This is the eighth installment in our series on Love.
As stated previously, all of us were created with the capacity to love and the desire to be loved. It is within us all. Everyone loves someone or something.
The Bible says that we can tell a lot about a person by the things they love. It tells us that some men love the darkness because their deeds are evil. It speaks to us of some that love money. It proclaims that there will be those that love themselves more than others.
I was walking through the books of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John this week, and heard much about love.
1st John 4:20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.”
One of the greatest proofs of our conversion is the love of God in our hearts from the Spirit of adoption. (Romans 8.15) If a man professes to love God, and yet indulges himself in anger or revenge, or shows a selfish disposition to his fellow man, the Word tells us that he is a liar. The love of God shed abroad in our hearts will change our natural enmity into affection and gratitude. It is in this that we are different from our worldly counterparts. It is in our overwhelming expressions of love that we differ from the false prophet. I know that may seem like harsh wording, but a prophet professes and if he does not possess the object of his profession, then he is indeed a false prophet.
A Christian (Christ-like professor) does not hate his brother whom he has seen. Let us understand the usage of the word here. The Greek word used is ‘miseo’ which means ‘to detest (especially to persecute); by extension to love less’ John says if we show less love to our brother than we would to God, then we cannot claim to be a Child of God. The Word clearly tells us that God is love.
His love is the motivation, the drive, and moral cause of ours. We cannot help but love so good a God, who was first in the act and work of love; He who loved us when we were both unloving and unlovely; He who loved us at so great a rate; He who has been seeking and soliciting our love at the expense of Christ’s blood; and has condescended to beseech us to be reconciled unto him. His love is the productive cause of ours: Of his own will begat he us. To those that love him all things work together for good, to those who are the called according to his purpose. Those that love God are the called thereto according to his purpose
This was a love, for which we did not seek, nor did we earn in any way. Mankind was not out looking for a way to be reconciled to God. The sacrifice of Christ was not due to our seeking a redemptive work, but rather, His love and desire for a return to the fellowship between God and man, for which man was created.
Love teaches us to suffer for him and with him; therefore we may trust that we shall also be glorified with him. His love for us made us joint heirs of the grace of God.
- Is not easily provoked
One of the many characteristics of love is shared in several thoughts. This is one such shared thought. Love is not easily provoked. It is seen also in the long suffering of love. This long suffering causes the heart to act, not react to stimulus. It also ties in the fact that love does not vaunt itself. It is not rash. This will also tie in some of the other qualities of love, as well. We will bring them in as we progress and touch upon them. We will explain in greater detail when we reach each one.
It is easy to see that if love suffers long that it would not be easily provoked. However, it is more than just the long suffering of love that prevents the provoking. Jesus was provoked many times and many times held His righteous indignation in check.
The Word tells us that love is not easily provoked. Does this convey than that while it is not an easy act to provoke love, that it can still be done? Can we say then that a man or woman under the influence of the love of God is not prone to violent outbursts of anger or irritation?
It is not their character to be hasty, excited, or obsessive. They are calm, serious, and patient. They look soberly at things; and though they may be injured, yet they govern their passions, restrain their temper, and subdue their feelings. The natural inclination of flesh is to retaliate. We say that we give as good as we get. We return tit for tat. This, Paul says, would be produced by love. And this is apparent. If we are under the influence of benevolence, or love to anyone, we shall not give way to sudden bursts of feeling. We shall look kindly on their actions; put the best construction on their motives; deem it possible that we have mistaken the nature or the reasons of their conduct; seek or desire explanation wait till we can look at the case in all its bearings; and suppose it possible that they may be influenced by good motives, and that their conduct will admit a satisfactory explanation.
How many times has humanity provoked the holiness of God? How many times have we, individually tried the patience of God? How often have we found ourselves at an altar crying out to a merciful God? How many times have we felt that gentle loving hand of correction as He tries to lead us back to the fold?
He left the ninety and nine to find that one that was lost. How easy it would have been to leave it out there to its own devices. How simple it would have been to become exasperated as time and time again this one wandered away. Whether by will or simply distraction, how easy it would be to walk away. Love constrains Him. Love will not allow him to leave one lamb out there. This is the love we are to exhibit. Though they try us sore, we will not abandon them to the wiles and trickery of the enemy. Although we have nursed them through it before, His love compels us.
