IMITATORS OF LOVE
PART 10 – WHY SO SENSITIVE?
Our current study is one that I’ve entitled “Imitators of Love” where we are learning about the true nature of God. We have based this on the apostle Paul’s instructions of imitating God as dear children (See Ephesians 5:1), where we see the high calling of every believer—to be like God.
Now someone will invariably say, “Aw, that’s impossible! We cannot be like God!” Well, I’d remind this naysayer that they better inform God of that—because He has said in various places in the Bible things like be holy as He is holy, to be perfect even as He is perfect, and to be merciful as He is merciful. So there we have three witnesses that should establish this truth to us that our high calling is to be like God. Amen?
So the way we are doing this is by looking at verses that teach us how we ought to be treating one another. However, the way this works is that we understand how God will not give us a standard of loving one another that He isn’t willing to abide by Himself. Therefore, we can look at all of these verses that teach us how to love and know this is how God is with each of us.
So, a few weeks ago, we started looking at a great section of Scriptures that teaches us about the characteristics of love – the great love chapter, First Corinthians chapter 13. And we started doing this with the understanding that since God is love, all of these things the apostle Paul teaches us that love does, describe to us God’s characteristics.
First Corinthians 13:4-8 teaches us how “love suffers long and is kind. (how) love does not envy; (how) love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (how it) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; (how it) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (yes, how love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
So we have been going through this list of the characteristics of love each week and what we have learned so far is …
LOVE IS NOT PROVOKED
Now the next thing that Paul says that love is not in First Corinthians 13:5 is “(love) is not provoked.”
So in my practice of looking at various translations, I see a common theme with this term “provoked.” A lot of translations describe this as love not being “easily angered” or “irritable.” A couple of other translations say that it is not “quick-tempered” or “easily annoyed.”
Do you know anyone like that? Is there someone you are friends with, related to, work with, or are married to that is like this? Of course, I ask this because the Lord would certainly lead Pastor Trey to talk to us about this to a group of people who are simply associated with others who struggle with this 😉.
Of course, I jest. The Lord wouldn’t lead us to talk about this for those who aren’t here. No, He will lead HPC into this because our church will have people who struggle with this very thing. Amen?
But the fact is, everyone struggles with this—some more than others. So not only will we in these pews have our own problems with this, but we will run with others who struggle with it as well. Yes, every person has the capacity to be easily irritated or annoyed, quick-tempered.
But this point ought to be clear to us—Simply put, Paul was saying that love isn’t this way. No, love is not easily annoyed or angered. It’s not going to be quick-tempered or irritable because that is not what love does.
Do you know why this is true? It’s because everything from being annoyed, irritated, and quick tempered are all self-centered. The reason being is because all of these feelings in me are associated with how the other person is making me feel. So how can it be love for others if I am focused on how what someone else is doing is making me feel? That would fall more under the arena of love for myself than love for others, right?
I mean, just listen to our terminology when we are feeling this way— “They annoy me ... I am so irritated ... I’m so angry right now …” Oftentimes, you can find this ugly self-centeredness simply in our usage of these personal pronouns. Yes, if there are a lot of I’s, me’s, my’s, etc. in my conversations, then there might just be too much of “me” in those conversations.
But, yes, my point is that love isn’t going to be irritable, easily annoyed, or “provokable.” Why? Because love is not focused on itself and how what the other person is doing is making them feel. Love does the exact opposite. It’s not worried as much about how it feels as it is about the other person. In other words, love will be more sensitive to the other person than it is to its own feelings.
WHY SO SENSITIVE?
Along those lines, I like something that the Amplified Bible brings out about this phrase in First Corinthians 13:5— It says, “love is not provoked [nor overly sensitive or easily angered]”
This being overly sensitive seems to be a little more of the issue, doesn’t it? For it is the root of one being easily angered, annoyed, quick-tempered, and irritable, right? Yes, even though we all can struggle with this, some are definitely a little more sensitive than others and can tend to get a little more easily irritated than others.
So if this is me, some good questions would be— Why am I so sensitive? Why do I fly off the rails so easily when people do or say certain things? What is it in me that causes me to get irritated with things that the average person might not be annoyed by?
Well, again, the first thing we need to understand is that the simple answer to these questions based on the verse we are covering is— It’s because we are not walking in love in those times. I say this because Paul clearly said here that love is not provoked.
