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Are You An Irritable Christian?

When was the last time someone "got on your nerves?" The following story illustrates that sometimes the problem is unwittingly our own. After driving all night, an exhausted man decided to pull over and get some sleep. He had just fallen asleep when there was a knock on the window. He opened his eyes to see a jogger who asked, "Excuse me, but do you have the timer The tired man replied, "It's 8:10." The jogger said "Thanks" and ran off. The sleepy man dozed off again but there was another knock and a hiker asked, "What time is it?" The wanna-be slimmer replied, "8:25." Fed up, the would-be sleeper put a sign in his window that read in capital letters: "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS." Not five minutes after he managed to doze off the third time, he was awakened again! Scowling, the man rolled down the window. "What?" he yelled with great irritation at the Boy Scout standing there. The Scout said, "It's 8:45. "

A terse verse found in 1 Corinthians 13 challenges us not to allow life's irritations to overly irritate us. After writing that love suffers long and is kind' (verse 4), the apostle Paul goes on to say that love "is not provoked' (verse 5b). This is a fascinating thought, all the more so because of its extended context. Even a surface reading of chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians makes clear Christians at Corinth were getting on each other's nerves! There was conflict and controversy over spiritual gifts and who could do what It is quite clear that people who shared a pew were "getting under each other's skin." They were irritated by and with each other! To help them get over it, Paul reminds them that God-like love Is not provoked" (New King James Version). The Revised Standard Version says love Is not irritable." The King James is off the mark here when it adds the word "easily." Commentators point out the word "easily" is not in the original and was added by the King James translators. Paul did not tell the easily angered Corinthian Christians that love is not easily provoked — he told them love is not provoked — period. The thought is not that love can never be justly indignant; for the Son of God was the most loving person who ever walked God's green earth, and He was occasionally angered (Mork 3:5: John 2:14-17, etc.). But Jesus was not an irritable, touchy, easily exasperated person. Though surrounded by people who constantly said and did irritating things, He didn't carry His feelings on His sleeve and He didn't angrily threaten to quit serving the Lord over problems and irritations, even major ones. Some members of the church ought to take note and grow up, or better yet, toughen up. Some are far too thin-skinned and overly sensitive to perceived slights and wrongs from others. Why do our feelings get hurt so easily? Why so easily provoked? The verse under consideration suggests the problem may be more us than them. Love may not alter the irritating people who get on your nerves at times. But love will alter you and keep you from being a touchy, irritable Christian who is easily provoked.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