Summary: When I love like Jesus loves I love even those I don’t like
Imagine with me a courtroom in which a defendant stands accused. The prosecutor goes at that defendant with everything he’s got. He paints the man as a treasonous liar who is intent on destroying societal values and stirring up trouble. His arguments are heated, vindictive and malicious and are intended to bring the jury to the point of anger and aggravation so that they will find the man guilty and call for his punishment. So far that’s not anything different than most of us have seen on any television crime drama.
But this defendant doesn’t respond the way we would expect. He says nothing. His defense team offers no rebuttal nor does it try to justify his actions or proclaim his innocence. He merely absorbs all the insults and indignities being thrown at him without any attempt whatsoever to address his accusers. And when he is sentenced and the sentence is about to be carried out, instead of responding with hatred or seeking revenge, he merely says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Could you do that if you were in that position? My guess is that most of us have a hard time doing that when the stakes are not nearly as high, when the things we have been accused of, true or not, don’t rise nearly to that level. When we’re attacked by others our natural response is to respond in kind and seek revenge on the one attacking us. Only a supernatural work of God in our lives can enable us to love others like Jesus does – with a love that is not irritable or resentful.
But even though it takes God working in our lives for us to love like that, it is still incumbent on us to take the practical steps that we can in order to develop a mindset in which we begin to love others like that even though it goes against our sinful human nature.
So once again this morning, we’re going to look at the life of Jesus to see what we can learn about how to love like that.
As we’ve done each week in this series, we’ll begin in 1 Corinthians 13. The next phrase we find there is at the end of verse 5:
…it[love] is not irritable or resentful;
(1 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)
As we’ve seen for the last several weeks, Paul once again describes love in terms of what it is not – it is not irritable or resentful. This week, I’m going to spend a bit more time defining those two terms than I have in prior weeks for a couple reasons. First, they are both compound words or phrases that are somewhat difficult to translate into English with just a brief definition. And second, understanding the meaning of those two words is crucial in understanding how we can love like Jesus in this area.
The word “irritable” is a compound word that literally means “to bring to a sharp point”. It conveys the idea of being provoked or taking offense.
“to bring to a sharp point” =
“provoke” or “take offense”
It is also important to note that this verb is in the passive form, which indicates that the action is coming on the person from the outside. So we see here that the kind of love that Paul is writing about here and the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated in His life is a love that chooses to passively accept that which might normally stir one toward anger, bitterness or resentment without seeking to fight back. As I pointed out in the opening, that is the kind of love Jesus demonstrated when He refused to make a defense when He was charged with crimes He had not committed.
Now let’s look at the word “resentful”. If you’re using the ESV translation, you’ll see a footnote that reads “does not count up wrongdoing” which is actually closer to the literal translation of the underlying Greek. In our current culture, it conveys the idea of “keeping score”
“count [to itself] evil” =
This is the same idea that is used to express the way that God imputes righteousness to those who place their faith in Jesus. In His love, God chooses not to keep a record of wrongs that we have committed against Him. As I mentioned earlier, it is the kind of love Jesus demonstrated on the cross when He chose not to keep score against His accusers and asked God to forgive them.
I think it’s really helpful to think of these two ideas in these terms:
• Love that is “not irritable” is equivalent to God’s mercy. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus, God chooses not to be provoked to the point of carrying out His justice.