By Daniel Bobinski
Note: In March of 2020 I decided to use this space to focus on God’s greatest command. If you’re connecting with this series for the first time and would like to read the earlier columns on this topic, I encourage you to visit Christian Living’s website to read the whole series. Visit https://www.christianlivingmag.com/columns/
People often ask me what version of the Bible I like best. My answer is always the same: the original version. No, I don’t read Hebrew, and I’ve had only one class in Koine Greek, so I like the Blue Letter Bible website (blb.org), which provides lots of insights. I especially like all the links for quickly researching word meanings, and with the embedded concordances, it takes just a few mouse clicks to see where and how specific words are used throughout Scripture.
The next phrase in our study on how to live a life of Godly love, as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, says love is not paroxynō (par-ox-oo’-no). Before we explore the various translations, know that the word literally means “to make sharp,” or “sharpen.”
Interestingly, paroxynō appears only twice in Scripture. We find it in Acts 17:16, which reads, “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (NIV).
In the King James version, the word is translated stirred, and it’s translated provoked in the New America Standard Bible.
The other place paroxynō appears is in 1 Corinthians 13:5, where Paul is telling us what love is not. The word is translated as:
- Not easily angered (NIV, Berean)
- Not irritable (ESV, NLT)
- Not easily provoked (KJV, NKJV, NASB, Amplified)
The Strong’s Concordance tells us the word also has a figurative meaning: to exasperate.
Personally, I like that word best out of all that have been presented, because I think it works well in both places that paroxynō appears. Paul became exasperated that Athens was so full of idols, and 1 Corinthians 13:5 says loving others means we should not easily be exasperated by them.
It’s important to remember that God is love, so therefore, God is our model. This is pretty easy here, because God does not get easily exasperated with us – for which I am immensely grateful.
Does that mean God never gets angry? No. In Exodus 32:9-10, God tells Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them.” Of course, Jesus displayed anger as well. Remember when he flipped over tables at the temple? (See John 2:13-17 and Matthew 21:12-17.) But those demonstrations of anger did not come easily, and that is the key. God does not get easily exasperated.
This concept of getting exasperated correlates to something I once heard from the pulpit, when a preacher taught that God does not want us to be angry. Yes, he actually used the phrase, “God says don’t be angry.” This bothered me. Afterwards, I approached the preacher privately with my concern, saying nowhere in Scripture does God command people to not have emotions. In fact, in Ephesians 4:26 we are told, “In your anger, do not sin.” We are all human beings, and since anger is a naturally occurring human emotion, people are going to feel anger. The idea for living out a life of Godly love is to not reach a point where we become exasperated.
Ironically, the preacher did not like someone questioning his teaching, and he got angry with me.
Love the Lord
The greatest commandment says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” If we’re to love the Lord, we shouldn’t be easily exasperated by Him. That becomes easier if we also practice “Love is patient.” Think about it. If we’re being patient, it’s harder to become exasperated. Even as we’re experiencing anger, we can choose to not to let that anger boil over and get the best of us.
Antonyms for exasperated include calm and tranquil, so if love is NOT being exasperated, what is it? One could easily choose the words “calm” or “tranquil” to answer that question. After all, it is possible to be angry and yet remain calm.
I admit, I have been exasperated with God from time to time, but thankfully it doesn’t come easily. And it almost always comes when I’m not patiently trying to see things from His perspective.
Love Your Neighbor – as Yourself
According to Jesus, the second greatest commandment – love your neighbor as yourself – is like the first. But, if you’ve followed this column for any length of time, you know I believe it’s best to receive God’s love and own it for ourselves before we set out to love our neighbor. By doing so, we have a much better idea of what we’re trying to do for someone else.
In this aspect of living out Godly love, we should not easily become exasperated with ourselves. Why? Because God is not easily exasperated with us! Do we think we are better than God to think it’s okay to be exasperated with ourselves when even He won’t do it?
Being calm with ourselves – when we might normally be hard on ourselves – is often a large area of personal growth for people. As the saying goes, “Try it; you’ll like it.” As with all aspects of living out agape love, our relationship with God strengthens when we do it, because we’re becoming more like Him.
With patient calmness toward ourselves, it’s much easier to be calm and not exasperated with others. And if we can do that, we can have increased confidence that we are living the type of life God wants us to live. It truly is a joy, and I pray your life is filled with much joy as you choose to live a life of agape love.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is an award-winning and best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at email@example.com or (208) 375-7606.