My study of the “love chapter” is really revealing things to me about the way I show love to people. Allowing God’s Word to soak in like this helps me as I try to replace the way I have been doing things with the way I should be doing them. Clearly I will remain a work in progress as long as I am in this body, but I am so thankful for the lessons the Holy Spirit is teaching me along the way.
[Love] is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:5
I wonder how many times in a day I get irritated with someone? Whether it’s someone on the road that cuts me off, or maybe my kids when I have to repeat myself for the umpteenth time. Maybe it’s a less than helpful salesperson or a friend that cancels plans. Maybe it’s my husband when he forgets to do something on the “honey-do” list. Honestly, reflecting on my answer to this question has really made me think. Unfortunately I think I get “easily angered” more often than I’d care to admit.
So how do I change that? How can I be less easily angered and more loving? One word instantly comes to mind. Perspective. I think that the vast majority of the time that I complain about someone that has annoyed me or get snappy with someone who has irritated me it’s because I’m focusing too much on myself. How I’ve been so mistreated or neglected. How my feelings have been hurt. As if all of these little annoyances are part of some big conspiracy to make my life miserable. Maybe if I tried to put things in proper perspective and to manage my expectations a little bit I wouldn’t be easily angered as often. Maybe I should consider the possibility that the “offender” didn’t even realize they were doing something that would make me mad? Or that their actions are a direct result of some circumstance in their own life? And if I respond back to them in an unloving way, then the cycle of anger is just continuing and there’s no love in that! Is it possible that if my response to someone that ticked me off was a smile rather than a glare it could change their whole day? It would certainly change mine.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. – James 1:19-20
And right along with the “easily angered” thing is the “list of wrongs” thing. It probably wouldn’t be much more loving to decide not to respond in anger to all those aggravations and instead just keep a mental log of them in case I need to refer to them later. If you consider that agape love is God’s love, you can’t get by the fact that the biggest part of that is forgiveness. God’s whole purpose for sending Jesus to pay the price for our sins was so that we could be forgiven. And in light of God’s perfect holiness, our “list of wrongs” before him would be longer than we could ever bare without Christ’s atoning blood. If God wants us to show agape love to others, that has to include forgiveness. And if we truly forgive someone, we shouldn’t have their misdeeds on some list that we pull out whenever we need some ammunition. If we are keeping score, no one has a chance. How could we show real love to someone who’s name is on a naughty list in our mind? These lists will pile up like junk mail on the dining room table if we don’t get rid of them. And it will be impossible to show agape love to anyone if we’re keeping track of their faults.
Yes, some things are easier to forgive than others. But the Bible is clear about forgiveness. It’s not optional. And God wants us to forgive not just for the sake of the offender, but even more so for our own sake. Pent up unforgiveness will eat away at us and rob us of the peace and joy God wants us to have in him. Not circumstantial happiness, but real peace and joy that comes from knowing that God has it all under control. The devil would like nothing more than to see one of God’s children harborring anger and unforgiveness. It means we’re bringing on our own misery and doing his work for him. We cannot allow the devil to have this kind of stronghold on us.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14
Of course none of this is easy to do on our own, but we have to remind ourselves – were not on our own. Once we accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit to enable us to accomplish God’s purposes in our life. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish his work in us.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38
…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. -Philippians 2:13