1 Corinthians 13 5

Sermon preached on February 28, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In the early part of my life I can remember lots of times when people were angry with me. There were a few times when I didn't even deserve it. For example, the first summer after I graduated from high school I got a job on the docks as a longshoreman. My first shift began at 11 at night. That first night that we were called all the guys in my crew were new. It was the first time any of us had worked there. Our gang of five was called to unload a tractor trailer full of tiers. A guy would bring five or six trollies for us to load and we loaded them up and then loaded the next set. But it wasn't very long before a union guy came along and he was as angry as could be. He laid into us because all five of us were working. He told us that only two of us were supposed to be working, that we were to work hour on and hour off. The reason he was so angry was because we were creating too much work for the union guys on the other end that were loading the tires onto the ship. I still remember how angry he was. It was like he was walking but he wasn't touching the ground.

I remember another incident at the same job. This time we were unloading a boxcar. We were almost half way through when a foreman came by and as soon as he saw what we were doing he flew into a rage. He asked us,

"Has anyone ever shown you how to unload a boxcar?"

No one ever had but I didn't think it was rocket science. He went on to explain that we were doing it all wrong. After we had unloaded the doorway, we started working on one side. That's what made him so angry. He told us that we should unload both sides—loading one trolley from one side and then one trolley from the other side. He said that you are supposed to do it that way in case there was ever a need to unload the boxcar really quickly—that way they could put two crews in there and each could work from each side. If they both had to work from the same side there wouldn't be room and they'd be getting into each other's way. Fair enough. He was right. But the thing was of the five summers I worked there—there was only one time when there was any sort of rush. I mean, we worked hour on and hour off. We were made to work so slow that I made up a joke about it. You know how sometimes unions will hold a work slow-down and as negotiating tactic? Well my joke was that we once had a work slow-down but it didn't work—no one noticed.

But most of the time when someone got angry with me I deserved it. My earliest memory of my great aunt is still very vivid in my mind. Our whole family went to visit her in Halifax when my I was five or six. He had this huge house, but she had it packed full. I'm sure we weren't at her house five or ten minutes before either my brother or I accidently knocked one of her potted plants off the railing on her back steps. She had these plants along her railing and the whole set-up just wasn't designed for kids. It was an accident waiting to happen. I still remember her yelling at us.

The thing about all those incidents (and many others) where someone was really angry with me is that they are all bad memories. I don't think any of them did me any good. The people involved, by their angry behavior, never had a positive effect on me. The main thing I learned was that they were horrible people and that the less I had to do with them the better.

In fact, I remember one time when I should have got yelled at by a parent and I didn't. I was at my friend Laurie's house and we were playing catch. Laurie's father was either putting on or taking down storm windows. Some of them were laying by the house behind where we were playing catch. We shouldn't have been playing catch there but neither one of us noticed and it wasn't very long before one of us missed and the ball hit a window and broke it. We didn't run away but I remember I was getting ready to get yelled at. But Laurie's father didn't yell at us. He was so calm and reasonable that I could scarcely believe it. He talked to us and asked why we would play catch next to the windows. We told him that we hadn't even looked. He told us that he was disappointed in us and that was it. I still remember Laurie's father with respect and admiration. What a great example he was to us.

When I think of our text, I think of Laurie's father. It says that love, (1 Corinthians 13:5)

is not provoked.

The NIV translates our text saying that love,

"is not easily angered,"

But I don't like that translation. Overall I like the NIV. It's very readable. But one of the things that I don't like about the NIV is that sometimes, instead of giving you a translation, it gives you an interpretation. It does that with our text. Our text does not literally say,

"it is not easily angered"

Literally it says, love, (HCSB)

"is not provoked"

The word, 'easily' is not there. The ESV says that love,

"is not irritable

The Geneva Bible of 1559 translates it this way. It says of love,

"it is not provoked to anger:"

The Greek word that Paul uses here means, ("παροξύνω," BDAG, 780)

"to cause a state of inward arousal, urge on, stimulate, esp. provoke to wrath, irritate"

So one of the meanings of our text certainly means that love 'is not easily angered', but it includes more. In this vein Horst Balz suggests that it means that one should not, (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament)

"let oneself be carried away (in anger)."

Love doesn't let itself be provoked. As a general rule, it doesn't not get angry at all.

Now this doesn't mean that all anger is wrong.

There is such a thing as righteous anger. Jesus was sinless and yet sometimes Jesus got angry. In the face of obstinate and stubborn sin He got angry. In Mark 3 when He was going to heal the man with the shriveled hand and some were watching him to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, Jesus asked them, (verse 4)

"Which is lawful on the Sabbath:
to do good or to do evil,
to save life or to kill?"

They wouldn't answer Him. They remained silent. They were so committed to their way of sin that they allowed no discussion about it. How did Jesus react? We read, (verse 5)

"He looked around at them in anger
and, deeply distressed
at their stubborn hearts,"

Right after Jesus healed the man we read, (Mark 3:6)

"Then the Pharisees went out
and began to plot with the Herodians
how they might kill Jesus."

Jesus was right to be angry. He was facing great evil.

Jesus was also angry when he drove the moneychangers out of the temple. He had righteous anger. He was angry with sin, with people who had given themselves over to sin and who refused to acknowledge the truth.

We also can have righteous anger. When we see sin, when we see obstinate sinners persisting in their sin, we can became angry. That's righteous anger.

But there are at least two great problems with human anger, even righteous anger.

First, we can hold on to our anger and it becomes sinful.

In Ephesians 4:26–27 the apostle Paul wrote,

"In your anger do not sin:
Do not let the sun go down
while you are still angry,
and do not give the devil a foothold."

