alleviate the intensity of the discussion or stir it up?
Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
When we are around do we stir up conflict or bring calm and comfort?
Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”
We are called to encourage one another in righteousness and good deeds. If we are provoking people to anger we are doing the opposite of what God calls us to do.
James 1:20 “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
We are to live in peace with one another.
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
We are not responsible for how others respond to us. We are however responsible for our attitude, words, and actions. God set the standard quite high as to how we are to live and conduct ourselves. We must strive to reach this standard. It is not out of our own power though. We must rely on God for the strength to love with agape love. In order to do that, we must be walking with God very closely and daily. A once a week dose of God will not sustain us for His high calling.
Our challenge is to see this part of God’s Word through a fresh lens. This is where I will ask you to be completely self-focused. Ask yourself this question: Do I provoke people with my words, my actions, or even my attitude? Look back on the list of synonyms and antonyms and humbly ask God to show you which list you most resemble. Surrender these areas to God and ask Him to give you the strength to love with a love that does not easily provoke.
Lord, thank you for delivering me from my anger. I am not perfect in this area and I ask that You will continue to refine me so that I am a person who brings comfort and calm to others rather than strife or anger. I want to be an encourager to others the way You have called me to be.