The story in the Word about the servant that was forgiven a great debt to his master and then turned around and required a much smaller debt to him be paid or the debtor be cast into prison comes to mind. The conversion rate of money value then to now puts his debt in the millions of dollars. He stood before his master without a defense. The debt was valid. The fault was his. The master forgives the debt. Then, after leaving the house of the master, with this great weight lifted from his life, he encounter a man that owes him a paltry sum. This man begs for time to repay his debt. The fist servant refuses and orders the family of the second servant to be sold and the servant to be cast into prison.
How easily are we provoked by the sins of others when the Master has forgiven our great debt of sin?
Judge not, for with the same mercy you judge, you shall be judged. God is saying, “I have judged you with great mercy. Judge others according the example of how I have judged you.” Judgment is an act of provocation. God is saying, be provoked as I am provoked. My love stayed my judgment. If you judge without my mercy, you will replace my mercy with the same mercy you show. If you will be provoked, then I will be provoked.
Love is not easily provoked.
As stated, this quality of love is related to several of the other qualities of love already mentioned and some of the ones yet to be covered, but let’s not get lost in that fact. This is not merely the restating of other qualities, or the reemphasizing of said qualities. There is a redundancy of statements and habits of Christians in the Word. The Bible itself tells us that things are to be confirmed by the mouth of at least two and sometimes three witnesses. While this could be an example of that, I feel it is more than that.
The long suffering aspect of our love deals with many different forms of antagonism. Life, in and of itself, creates antagonism. Things do not always go our way. There are life issues that we must contend with daily that try our long to suffer long. Paul talked about his thorn in the flesh. This was not the quick flash of the dagger of antagonism. This was a long abiding, deeply residing issue that Paul dealt with on a continual basis. Paul’s thorn provoked the long suffering quality of the Love of God abiding within him.
We can also liken this aspect of the love shed abroad in our hearts to the aspect of not acting rashly. Certainly, reacting to a provocation would be to act in a rash manner; however, not every provocation produces a rash action. Sometimes the result of a provocation is a long stewed plan of attack.
I recall the story that my father used to tell the church about a man on his job (he worked construction as an electrician) that tried him daily. He provoked him as often as he could. Dad said that one morning he made up his mind that if this fellow pushed him that day, he was just going to hit him. Dad felt that he had reached his point. The day wore on and sure enough this provocateur began his daily barrage. Just as dad was about to turn and unleash, a fellow worker standing near, hit the man and told him to shut up. He told the man they were tired of his constant onslaught against dad. God fought dad’s battle that day.
While this story illustrates the proviso of God to protect His own, it also demonstrates that the reaction to provocation is not always a rash action. This was something dad had thought out many times. I do not know how long or how many times dad was provoked. I do know that the Word tells us that we will not be tempted (tried) above that we are able to stand. Therefore, while this can be related to long suffering and acting rash, it also stands on its own two feet.
Provocation can come quickly or slowly.
Casting Crowns has a song called “Love them like Jesus.” The chorus says, “So love them like Jesus, love them like Jesus, You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions, just know that He loves them and stay by their side, Love them like Jesus, Love them like Jesus.
We are to love as he loved. When we don’t love like Jesus, we replace the unconditional love of Jesus in our lives with our conditional love. Can we grasp this concept? When we are provoked by the actions of others easily, we open ourselves to be handled the same way by God.
How many times in our lives have we provoked God? How many times have we willingly and knowingly sinned after coming to the knowledge of Christ? When we stood in the place of the ungodly, His love prevented His holiness from becoming provoked and unleashing His wrath.
In his letter to the churches at Galatia, Paul spoke to those that had issues with the Gentiles not submitting to the ritual of circumcision. He reminded them that circumcision was under the law. He further told them that if they were going to hold to the law in circumcision, that they would be debtors to the whole law. Even further still, if they were to hold to this ritual under the law, and were to become a debtor to the whole law, they erased the effect of the crucifixion of Christ in their lives.
If you hold to a part of the law, you are held to all of the law.
If you judge without mercy, you will be judged without mercy.
If you withhold forgiveness, forgiveness will be withheld from you.
If the love you posses does not keep you from being provoked by the acts of others, then your acts will be subject to provoking god.
In the engine of my truck, there are pistons that move back and forth in a cylinder. Fuel is introduced into the cylinder, and compressed; then ignited creating an explosion, forcing the piston out of the cylinder. The movement of this piston in concert with 3, 5, or 7 others turns the crankshaft. This constant movement creates a great amount of friction. To minimize the effect/damage of this friction, lubricating oil is used.
Love is the lubricating oil that allows us to interact with others without being provoked. It is the oil that reduces the effect of wear and the damage of heat in our relationships.
Love is not easily provoked.
Next: Love thinks no evil ..