I once had a cat whose personal mission in life was to irritate our dog. She would take swipes at him and generally bother him in every way she could. The dog would take it for awhile, but eventually he’d have enough and would snarl and snap and bark at that cat, sending it scurrying for its life.
Do you get irritated easily? Do people around you make you upset? Are you bothered by the little things? Do you snap and snarl when irritated? Well, in 1 Corinthians 13:5, God says that love doesn’t do that. He says agape love “is not easily provoked.” Now I suppose the phrase “easily provoked” might give us the idea that getting provoked is O.K. as long as it isn’t quick or easy. After all, we all have our limits of endurance, right? (like my dog, who just couldn’t take that pesty cat anymore). Well, the word “easily” really isn’t in the original text.
Actually, the word “provoked” appears as a single Greek word paroxynetai, and means “urged on to a point of wrath; irritated.” This is actually a compound word, with the preposition “near” attached to the word for sharp or keen. So, the word really means, “to be near the point of becoming sharp; to be on the edge – close to losing it.”
Recently I was reminded how quickly I can lose it. I was in a hurry, and traffic was congested. Suddenly this young guy in a fancy car cut me off. In fact, he almost hit me, and caused me to apply my brakes. When I beeped my horn at him, he stuck his hand out of the window and gave me an obscene gesture. Well, that really irritated me, and I felt the anger swelling up in my mind. Have you ever had that happen to you? Right then – I realized what was happening and I backed off and let it go. But, wow! It can happen so quickly. This is something we all need to pray about and to work on. “Love is not easily provoked.”
Now you know the real meaning of the word. It’s obvious that people who get irritated easily aren’t fun to be around. Do people like being around you?