Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Love - Part 8: Is Not Provoked

Love . . . is not provoked” 1 Corinthians 13:5

Provoked – Excited; roused; incited; made angry; incensed (definition taken from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language).

Angry words. Angry thoughts. Angry actions. Yelling at our younger siblings, parents, or friends. Giving someone the ‘silent treatment’. Angry countenances. Strife and violence. Paying someone back. Rolling our eyes at our parents. Criticizing. Hostility.

These, and other like internal or external responses, are reactions that I am sure that we have all expressed or felt in part or in whole at some time or another. So many things can stir up that tiny flame of anger in our heart. Someone takes something that belongs to you. Perhaps someone is spreading false rumors about you. Your plans that you had made were changed against your will. These, and other similar circumstances, all can provoke us to anger . . . to sin according to the flesh instead of exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23)*.

Proverbs is a book that is replete with instruction in regards to anger. Anger is shown to be the cause of many things including strife and further transgressions: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” Proverbs 29:22 (also Proverbs 30:33). But the child of God is called to respond not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit and righteousness. By doing so, instead of anger being the fruit borne, peace and love abounds which is pleasing to the Father:

-“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

-“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” Proverbs 15:18

-“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29

Before going further, it is important to realize the root cause of anger. We can keep pulling off the ‘leaves’ of the problem, but if the root is not removed, no gains will have been made in this area. When we examine the causing agents of anger, we see that it stems from the thought that we have been wronged; something is done against us or against what we feel is right or best; our plans, our desires, are set aside and considered secondary by others. Do you see what the focus is here? It is ourselves. It is setting our minds on our own things and not the things of others. This is a direct conflict with what is instructed in Philippians 2 and elsewhere in Scripture. If we forget ourselves, forsaking our own desires and needs to serve our Lord and Savior and to then in turn serve and bless others, where would anger have a place? This is called denying self. Christ has commanded that " 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me’ ” (Mark 8:24). Denying ourselves so that we can serve the Lord is the only means to overcome anger and its cousins.

In Colossians 3:8, we are commanded to “put . . . aside: anger, wrath, malice . . .” and again in Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” This is action on our part (and goes hand in hand with denial of self) that must take place before victory can be made in overcoming the anger which destroys. As we yield and relinquish our will to the Lord’s will, He will give us the strength to respond in a righteous manner.

Each time that a situation arises that can provoke to anger, we are faced with a choice. And which will we choose? To protect and defend our own perceived ‘rights’, or to follow in obedience our Lord and Savior by displaying a true and godly love that brings glory to the Father?

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves . . . .” James 1:19-23

* As mentioned above, anger is of the flesh and therefore is a sin and not a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23). However, there is a righteous anger (Ephesians 4:26) which is not covered in this writing.

-Posted by Sarah


  1. Yelling at younger siblings. I almost did that today...

    Yes, I am a rather hot-tempered person. I found it interesting to discover that anger stems from selfishness. But, yes, thinking about it, it is true. So often I can get angry at people for not doing things my way.

    I fail so often at keeping my temper. But I know that with Christ I can control my feelings. : )

  2. Thank you for your comment, Jerusha!

    You have already made the first big step in overcoming anger, as you recognized/acknowledged that it is indeed there. Keep striving, as we all should be, to “put . . . aside: anger” (Colossians 3:8) from yourself and like you shared, Christ will give you the strength to respond in a righteous manner. :)

    It was interesting to me, too, to realize that the root cause of anger is selfishness. I knew that it played some part in it, but did not realize how significant of a one!

    Thank you again for your comment!


  3. Thank you for that wonderful post. Keep smiling and loving Jesus.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Margaret! :)