So what this means is that in the times I am getting annoyed, irritated, or angered by what someone else is doing / saying, it’s because I am only thinking about myself and not thinking about them. In other words, I am being consumed with how what they are doing / saying is making me feel instead of what might be going on with that other person. So the real culprit here is love of ourselves and not love for the other person. Amen or Oh me?
But the good news in this is that love is something that we can all choose over self at any given moment. For example, I can be a person who totally struggles with being easily “provoked” and is completely self-centered on multiple levels, but then walk by a house one day that’s on fire and hear a child screaming for help from inside, and then throw all thoughts of myself out the window (no pun intended) and put myself in harm’s way to run into that house to rescue that child. Guess what I just did? I chose love over self.
So making the right decisions that are based on love is not rocket science. You don’t always have to get fixed to do the right thing. I can choose a life of love because God said I can.
However, there are certainly reasons why some of us seemingly are more sensitive than others. And that’s what I would like to deal with today—Why so sensitive?
So why? Why are some of us a little more sensitive in these areas?
I have come to discover that just as our physical bodies can be bruised, our souls can carry bruises as well. And don’t we know just how sensitive those physical bruises can be? For instance, if you had a big bruise on your arm from some accident and I came up to you today and squeezed you in that place, you’d feel it, wouldn’t you? And you also might have some kind of reaction like pushing me away, slapping my hand, or getting angry with me.
Well, that’s what happens all the time with so many of us. No, I’m not talking physically; I’m referring to the soul. Some of our souls are covered in bruises from where someone else hurt us or from where a circumstance/situation wounded us. And this is exactly why some of us are more sensitive to certain things others do or say. Now our flesh would like to tell us— “Oh no, it’s them, Pastor. It’s what they are doing/saying that’s the problem.” No, it’s not. And I’ll prove it to you: Does everything anyone does or says “provoke” the same response from others? No, it doesn’t. For example, if a person treats you and I in a certain way, it might totally be no big deal to you and absolutely offend me. So the point is that the same action can generate two different responses—proving that it’s not just what the other person does/says; it’s how we view their action, what our expectations on people are, what we are sensitive to, etc. That’s ultimately what determines our emotional response.
You know, a great example of this is how a baby or little children act. An example would be if we had a youngster start crying during one of our services. That baby’s cry might irritate the snot out of some of you, getting you thinking— “I wish the parents would just shut them up!” But to others, they might be thinking— “Aww, what a sweet baby. He’s probably hungry.” So the same baby’s cry might generate completely opposite reactions—one being an irritated attitude and the other being a compassionate attitude. And why? Because of the way we are thinking and where our focus is.
HEALING THE BRUISES
So let me quickly give you a couple of ways that I have learned of how to let those bruises heal:
Well, my first key goes along the lines of how we let bruises heal in the natural— If I am one of those accident prone people who seems to compile injuries, then I might keep reaggravating that bruise, right? In other words, a person who tends towards having the same accidents over and over might continue to reinjure themselves because they keep putting themselves in the position to get hurt.
We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? Some people seem to just be drawn to getting into relationships with people who aren’t good for them. So they keep putting themselves in the position to continue getting hurt.
I think sometimes we need to realize that we might be drawn to the wrong people because of certain heart issues, and this is compiling the problem. The key is just being honest with ourselves and simply looking at our history. Amen?
Also, if I’m one of those that keeps touching the bruise, pushing on it and poking it myself, it’s going to have a harder time healing, isn’t it? So this might describe the person who likes to pet their bruise—meaning, it’s their identity and they talk about it constantly. Friends, while there is certainly a place for talking about the problem that obviously exists in working through it, this can also be something we give too much attention to, which can work against us instead of helping the issue.
I’m reminded of the story in Nehemiah where, in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, the people heard the words of the Law. This saddened the people, and they began to mourn and weep—to which Nehemiah responded to the people that this was not the time to mourn over their past failures and what had gotten them to this position of even having to rebuild these walls.
So what all of this means is that, while the Israelites were naturally tempted to look at their past and all of the things that went wrong, this was not the time & place to focus on that. So Nehemiah told them in Nehemiah 8:10 – “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
So the lesson in this story is that while there is a day where we might need to address the failures & hurts of the past, that’s not every day. There are days that are holy to the Lord and on those, we need rejoice in what God is doing in us today.
