I hope you're wearing your steel-toed boots because today's qualification of love is quite convicting. The Love Chapter tells us that love is not easily provoked. The word "provoked" simply means irritated, annoyed or angered. Ouch!
I don't know about you, but I tend to get irritated, annoyed and angered quite a bit. For most of us, all it takes is a single word, a cross look, a roll of the eyes or a flippant tone, and we're ready to go to war. How dare you say that! How dare you look at me that way! And if anyone should question our battle-ready status, we complain, "Well, if you knew what he said, you'd understand."
Oddly enough, it seems like the longer we know someone, the more undesirable habits we tend to notice. Did she always smack her lips like that? Will he ever learn to put his dirty clothes in the hamper instead of the floor? Was she always so negative? When did he start using that tone with me? Let's face it, over time we grow more comfortable with our loved ones and began to allow our true colors to shine through. And sometimes those "true colors" can be a lot to swallow.
But love accepts another person wholly, flaws and all. Not only that, but it doesn't balk every time the other person does or says something love finds distasteful (or even mean). Love aims to look beyond the sharp tone or cross look and discover the true source of the problem. Is the other person having a rough day? Does that person feel poorly? Did the individual just receive some bad news? While the person's response may have been wrong, they could have been speaking or acting out of fear, fatigue or something else entirely. What good would it do for us to get aggravated with them on top of everything else? Our unloving response would only add to his/her problems.
It's difficult to bite my tongue or turn the other cheek when someone pushes my buttons. Even more difficult for me is to keep from saying all kinds of mean things about that person in my head and dwelling on how they wronged me. My anger or irritation feels justified. They treated me ill, so I should return the favor, right? No. Instead, I should forgive them, pray for them and go on about my day. Getting annoyed and aggravated serves no purpose. It doesn't fix the problem or the person. And if we're honest, it doesn't even make us feel better. In fact, dwelling on it makes us feel worse.
This is certainly one qualification of love I'm going to have to work on (not that I don't need to work on the others too). The next time I want to respond to hurtful words or wrong actions, I need to remind myself that love is not easily provoked. Instead, I just need to let it go.
In case you didn't notice, this step requires following the other steps we've discussed. The only way we can not be easily provoked is by being patient, kind, well-behaved, unselfish and by checking our pride at the door. It takes all these things in harmony to be willing to turn the other cheek. So, we could say love is not easily provoked because it is patient, kind, well-behaved, unselfish and humble. Quite a mouthful, isn't it? But what would our world (or even just our churches) look like if we all practiced this kind of love?