A Gift That Irritates

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The Christmas consumer rush is notorious for rude behavior. Winding traffic lines with drivers not wanting to let people enter lanes. Extended grocery lines with customers complaining about slow cashiers or not enough open registers. Out of stock items due to mass purchases for inflated sale of items online. Irrational people who give fruit cake as a gift… rude, haha!

Returning to our series in 1Cor13…

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  • Advent Sundays & Christmas Eve… Inviter cards

EXAMINE               1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or not rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable
or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Review

  • 1 Cor 13 is letter without chapter divisions; love in community. Corinthians had flawed beliefs, conflicting behaviors, and was overall a new church where Christianity was just beginning. They needed this letter to help correct and guide their newfound faith.

  • 1 Cor 13 defines agape: a unique form of love that wasn’t shallow but supernatural. It defined the early Christians because Jesus modeled it throughout His life and animated His followers to go and do likewise.
    • Jesus said, “By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)
  • 1Cor13 provides us a profound definition of love. Starts with two positive traits, and then proceeds with eight negative traits to contrast how love should not think or act. Consider the fact that these negative traits are communicated because they were most likely the prevalent perspectives and behaviors of the day, and this present church.
    • Corinth – and the other NT letters – remind us there is no perfect church.
      • So, if you are not a Christian, realize we do not claim perfection; only God is flawless and unfailing. Jesus is the sinless Savior who can help you navigate the tension of life, and help you overcome the temptations and trials we all face. He offers relief, comfort, freedom, and hope, and this church is a perfect place for imperfect people with lots of grace.  
      • If you are new with us & considering returning, or connecting next steps toward membership, it is worth repeating that we do not have it all together, but we have a strong foundation with Christ at the center & God’s word as our guide. We want to love you & your family, & we want God to use you to love others with your time & talents.

Today we are focused on a gift that irritates because the bother is not the external portrayal of love but the internal problem that we fall short of this standard. It’s not so much what we see in others but what we see inside ourselves. We need agape love!

13:5 Love is not rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable,

Reducing rudeness with empathy.

Paul uses the word ἀσχημονέω/. The KJV translates it as “not behaving unseemly.” Multiples times the word is used to describe bodily actions of an unpresentable nature, or indecent sexual overtones (cf. 1Cor 7:36, 12:23; Rom 1:27; Rev 16:15).

Today, we observe the impropriety of society as a loss of public civility and personal decency. Yet, reality is that human morality has not decreased but simply continued its path since inception. In the past, humanity has just masked its disrespect or hid its depravity. People have rationalized their rudeness, saying their personality is just blunt or brutally honest. But an accurate assessment is that by nature, we are unabashed, unloving, and ungodly.

The contrast of Paul’s phrasing is to be understood that Christians are to be upright, respectful, and well-mannered. That doesn’t mean Christians are beholden to every social etiquette, but they are bound to biblical etiquette. The Bible is filled with principles and commands for how to behave in word and deed. Christians grieve the Holy Spirit when rudeness rears its ugly and unloving head. Brothers and sisters, this should not be. 

Paul is telling the Corinthians, and us today, overcoming rudeness starts with seeing one another as made in the image of God. We should have a sense of shared humanity that recognizes in the face of another a common frailness and collective hopefulness in this life. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, economic status, we all want the same things from life with acceptance, belonging, and the need to treat others how we want to be treated – Jesus’ golden rule.

Overcoming rudeness starts with seeing one another as made in the image of God.

How can we reduce rudeness?

  • Look at people eye to eye. Often, we are distracted with tasks or technology that we don’t look up or face people. As they say, the eyes are a window to a person’s soul. Therefore, looking one another in the eyes helps us to empathize and consider the pressures and pains others are facing. Our words become softened and selective instead of harsh or hasty.
    – Jesus looked at people and loved them (cf Mk 10:21 rich young ruler; Lk 19:5 Zacchaeus; Jn 1:42 Simon).

  • Become intentional with our intake. There’s a saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” Our output is a result of our intake. So, we need to protect what is influencing our thinking and shaping our heart. You might remember an elementary song, “be careful little ears what you hear; be careful little eyes what you see…” Likewise, Jesus notes our words and deeds stem from the overflow of the heart (cf Lk 6:43-45). We need to saturate our heart with Scripture, so that when the world pressures and squeezes, what comes out is something positive and productive.
    – Ps 119:11 “I store up God’s word in my heart that I may not sin against God.”
    – Col 3… “Put to death [the flesh]… Put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony… Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Shrinking selfishness with humility

ESV translates, “love does not insist on its own way.” Love never says, “My way or the highway.” Instead, love says, “Let’s do it Jesus’ way.”[1] Agape love is not demanding or domineering but is understanding and cooperative.

