The verse states, “It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” (ESV) This verse, as the others in this chapter, pulls no punches about the nature of selfless love. Just as the other posts have probably made us realize how far we fall short of consistently and perfectly expressing biblical love, this verse offers more of the same.
You probably noticed that all three actions in verse 5 are in the negative tone. That is, love is expressed by what isn’t does not do. Firstly, we note that love does not seek its own (KJV) or insist on its own way (ESV). The term seek or insist speaks of a seeking or striving after something. It is to set one’s aim or goal on an object and do whatever it can to realize the goal.
What is the object? The object according to Paul is one’s own way. True love is not self-centered and self-seeking. It doesn’t insist that things have to be according to its specifications, wishes, or desires. It doesn’t say, “Things have to be my rules. I am in charge. I must be the leader.” Selfishness says that; love doesn’t.
Love is not irritable (ESV) or easily provoked (KJV). Again we have the negative statement. This should remind us of the idea of patience as stated in the previous verse. True love is forbearing, longsuffering, and patient. It doesn’t have a short fuse. It doesn’t “fly off the handle” at the smallest offense or wrong endured.
The term has a direct correlation to the emotions. The idea is that of someone purposefully inciting another to anger by “taking jabs” or “pushing one’s buttons.” The person that is receiving such treatment patiently endures the actions and doesn’t get emotionally upset quickly or easily. The antagonist is seeking to get a rise, but the one on the receiving end of such efforts isn’t easily provoked.
Now think about this. Paul would not defend the efforts of the antagonist, but his focus isn’t on the antagonist. He is referring to the one that is receiving the “jabs.” He is purposefully stating that the one exhibiting true love doesn’t get offended easily or quickly. Love isn’t irritable. It isn’t provoked easily with someone foolishness.
Does that describe you? Sadly, we are too easily provoked because we believe it is our right to defend ourselves at all costs. We downplay “getting up on the wrong side of the bed.” We think it isn’t strange at all to be “ill” or “irritable.” If someone doesn’t stay clear of us when we are in this sort of mood, we have no problem whatsoever exploding on the person with little more than a wrong look given to us.
When we do that, we are NOT exhibiting true love.
The third characteristic Paul mentions in verse 5 is that love “is not resentful” (ESV) or “keeps no record of wrongs.” (KJV) The KJV has the more literal understanding here probably. The term used is an accounting term. Resentful is an emotion whereby resentment builds up. However, keeping a record of an incident or transaction is more of what this word communicates.
Love blots out wrongs done to it. It doesn’t record wrongs in a ledger or log book to be brought back up again at a later date. It doesn’t recount or recall past offenses in order to inflict or cause guilt or shame. This is in perfect accord with passages in Proverbs.
Proverbs 10:12 - Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Proverbs 17:9 - Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
When a person grows resentful, he/she dwells on past wrongs or offenses, even if the offense wasn’t intentional. Resentment sees itself as a victim and seeks its own ideas of retribution or revenge. Love seeks to forgive, forget, restore, and be reconciled.
Here is a test. When you think of certain persons with whom you have disagreed or argued in the past, what comes to mind first? Was it ill treatment inflicted on you or hurtful words spoken to you or about you? If you are married, you and your spouse have had disagreements or arguments. Have you ever found yourself reminding the spouse of hurtful words or actions?
More than likely we all need to go in and update our ledgers. We probably need to blot out many offenses, or we just made need to burn those ledgers books altogether. I cannot read this verse that I do not think about a saint in my second church. He was over 90 years old, and when I mentioned this text one night in a Bible study, he told me had to go home and do some bookkeeping. I loved him and appreciated his honesty.
Paul is driving his point home to a church that is truly squabbling and arguing over spiritual gifts. Instead of selfish pursuits, quick tempers, and cherished grudges, they must exhibit love to one another.
Are we more like the Corinthians or more like the picture of biblical love Paul is painting?