Our God-given free will is a beautiful and powerful privilege. It is our ability to choose what we will think and what we will do. No matter the situation, we can exercise our free will and choose to elevate our thoughts and actions to the highest level—the love of God. This allows for the greatest profit to our lives spiritually, now and in the future. When faced with situations that could challenge us to respond negatively—and we all face them from time to time—we can freely and willfully choose rather to renew our minds to the Word and to manifest the love of God that was poured into our hearts at the time of the new birth.
In this series on I Corinthians 13, we have looked at the profit of living God’s love and some of the characteristics of God’s love. We now turn to the phrase “is not easily provoked.”
I Corinthians 13:5:
[Charity—the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation] Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked….
What does it mean that the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation “is not easily provoked”? The Greek word translated “is…easily provoked” is paroxunō, which according to Strong’s concordance figuratively means “to exasperate.” “Not” is the Greek word ou, which we have seen several times in this series. It means “absolutely not.” Making this statement even more emphatic is the fact that there is no word for “easily” in the Greek text. The love of God is simply not provoked. If love is provoked at all, then it ceases to be love.
Other translations of the Bible render “is not…provoked” as “is never provoked,” “is not quick to take offense,” “is not irritable or resentful,” and “is not touchy.” We know that many circumstances may tempt a person to be provoked, exasperated, or irritated. But when we renew our minds to God’s Word and walk in God’s love, we choose not to allow these circumstances to provoke us. I Corinthians 13:4 tells us how we can respond instead—with God’s long-suffering and kind nature.
I Corinthians 13:4:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind….
Corinthians is addressed not only to the Corinthian believers, but also to “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:2). That includes us! This exhortation, given by revelation from God, tells us that it is available to manifest the love of God in the renewed mind by not being provoked. We can control our thoughts, not allowing outside circumstances to provoke us to speak rashly or to become angry.
…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
Let’s identify this characteristic of the love of God, not being provoked, in one example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the record of the last supper in Luke 22, we see Jesus preparing his disciples for the days ahead. After Jesus told his disciples that this was his last meal with them before his death, he instituted the memorial of holy communion (verses 15-20), and he also told them that the one who would betray him was at the table with them (verse 21). The disciples began to wonder and talk amongst themselves as to who the betrayer might be (verse 23). Their discussion ranged from which of them was the betrayer to which of them was the greatest.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
Here was the Master sharing his last supper with his devoted ones, sharing very important spiritual truths with them. The long-awaited redemption of mankind was about to unfold, yet the disciples started arguing about which one of them was the greatest. How potentially exasperating for a teacher whose time was running short to prepare his disciples for the future! And even more so because this was not the first time Jesus heard them disputing over this very issue. (See others in Matthew 20:20-28 and Luke 9:46.)
Did Jesus allow himself to become exasperated by these dear disciples? To them he had poured out his life in words and deeds of loving service and inspiring leadership. At this very supper, he symbolically demonstrated the extent of the love of God that they were to have in their lives by washing their feet. By performing this humble task, Jesus set an example of love, service, and humility; and he taught them that they should do as he did. (This record is in John 13:4-17.) Nonetheless there was a strife among them concerning which of them should be accounted the greatest. Did Jesus allow himself to be provoked by their strife? No.
Instead of allowing himself to be irritated by outside circumstances, Jesus manifested God’s long-suffering and kind nature, turning the situation into a teaching opportunity to further share with his disciples about their service and their future (Luke 22:25-30). And, as we can read in the record of the last supper from the Gospel of John, he gave a “new commandment.”
John 13:34 and 35:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Jesus continued preparing them to love with a new kind of love by showing them how it is done. This new kind of love is not provoked toward any ungodly behavior. We see it in the life of Jesus Christ. We can show it in the lives we live.
Today we can choose—as Jesus Christ did—to not be provoked. We can choose—as Jesus Christ did—to kindly and patiently take advantage of opportunities to teach, bringing the light of the Word to dispel darkness. That’s loving big!…
This is an excerpt from the January/February 2017 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2017 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
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