I’ve had the Lord specifically minister this to me during a time where my natural tendency to look at the negative needed some correction:
I used to be consumed with my failures & shortcomings. So one time, as I was asking the Lord when He was going to help me get free of my current issues, He reminded me of how far He had brought me in such a short period of time. This was a perspective change for me. I had never considered that it actually might be a healthy thing for me to relax and rejoice in how far I had come. To me, that was irresponsible. But the Lord knew I needed to chill out and not continue to be hyper-focused on the negative.
Church, I believe in order for some of us to grow past the place we are at, we need to change the channel and learn how to rejoice in some things. For example, it might be that you or I need to focus on the growth that has taken place in someone in our life instead of continuing to focus on what’s left to change in them. Hey, that might actually help the relationship.
So we just need to simply use some wisdom of what our tendencies are to enter wrong relationships and choose more wisely and/or let the Lord show us how to direct our attention to more constructive things. These are just a couple of wise things that one can do to receive the healing the Lord has for us.
GOD IS NOT TOUCHY
But one thing that I believe is tremendously helpful to do that always works in seeing ourselves healed from the soul bruises of the past is to do exactly what you have heard over and over in this series – We need to see God! We need to understand how He is exactly what we desire to be.
Yes, if I want to forgive better, I need to see the Lord’s forgiveness. If I want to be more merciful, I need to behold His mercy. And in this case, if I want to not be so easily provoked and become less sensitive, I need to capture in my heart how He is not easily provoked.
So now for how our God is like this: One amazing thing about God is that He is not easily provoked. No, He is not easily irritable or quick-tempered.
Now let me say, first of all, that this does not mean that God does not have limits. The Scriptures do teach us how God’s people have “provoked” Him to anger. And while I certainly believe that the Cross has made a big difference in how God responds to His people’s shortcomings & failures, the fact is, love does have limits and just because it is extremely longsuffering & patient doesn’t mean that one can never reach that last straw.
This needs to be said because there are many in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ today who have done exactly what the apostle Paul warned us about where he said to not despise the riches of His goodness, longsuffering, and forbearance by not letting His grace turn us towards repentance. An utter lack of repentance is a dangerous place to be, church. So we don’t want to tread on that ground.
But for those of us who do desire to change and imitate God in all that we do, think, or say, there is certainly more than enough love & grace to make it downright difficult to provoke God the way that many of His chosen people have over time.
God’s heart has and always will be one that is not easily angered, irritated, or annoyed. Many believe otherwise, however. I’ve run into many Christians who always seem to think that they are irritating God. They will bring up their constant shortcomings and how they fall short of His glory and seem to believe that God is simply exasperated with them. Nothing could be farther than the truth!
Again, many think this for a couple of reasons:
One is that they mistakenly put God in the same category with us. Meaning, because we have such short fuses and tend towards getting irritated with other people so easily, God must be the same. And I’m here to tell you today that He is not like you and I. Thank God! The fact is, we are carnal most of the time, and in our selfishness, we do not have much patience with other’s faults. But God is not selfish; He is spiritual. And as a spiritual being who is the embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit, He is most certainly nowhere close to our short-tempered, impatient, and easily-angered nature.
The other reason why a large contingent of Christians see God as being easily provoked is because they have a perverted view of Him. Meaning, they have become so hyper-focused on Old Testament examples of God becoming exasperated with the children of Israel and how He demonstrated His anger time and time again, that this is who they see God is. But what these have failed to do is consider how Jesus came to show us the heart of God—how He is truly the only way to see the true nature of God. So having only that Old Testament view of God engrained in them, they have never come to consider the kindness side of God in addition to the severe side.
But there is a good & loving side of God that truly represents His nature. In other words, God will be who He needs to be. But love & goodness is who He desires to be. Never forget that.
So when it comes to this truth that love is not provoked, we need to realize that God’s core nature is to not be easily angered. But this goes beyond the judgment of sin. Some Christians have a hard time with the simplest of things.