Because of our sinful nature our righteous anger can easily slide over and become something that is sinful. We can hold on to anger when we should not. We continue to be angry with someone and so we sin. We wake up the next morning and we're still angry. We sin against the other person.

But even more than that, anger can become part of us.

I've known people that if I were to use one characteristic to describe them it would be 'anger'. They're angry people. By that I don't necessarily mean that they're hot-headed, that they easily fly off the handle. Some of them are like that but others are not. But what I mean is that underneath it all, even underneath their calm exterior, there's a simmering anger. Some of them never explode. But their whole disposition is spoiled by their anger.

As Christians we are not to be like that. Anger should not be one of the overriding characteristics that we display to the world. We as Christians are not to be consistently angry. The fruits of the spirit are,

"love, joy, peace…"

Those are the characteristics that we should display. What the Holy Spirit is telling us here in our text is that love basically, not exclusively, but basically incompatible with love. Love does not allow itself to be provoked to anger.

The second problem with human righteous anger is that

it doesn't achieve what it seeks to accomplish.

James put it this way, (James 1:19–20)

"My dear brothers,
take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and
slow to become angry,
for man's anger does not
bring about the righteous life
that God desires."

Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James says that human anger does not bring about God's justice, or literally, 'the righteousness of God'. Dan G. McCartney writes, (James, BECNT; 2d; p. 115-116)

"James's point, then, is that although the wrath of a human being may indeed work what looks like 'justice' to humans, it does not bring about the divine justice; it does not reflect the righteous character of God, nor does it accomplish that which God would regard as true righteousness."

As Calvin puts it,

"as long as wrath bears rule there is no place for the righteousness of God."

D. Edmond Hiebert puts it this way, (James, p. 127)

"whenever man gives way to anger, he never furthers the righteousness he professedly strives for; anger blocks his goal of fostering righteousness… Human anger is not an appropriate means for the production of righteousness, even if it professes a conscientious endeavor toward that end."

So even if your anger comes because you see an injustice, because you see something that is sinful, realize that your anger will not bring about the righteous result that God has in mind. Anger clouds the mind, it impairs judgment. It doesn't allow one to attain the righteous goal that he desires.

So what all this means is that

when someone provokes you to anger, love demands that you don't get angry.

R.C. H. Lenski says that means that love,

"is not embittered or enraged by abuse, wrong, insult, injury. While love treats others with kindness, consideration, unselfishness it, in turn, receives much of the opposite. Paul's life was full of such experience especially from his brethren in the flesh who ought to have especially loved him. He did not accuse them, Acts 28:19; he did the opposite: 'Bless them which persecute you,' Rom. 12:14."

David Prior adds, (1 Corinthians, The Bible Speaks Today; ed. John R. W. Stott; p. 231)

"there are some people who simply provoke us, not perhaps deliberately or knowingly, but consistently and uncontrollably. It is tempting to blame such people for their impact upon us, instead of facing honestly the reality of our own touchiness. Jesus once more shows us the way by his patient forbearance towards those twelve disciples, whom he 'loved to the end'. If we truly love someone with the love of the Lord, we shall see their strengths and their potential rather than their quirks and their foibles. When they do or say something which angers us, we shall be able to treat that in the context of what they are in Christ, instead of magnifying what has happened so that it consumes our vision."

This reminds me of a story I heard about an elderly couple who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. They were known for having a happy marriage. Someone asked the wife what the secret of their long and happy marriage. She replied,

"Well, shortly after we got married, for the sake of our marriage, I decided that I would write down 10 things that my husband did that annoyed me. I decided that when he did one of those things, I would just let it pass and not get angry with him. So whenever he did one of those things that really annoyed me I would say to myself, 'It's a good thing that's one of those ten things—otherwise he'd really be in trouble.' The person then asked her what the ten things were, and she replied, 'Well, I can't really remember. I never did write them down. But whenever he did something that really annoyed me, I'd say, 'It's a good thing that's one of the ten.'"

That's a good example of what it means to apply our text. That woman loved her husband. He did lots of things that really annoyed her. But she didn't get angry.

So I ask you—do you allow yourself to get angry with other people? If you do, it's probably a sign that you don't love them. Love is not provoked. Do you get irritated by other people? If you do you're not loving them. Love does not get irritated.

John Calvin writes, (1 Corinthians)

"love is also a bridle to repress quarrels, and this follows from the first two statements. For where there is gentleness and forbearance, persons in that case do not, on a sudden, become angry, and are not easily stirred up to disputes and contests."

David Prior writes, (1 Corinthians, The Bible Speaks Today; p. 231)

"If we truly love someone with the love of the Lord, we shall see their strengths and their potential rather than their quirks and their foibles. When they do or say something which angers us, we shall be able to treat that in the context of what they are in Christ, instead of magnifying what has happened so that it consumes our vision."

If you truly love other people, you will not, by and large, get angry with them.

What a great duty we have. This is not just about controlling your anger. It's wonderful if someone makes us angry and we don't show it, we don't take out our anger on them. But much more is in view here. We have to deal with our hearts. We need to not become angry in the first place. We need to love them so as not to become angry with them.

Do you do that? Do you treat other people like the Lord treats you when you mess up? This morning Marg was talking about Hebrews 7:25 and how Jesus,

"always lives to intercede for them."

When does Jesus intercede for you? It's when you mess up, when you sin. You do that many, many times every day. Jesus intercedes for you then. He doesn't get angry with you and write you off. He doesn't say,

"This time you've gone too far. I'm finished with you."

No. Each time He intercedes for you.

That's the way you are to treat others.