The Corinthians struggled with narcistic insistence in personal relationships and public worship gatherings. (cf. 1Cor 10:24; 33; 11:21-22; 12:15-26). They sought to promote their own talents and hoard resources. Instead of seeing their belongings as blessings from God to use and share, they were greedy and seldom thought of helping others.

Love never says, “My way or the highway.” Instead, agape love says, “Let’s do it Jesus’ way.”

There is an old hymn that says, “Have Thine Own Way,” which is like a prayer expressing faith in God’s provision and commitment to serve Him and utilize our life for His purposes in the lives of others. The first verse reads:

Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way.
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

But reality is our life often twists those lyrics[2]

  • Have mine own way, God, Have mine own way   

Let me be in charge here, at least for today.
I really don’t need you – say what you will;
I’ve got my own plan, God, you can just chill.

How do we shrink selfishness?

  • Become a spouse or parent, ha! Family life has humbled me (over and over) more than anything else.
    As a parent, I see a tiny human or maturing adolescent that eerily reflects my own features and fallenness. They imitate my immaturity and duplicate my pride. They mirror the character and values that I present or provide through their environment.
    As a husband, I fall far short of loving my bride as Christ loves the church. Walking through the 1Cor 13 list creates a giant gulp of guilt and shame for how I can be selfish and take more than I sacrifice or serve.

    Family life is decidedly God’s primary means of our sanctification. If we are failing in this area (and just ask if you are uncertain), then don’t fear, there is help.
    1) Ask for God’s help. Start today with an altar.
    2) Join a gospel group for peer interaction that may need modeled and nurtured.
    3) Ask a brother/sister to pray and partner with you for help as a Christian spouse or parent, or even as a single.
     – 3a) Singlehood/widow is not immune to selfishness. Singles know the highs and heartaches of living alone. Being alone can help your ability to serve others based on increased opportunities and lesser attachments (cf 1 Cor 7:32). Yet, being single can also numb your feelings and harden your posture toward generosity.
    So, whether single or married we must guard from being desensitized to the needs of others.

  • View our life as stewards rather than owners. This is the paradigm shift of becoming a Christian. As Paul tells the Corinthians, “you are not your own, but were bought with a price…” (1Cor 6:20) We can take heart that the price paid for our life is the precious blood of the Son of God. So, while we are servants, we are also friends and stewards of the treasures the Lord provides as resources for use in His kingdom. A stewardship mindset helps to shrink selfishness.
    à Consider giving a gift to someone unexpectedly, or to whom could not return the favor.
  • Cultivate your prayer life. Prayerlessness is due to pride and selfishness. Active prayer causes you to look upward and outward beyond yourself. Jesus is the ultimate example of  prayer and selflessness. The prayers that we have reports of in the Gospels reflect Jesus giving thanks, selflessly yielding His life, and asking God’s gracious blessing in the lives of others.

How do we shrink in selfishness? Start with meaningfully serving your family. View your life in terms of vertical stewardship rather than horizontal ownership. And cultivate a vibrant prayer life.

Erasing irritability with nearness to the LORD.

Previously, Paul has defined love as patient. This next verse explains the contrast that love is “not irritable,” (ESV) or “not easily angered” (NIV). Additional synonyms: love is not cranky or crabby. It is not “quick tempered[3],” or given to emotional eruptions. It is not grumpy or grouchy, or easily ticked off. 

The Corinthians’ irritabilities were plenty but often petty, reflecting their immaturity.

  • 1:10 relational conflict and organizational division
    (imagine fighting over which ministry was superior…)
  • 3:1 morally worldly and spiritual immature
    (imagine music with explicit lyrics at worship…)
  • 6:1 disputes became litigious
    (imagine members suing bc disagreeing over who got to sit in the back row…)
  • 7:5 marriages were unfriendly and indifferent
  • 8:1 irritations over eating food from secular burger shops
  • 9:3 irritations over church leaders
  • 11:18 upset over people who didn’t bring food to pot-luck but they still ate
  • 12:22 annoyed at people who always wanted their name highlighted as a ministry leader
  • 16:13 men who were incessantly whining instead of faithfully working.

