By Clifton Angel
The story is told of a man that made a trek across the U.S. He traveled from New York City to San Francisco on foot. When asked, “What was your greatest difﬁculty along your journey?” it was expected that he would respond with something like the mountains, the deserts, or the extreme weather conditions on occasions. Rather, he responded, “My greatest obstacle was the sand in my shoes.” Sometimes, in our lifelong journeys, it can be the small things that people do, the small things that people say, or the small things in general that agitate, irritate, or provoke us. But maybe, as we grow in the love of God, we can be strengthened and encouraged not to let such things set us on edge. Paul tells us that love “is not easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Let us consider four ways we can grow in godly love so as to not be easily provoked.
First, when we are tempted to be provoked and set on edge, we need to pursue the example of our Lord. Isaiah prophesied of our Lord’s sacriﬁcial strength in love. Because of our sins, “He was oppressed, and he was afﬂicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Second, when we are tempted to be easily provoked, we need to pray to our Father. Peter exhorts the Christian readers of his writings in “Casting all your care upon him” (1 Peter 5:7). Why should we cast all of our cares, concerns, and anxieties upon our God? Because “he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Third, when we are tempted to be set on edge, we need to practice self-control. James writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations: knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2–3).
Fourth, we can be exhorted to grow in this love that is not easily provoked if we provoke one another. In 1 Corinthians 3:5, “provoke” is negative. In Hebrews 10:24, “provoke” is positive. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:24–25). When boiling water is stirred (provoked), it is made to withstand great amounts of heat before beginning to boil. When Christians positively provoke one another unto love and good works, Christians can withstand greater amounts of negative provoking, or agitation, so that we are not “easily provoked.”
Love “is not easily provoked.” We can see this tremendous characteristic in our God. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If God were easily provoked, we would have been destroyed long ago. However, love “is not easily provoked.” Love is tempered and self-controlled.