For example, they feel they are bothering God or that they can anger Him by asking for certain things or by asking for too many things at once. But again, this is according to our own experiences, and we are basing this on how we would be. Again, God is not like us- thank God! He is not easily irritated or angered. He is far more patient and kind than we could possibly imagine! No, He doesn’t carry a chip on His shoulder or get irritated easily. We do not have to worry about God waking up on the wrong side of the bed, so to speak. He is not touchy, grumpy, or even in a bad mood. He loves to hear from you! He is honored that we turn to Him with our every need! This is who our God is.
LIBERALLY AND WITHOUT REPROACH
A good example of this is found in James 1:5:
This verse describes how if any person lacks wisdom, he or she needs to simply ask God for that wisdom—because He is always willing to give that wisdom “liberally and without reproach.”
Now the context concerns the various trials we find ourselves in. And sometimes those trials provide a lot of questions such as “Why did this happen to me?” or “How do I get out of this?” No matter the question, we always need wisdom from God when we fall into these various trials. So what are we to do? Ask of God!
While the Greek word used for “ask” here does simply describe a petition; it also denotes to “desire, crave and to beg.” So, the kind of asking that is being described here is a wholehearted kind of petition, not just some passing, flippant request that is half-hearted. This is important.
But notice that James said that we are to ask of God. The word that is used for “of” here is the Greek word para and means “to come alongside of.” So, this describes the proximity of our request from God, which is right by His side. Therefore, it denotes that we have drawn near to God and ask.
This has so many shades of meaning, all of which are vitally important to understand: The truth is many are asking amiss. They are doing things independent from God (i.e. doing their own thing) and they have not come alongside of Him. This is the best way to receive from God, church - learning to draw near to Him and walk with Him on a regular basis. Entering into His presence through worship to where He is near, and you have His ear! This is coming boldly to Him in the full assurance of faith!
And James goes on to explain to his readers why that is - to be completely persuaded that when they ask, they will receive: It is because our God “gives liberally and without reproach.”
But what if the God that we come to is not the God who gives liberally and without reproach? In other words, what if we are making this request of a God that we are not convinced will give (number one) to all (number two) liberally and (number three) without reproach? Then the last part of James 1:5 might not happen for you (i.e. “it will be given to you”). In other words, our lack of understanding of who He is might impede us from receiving from Him.
You see, when we come to God, our view of Him does impact how we receive from Him. If we see Him as a harsh, critical and condemning Judge, it will be impossible for us to approach Him in the full assurance of faith because we won’t be sure of what He will do or say. But if we see Him as a good, liberal, and non-condemning God, there will be confidence that when we ask, we will receive.
The word James used for “liberally” here is only used this one time, and it literally describes something being done “simply, openly, frankly, sincerely.” One expositor stated that “singleness of mind is the central feature” of this word. So what we can see by the usage of this word is how God will “simply” give us the wisdom we ask Him for. He’s very “open” to giving us the answers we need. So “frankly” speaking, God will very freely give you what you are asking Him for.
Now the phrase “without reproach” gives us even more insight into how the Lord responds to the requests we give Him. To “reproach” someone means to “revile, defame, or chide” them. So what this means is that, when we ask the Lord for something like wisdom, He is not going to respond to us by criticizing, mocking, and slandering us. In other words, what this describes is how some of us might respond when someone asks us something that “provokes” us. For instance, if someone asks us something for the 10th time, we might start getting irritated with them at that point, so we show that agitation by responding with something like— “How many times are you going to ask me that? C’mon man! Are you stupid or something?” So, even though you might end up giving them the answer again, those “reviling” words are a great example of responding “with reproach.”
So the point is this is not what God is going to do with any of us even though we ask Him for something over and over. No, He will simply give us what we ask for and never add any condescending response with it. And why? Because He, being love, is not easily provoked. He will not get irritated or agitated with us. His attitude will always be that of compassion, mercy, and grace.
Church, this is what heals those bruises—knowing that in His love, God has bruised His beloved Son (See Isaiah 53:10). Have you ever read that and wondered how God the Father could do that to Jesus? Moreover, how could it actually “please” Him to put Jesus on the Cross? The answer is simple: We saw that He did not get pleasure in causing to Him suffer; what pleased Him was how it would cause all of us to be redeemed, forgiven and made righteous once again! His pleasure was in us—and both He and Jesus were willing and happy to do what They had to do for you.
So Jesus was bruised for us! In other words, He made Himself the substitute for our bruises and was bruised that we might be healed. This is grace! This is the power of the Gospel!