For most of us, our irritants are somewhat similar. We are irritated and lash out at others based on excusable annoyances: a child spilling food, a spouse forgetting to put down the toilet seat, a classmate chewing gum loudly, a co-worker who forgot to sign a report, a fellow driver who doesn’t turn on/off their blinker, a church friend singing off key, a pastor who preaches too long (never happens!).

“Irritability is anger’s trigger finger,”[4] meaning we are prone to react disproportionately to situations. Being primed to pounce at excusable mistakes says something more about our own character than it does the other person’s actions. Such responses are signs of physical burnout and spiritual breakdown. When irritability becomes a regularity, then we need to realize our body needs some sort of healing and our spirit needs refreshed.

There’s a passage in the Gospels (Matthew 14) where the disciples experience irritability. John the Baptizer, cousin to Jesus, was just martyred. Jesus receives the news and prepares to grieve. He gets the disciples into a boat to travel to a secluded retreat place away from the crowds. However, the crowds find and follow Jesus. They can’t escape. The disciples are aggravated. They point out to Jesus that their location is too remote, the hour is too late, and everyone is hungry. They prepare to send people home, but Jesus stops them.

Jesus – though emotionally grieved and physically drained – doesn’t show irritation but instead looks at the people with authentic compassion. He tells the disciples to give them food. Looking around and only seeing a child’s happy meal, their irritation starts to steam. And you know the story – Jesus takes the little and transforms it into much, feeding 5+K people. The disciples were focused on the problem rather than the solution.

The solution to our irritability is nearness to Jesus. When we drift from Jesus and detach ourselves from God’s body, then slowly but surely, we become spiritually irritated.

  • When money is short… when problems are big… when time is running out… when people are pressuring… do we turn to the Lord as first priority or as last resort?

The solution to our irritability is nearness to Jesus. When we drift from Jesus and detach ourselves from God’s body, then slowly but surely, we become spiritually irritated.

When we think about Jesus’ life, He was inflicted with irritations from beginning to end. The nativity accounts reflect the aggravations of unplanned pregnancy. While we don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood, it seems anything but normal. His ministry had fickle followers; He had people who disappointed Him; He had religious leaders who protested and conspired against Him, and enemies who plotted His death. Further, a corrupt government ignored impartiality and declined justice with soldiers venting their ferocious and barbaric wrath at His execution. Yet, from beginning to end, Jesus was slow to anger and abounding in love. And He continues to relate this way toward us because His love is wide and deep.

A childlike illustration of non-irritable love took place during a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington National in 2009.[5] The Phillies fan Steve Montforto was sitting with his three-year old daughter (Emily) when a foul ball curled back into their upper deck seats. The father leaned over the rail to catch his first and only foul ball – every fan’s dream, and he was successful. The crowd cheered and the father proudly handed the ball to his daughter. However, Emily had seed what other fans did with certain foul balls, and so when she received the ball she threw the ball away over the railing. The entire stadium gasped!
And while the father was surprised to see the child throw the ball away, he was unswerving in his immediate response. He did not get irritated or irate, but instead wrapped his child up in a tender embrace. This is what good and godly fathers do. This is what our Heavenly Father does. God loves us by putting gifts in our hands and grace in our heart. Unfortunately, we do not always realize what we are doing, and we throw His gifts away. We are impulsive and petulant children who complain at the slightest situation. Yet, rather than warranted punishment, God shows us irresistible grace and steadfast love that draws us back into His arms.   

APPLY/THINK

As we close a message on describing love as not rude or irritable – and that we do not want to practice selfishness; we also recognize that sometimes without warrant, life can be rude to us. So rude that we abide in the darkness with the shadows our only reprieve. Then we become bitter toward the Lord. If this is you, my prayer is for you to know the near comfort of the LORD and a community of agape love.


[1] Quote from https://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/why-love-has-a-bad-memory/

[2] Phil Ryken, Loving The Way Jesus Loves, pp.119-120.

[3] NIV Bible. Also, Charles Hodge Exposition of 1Cor defines it “quick-tempered,” and David Garland Baker Commentary as “cantankerous.”

[4] Phil Ryken, Loving The Way Jesus Loves, p.48.

[5] https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/fatherly-love-dad-steve-monforto-hugs-daughter-phillies-game-tosses-foul-ball-article-1.407798

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