“Love is not easily angered.” (1 Cor 13:5b, NIV)
We’ve all felt it (or maybe it’s just me)—that terrible angst that rises up in our hearts. Bitterness simmers just under the surface. We’ve reached our limit! We’ve had it up to here! All our friends are walking on eggshells, waiting for the next eruption. If just one more person asks us about what we’re doing for Valentines…! We explode. We overreact. We’re irritable. Touchy. Prickly.
But we love Jesus, and we want to love others, so how do we do this when we are being provoked? According to Scripture, love is not easily provoked, not easily offended. The word translated “angered, provoked, offended” from the Greek has the connotation of a volcanic eruption—an anger that suddenly erupts on someone. That doesn’t sound very nice (or loving), does it?
This list of Love descriptors in 1 Cor 13 that we’ve been exploring this month on Our Single Purpose should not be kept separated for long. It’s good to look at it piece by piece and try to plumb the depths, but all of these parts are connected. They build upon one another. A love that is patient, kind, doesn’t brag, is not rude and does not seek after its own will have an easier time not being “easily angered” and will refuse to keep a record of wrongs. But it also goes the other way. It will not take much provoking for a tainted love to become easily angered. “If love lacks patience and allows self-regard or self-importance to creep in, such contaminated love may become exasperated into pique [a feeling of wounded pride] or into bitterness.”* Contaminated love. Let those words sink in. Love that is contaminated, made impure or unclean, by our sin.
There is a type of anger that is not sinful, or there would not be a verse that says, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph 4:26). But the anger that is being addressed in our verse is not the righteous type. It stems from wounded pride and selfishness… Nancy Leigh DeMoss puts it well, “But do you find, as I do, that so many times the things that anger us and provoke us are not the things that are really wickedness, the things that anger God? They’re the things that disturb my peace. They’re the things that don’t go my way, the things that annoy me and upset my agenda and my plans” (italics mine).** This type of anger is all about me, my wounded pride, my feelings not being thought of, my way not being done, me, myself, ME! So to combat this type of anger means learning to die to self (i.e., deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Christ – Matt 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). Christ is our example.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Pet 2:21-25)
So, “How do you react to people who misunderstand, overlook, or minimize the pain of your not-yet-marriedness? Though good-intentioned, they unwittingly offend you with their advice, questions, or indifference. You feel justified in your anger, expressed in an insensitive word or violent, bitter thought toward them. [Or maybe an angry outburst.] But God rewards gentleness in the face of offense.”*** Gentleness like that of Christ’s, who “did not revile in return” but loved, even to the point of death. So repent, ask for forgiveness and strength to love like Him. “Love overlooks a multitude of sins,” not just a few of them (aren’t you glad?), so bear His image to those around you. Love like He has loved you.
*Thiselton, Anthony C. 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical & Pastoral Commentary. Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 2006. Pg 223.
**Revive Our Hearts Radio – Nancy Leigh DeMoss on “Love is not provoked” in the How’s Your Love Life series – from February 8, 2010
***Nine Lies in the Not-Yet-Married Life by Marshall Segal on the Desiring God blog.