Not Irritable or Resentful

Reading: 1 Peter 2.19-25
An irritation - perhaps a grain of sand - enters the shell of an oyster. Over a period of time, it is coated with successive layers of mother-of pearl, until it is transformed into a pearl.

The oyster, of course, doesn't have to think about doing this - it's just a natural process.

An irritation, perhaps an unkind word spoken hastily by another, perhaps a crossing of purposes with some fellow human-being, enters the human mind. The mind mulls over it, turns it over and over, becomes more agitated, more irritated. The little irritation becomes a big irritation, perhaps a grudge. The result is not a pearl, but an ugly condition which can poison a person's whole outlook - and their physical well-being as well.

The person who lives to himself will find plenty of irritations in life - and will pay the price for it!

Love is not like this. Paul writes, love "is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Cor. 13.5 NIV) - or "is not irritable or resentful" (NRSV).

What irritates us most? What makes us touchy? Isn't it when our own plans are frustrated? when someone says or does something against us? Sometimes people are mean and intend to irritate us. At other times we have quite misread the other person's intentions.

But how should love react? You don't have to be irritated or hurt, you know! Love will be saddened for the sake of the one who intended to be hurtful. But there is no need to be bitter on one's own account. If, humbly before God, I have truly accepted that I am not the be-all or end-all, then

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But names will never hurt me.

I have heard people quote that old saying with a very real bitterness in their spirit. Whatever they may say, they have been deeply hurt and will bear a grudge - perhaps they will repay the person in kind!

The greatest example of love is Jesus. We see a beautiful description of his love in 1 Peter 2.19-25.

Peter has been writing of the Christian's reaction to suffering which may come on us unjustly. It would be so easy to react with bitterness and resentment, and to feel justified for doing so.

For the Christian, the example of patient suffering is Jesus himself. What was the reaction of Jesus to his experience?

He was subjected to prejudice of the most extreme and petty kind. The judge at the trial acknowledged his innocence of crime (Lk. 3.4,14,22). But Pilate weakly gave in to the crowd's insistence that he be given the death penalty. He tried to declare himself innocent of Jesus' blood (Mt. 27.24) - yet it had to be the Roman soldiers who put him to death. And in all the circumstances why did those soldiers have to tease and torment him as they did (vv.27-31)?

How was Jesus in the midst of all this? Calm and serene. He didn't get irritated or blow his top!

See him on the Cross! See him with the taunting crowds gathered to see the spectacle! "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing" (Lk. 23.34). The remarkable and supreme example - "love is not irritable or resentful."

See him there! Not only the victim of injustice but undergoing the most cruel form of capital punishment ever devised! Suffering intense pain, he says to the repentant criminal dying alongside him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (v. 43). He sees his mother near the Cross and the beloved John close by. "Dear woman, here is your son!" and to the disciple, "Here is your mother!" (Jn. 19.26,27).

Have you got that extraordinary quality of love? Breathtaking, isn't it? We haven't the resources for that kind of love just in ourselves. Of course, most of us aren't called on to undergo that degree of suffering, but this only highlights all the more our all-too-easy irritability and resentment.

Peter writes of Jesus' suffering, "By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pet. 2.24). This is the key, for there is healing and a renewal of love for us in him.

PRAYER: Dear Father, I react with irritation and resentment so easily and so quickly. As I see the patient suffering of Jesus, his loving concern for others even in extreme circumstances, I am ashamed of myself. Forgive me, too, Lord, and heal me in Jesus. Amen.

Healing and Life

Bit by bit
we kill ourselves
as we allow
and resentment
to poison
mind and body.

But on the Cross
the Son of Love
allowed bitter resentment
to do its worst.
Here we are healed.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

Previous Love is... Next
Back to Sermons