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Love is not irritable

Another version of the same passage says that Love is not easily provoked. I don’t think there is one of us with an older or younger sibling, who does not understand the meaning of the word “provoked”. Either we were the provoker or the victim! Hopefully, as we grew older, in most cases, that type of early childhood provocation died away.

Yet, we know people today, adults, who will, with the slightest hint of provocation, unleash a whole barrage of anger. They then turn around and say “YOU make me so angry” or “That’s the way I am”. Some even blame their heritage or hair-itage. “I am Irish” or “I have red hair”, they say.

Love does not rush to wrath. In fact, if we were to follow the advice James offers us: be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath, we might avoid a lot of problems in our own lives and create fewer difficulites in the lives of others.

James says that the “wrath of man” does not work the righteousness of God. Perhaps I am incorrect, but in the context of James, I think he contrasts “man’s wrath and will” with “God’s will” and implies God’s wrath is different.

We understand that God does show wrath but after how long of a time? The patience he showed while the ark was being built, while the sin of the Ammorites increased, with Nineveh during the days of Jonah, with Israel….all through their existence, teaches us two things very clearly. God’s wrath is slow in coming and is not something you want to experience.

Love does not allow the little things to provoke it. Love is bigger than the petty things that those who have not learned to love are interested in. Love will show wrath at appropriate times but the childish provocations of children and worldly people are not the times to let loose.

Can you imagine if Jesus had displayed the wrath of man?

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. (1Pe 2:22-23)

How would the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17) been shown, if Jesus had been so easily provoked! (I hasten to add, that I speak in hyperbole when I say “easily provoked”, He showed remarkable constraint) What if He had called those 12 legions of angels? Where would the Gospel be?

Question: What causes you to get angry the quickest? Is that trigger mechanism something you have prayed to God about?

Photo Credit: Matt Erasmus

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Worthy of the Gospel

 When I think of having a life that is worthy of the Gospel, I think first of having a life that is righteous and holy to God. I think of a life that is dedicated to not doing sin and one that is dedicated to serving Him. Generally, I think about following rules and those rules are found in the New Testament.  But that type of thinking can lead me to a life in which I check off a list of things to do: Bible reading? (check); Pray? (check); money in the offering? (check); didn’t swear, lie, or smoke? (check, check, check).

But is that what a life that is worthy of the Gospel is all about? I would suggest to you that it is not.

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  (Rom 1:15-17)

First, we note that the Gospel is more than “how can you be saved.” When Paul says he wants to preach the Gospel to those in Rome, he is not talking to “non-Christians” but to Christians! If the Gospel is only the plan of salvation, then there is no need to preach it to those who are saved; it is obviously more.

Second, it is in part the plan of Salvation. The message of the death, burial, and resurrection which Paul preached and those who believed practiced (in their baptism) is indeed the invitation of God into His family and the preaching of that Gospel introduces sinners to God’s grace.

Third, it reveals the righteousness of God. This is so important. What kind of God do we serve? What is His standard of righteousness? whatever it is, it is the righteousness that we want to imitate.  If we look at the Greek gods, we see immoral and base behavior. It can truly be said that whereas God created man in His image, Man created gods in their image.

The Pharisees also had a righteousness but Jesus said we need to exceed that if we hope to get into Heaven. The problem with their righteousness was that it was self serving, hypocritical, and pretentious. It certainly fooled men but it did not fool God. They had so lessened God’s law that they even fooled themselves into the thought they were keeping it.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:20)

The thing that stands out to me about the Gospel is Christ’s actions and example. He came to serve and not to be served, he came to give his life as a ransom for many.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mar 10:45)

To have a life that is worthy of the Gospel then, is more than one that is simply following rules, it goes beyond following rules to doing things that are exceed what is required.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Rom 5:7-8)

The righteous man is one who does everything right, by the book. If you agree to work for a righteous man for $100, he will pay you $100. Not less, not more. He is righteous.  The Good man would agree to pay you the $100 but if you did a great job, he might pay you $120 for that day’s work. He is not good because he is righteous, he is good because he is generous, he does more than is required of him. Someone might die for either of these two individuals, but Jesus died for the scoundrel sinner.

Jesus did more than was required of Him. Had he stayed in Heaven and not come to earth, not died on the cross, not given his blood for our sacrifice, he would be no less righteous. He would be no less Holy. Our need did not require him to act.  And THAT is the standard to which we are to strive to live.

Let us follow the example of Jesus and reach out to those people in the world who need that message, even if it costs us something in the process. We cannot just throw open the doors of the church building and say “they know where we are, if they want to come, they will.”

photo credit: Oceanbound.com via Google images

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