It is written:
1 Corinthians 13:5-(love)…does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Another characteristic of the kind of love that God wants His people to learn and apply to their lives is that it “is not provoked.” Barclay’s comments here are excellent:
“Love never flies into a temper. The real meaning is that Christian love never becomes exasperated with people. Exasperation is always a sign of defeat. When we lose our tempers, we lose everything.” (William Barclay, Insights: Love-What The Bible Tells Us About Christian Love, 541 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England; Saint Andrew Press)
As I read this, I am reminded of the times in my life when I have lost my temper with people. Family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ have all seen my fury at times. I am filled with shame as I remember some of the ways that I fall short.
Yet it helps me to remember that other Christians throughout time have had these same struggles and failings and still they were exhorted to do better. In fact, this text right here that we are studying is a perfect example of this truth. After all, the Corinthians were extremely wrathful and temperamental with each other, and it was hurting the the church and the Gospel in their Corinthian community.
1 Corinthians 1:11-For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.
1 Corinthians 3:3-for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
1 Corinthians 11:18-For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.
Nevertheless, Paul encourages these Christians to not give up-but to instead learn this perfect way of love which surpasses all others and to pursue it with their whole heart (1 Corinthians 12:31)!
This is a good place to dispel with a notion that is very popular in our day and age. Some believe that if a person doesn’t love perfectly, then they dont’ really love. People will often say, “Well, if this person doesn’t treat you just right, then that means that they don’t love you.”
Now, without a doubt, there are many times when people really do NOT love others, and are completely narcissistic and self-centered. Trust me, I’ve been there and seen that.
Yet there are other times when people simply have not learned how to love perfectly.
I remember a couple that I worked with once who was struggling with this. The husband was so focused on work, that he was having a difficult time finding time to spend with his wife. Her friends told her, “If he really loved you, he wouldn’t be working so much and would make time for you!”
Well, she started believing that her husband simply did not love her.
When we talked about this matter, I kindly suggested that perhaps the reason why he was working so much was because he did, in fact, love her. He was providing for their family, making an income to pay their mortgage and pay their bills, and in this way was showing his love for his family in the best way that he knew.
She asked me, “If he loves me, why doesn’t he spend more time with me?” I answered, “Maybe he has to work to make ends meet, and maybe he doesn’t know that you are so hurt by this. Maybe he just isn’t perfect in his understanding and demonstration of love.”
When I made that last statement, it was like a lightbulb went off for her.
I remember another couple that I worked with some years back.
The husband was exasperated with his wife.
They were both baptized Christians, but she had a problem with substance abuse and with gambling. He was so furious over a difficult financial and emotional issue that he was prepared to leave her and their children.
While hunting up apartments and trailers in the local Want Ads, he shared these things with me.
I encouraged him not to give up, and reminded him that his wife needed him to be there and to be loving and strong. She had grown up in a home where drugs were a normal part of life, and the Christian life was new an unfamiliar to her. She needed him to help her grow in love. Besides, I pointed out, he also was not perfect, but had a lot of growing to do (as we ALL do). We prayed together, and he agreed that as a Christian he needed to stick with his family and fight for it (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Last I heard, by the grace of God, they were doing well.
The point is, we are imperfect beings, and we likely demonstrate that imperfection daily in numerous ways. But as Christians, we are growing in our love (Ephesians 3:14:21; Colossians 1:9-11; Philippians 1:6-11). Don’t’ kick out a loved one because they don’t’ love perfectly; be patient with them and work with them.
Now, the kind of love that God wants us to learn and apply to our lives is a love which is is not easily provoked.
If you are a Christian who struggles with his temper and with anger, don’t throw in the towel!
Ask God to help you learn to do better, seek the teaching of His Word, and He WILL answer you!
Psalm 29:11-The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace.
Part of the answer in learning how to manage angers may be in seeking help from your brothers and sisters in Christ, or from professional counselors. But seek that help when you need it, and God will bless you! He tells His people:
Jeremiah 33:3-Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.