Bees are easy to provoke. I remember when we were kids, a bee would enter the picture and we would start swatting or running. There would always be an adult who just stood there saying, “If you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you.” That sounds good, but it didn’t take me long to figure out it isn’t true, or there was a truth those old folks were missing. Throughout my life, I have been stung more by bees that I didn’t know were there than by bees with whom I was engaging in combat. In other words, I wasn’t messing with them, but they were still stinging me. And then at some point I figured out the other thing that those wise old sages did not know… If you are in a bee’s space, you are messing with it. In other words, bees are easily provoked. If you are running away, they will chase you down and sting you. If you are standing in their space minding your own business, they will sting you. It doesn’t take much to upset a bee.
Some people are like bees. It doesn’t take much to provoke them. Others are more even keeled and take provocation in stride. To provoke is to “to arouse to a feeling or action; to incite to anger.” There are various forces that impact how easily we will be made angry. A person who is tired is often easily provoked. If a person just got some bad news, or if things are not going well for them, they may be hanging out right near the edge of the cliff of reaction. But the number one way to avoid being pushed over the edge is to be ruled by love. The apostle Paul was instructing the early Christians about the nature of love and he said this, “Love is not provoked.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) Another version says that love is not “easily provoked.” Either way, love doesn’t seem to have a last nerve.
Love is not tested by gifts, kindness, and encouragement. It is tested when I am needled. I have a friend who when we were kids would sometimes come up to me and pulling on my ear say, “Am I ‘ear’itating you?” He would then tap my nose and inquire, “Am I too nosy?” Then he would pinch me and ask, “Am I getting on your nerves?” We can laugh at that, but it ain’t funny when people do that for real. How do you respond when someone gets you to that point? Do you lash out in anger? Or do you live out love?
A provocation is an attempt to move you to feelings you do not want to have and actions you do not want to exhibit. So how can love withstand the temptation to go off on someone? Because love isn’t a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is not a nerve ending. It is a course. Love moves you. It is not moved by others. Today you will no doubt have someone in your life trying to get your goat. Will you react in anger or respond in love? Let love win the day.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.