Hair Trigger

Studies in First Corinthians

by Bob Burridge ©2018
Lesson 36: 1 Corinthians 13:5b (ESV)

Hair Trigger

A common character in the old classic westerns was the cocky young man who wants to be a gun-fighter. He idolized confrontations, and dreamed of a big shoot-out to show how good he is. He admired the fast-draw artist who doesn’t let anybody push him around. He was arrogant, obnoxious, and has a lot to learn but didn’t admit it — even to himself. The gun-slingers of the old west would file down the firing mechanism of hand-guns to make a hair trigger. It only took a little pressure to fire the weapon. They had special fast-draw holsters, and practiced to improve the bullet-delivery time.

But the gun wasn’t all that had a hair-trigger in those classic westerns. The young gunfighter wouldn’t take anything from anybody. He was quick to get in a fight, and was always trying to prove himself. Some of those characters don’t live long in the movies. But some learned from a wise old sheriff, or from a retired gun-fighter who hoped the boy wouldn’t repeat his mistakes,

Hair-trigger responses aren’t for Christians. When people have a hair-trigger on their love of confrontations they lack love. They’re more concerned about building themselves up, than about caring for others, or about God’s honor. They don’t love others as themselves, nor love God above everything else in their lives. They’re always attacking, condemning things, rather than helping others who need their help.

One of the qualities of love is that it’s “… not irritable … ” (13:5b)

4. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud.
5. or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (ESV)

The verb translated as “irritable” basically means to be stirred into a passionate response. The Greek word is “par-oxuno” (παροξύνω) – it’s a compound word. The first part is the preposition “par” (παρ) which means “alongside, next to, along with”. The second part is from “oxus” (οξυς) which means “fast sharpening”. Together it means coming alongside someone with a quick attitude, here the context indicates a negative one. Most translate it here as being “provoked” (KJV, NKJV, Geneva, NASB). In the ESV it’s “irritable”.

From it we get our English word “paroxysm”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it, “a sudden violent emotion or action, an outburst.” It gives as examples: “a paroxysm of rage ” and “a paroxysm of laughter”

We can be stirred up, or provoked, in either a good way or in a bad way.

On the positive side — we ought to be stirred up to have good qualities. We should stir up good things in others as we are told to do in Hebrews 10:24 where the same root word is used. ESV, “We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works.” NASB, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,” The King James translates it, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” There the word translated to encourage, to stimulate or to provoke is this same Greek root word as here.

It’s good to stir up others to behave in a good and loving way. Our love and good works should show passionate commitment to God and to the needs of others.

There’s even a good way to be stirred up about bad things: Paul was stirred up with a godly anger during his visit in Athens in Acts 17:16, “While Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens, he was upset because he saw that the city was full of idols.” NASB, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols.” Again, being “upset” or “provoked” translates this same word.

Paul was stirred up about their idolatry, but he responded by teaching God’s word. He didn’t lose control or do things he had no authority to do. He didn’t show impatience and start screaming at them or smashing the idols.

There was a difference when Jesus was provoked to anger about the money changers in the Temple. He drove them out because he had the authority of a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. He was enforcing God’s law which was rightly entrusted to him by his baptism by John. But he added words of warning and instruction to Israel for her defiling of the Temple. He didn’t lose his temper or act hastily.

We should get passionately upset over sin when it threatens to destroy our society or homes. It’s right to get so provoked as a citizen that you campaign, and get out to vote for good presidents, governors, legislators, and referenda.

As a parent you don’t take the sins of your children lightly. You let them know when they need to change their ways. Godly parents first teach and set a good example for their children, rather than only striking out at them with harsh punishments when do something wrong. When the time comes for parental authority to be used it shouldn’t be with the purpose of hurting. It should never striking out in anger without thought. Parenting is to train those God has given to moms and dads. It’s to care for their children in love.

In every case we stay within the boundaries of what pleases God. We don’t overstep the boundaries of proper authority, or lash out vengefully to get our own way.

Being provoked in these ways is supported by Scripture. It’s not what’s forbidden here.

But there are things we should not be provoked to do. Love doesn’t get exasperated or irritated by matters that are personal annoyances.

The Christian who loves should learn to stay in control of his passions. He’s not to be less passionate about what’s important in life. But real love never lets passions lead a person beyond what pleases God. He tries to understand others and their needs, rather than just reacting out of selfish pride.

Learn to be always alert to and aware of how all things are an unfolding of God’s eternal plan. When your passions flare up in ways they shouldn’t, it shows a lack of acceptance of the challenge God’s presenting to you at the moment.

In his commentary on this verse by Dr. Barnes wrote, “A consciousness of the presence of God will do much to produce this state of mind; and if we truly loved all people, we should be soon angry with none.”

The next quality of love is that it’s not “resentful” (13:5b)

The translations are very different about how to put this into English. The ESV translates it as, love is not, “… resentful;” The NASB says that love, “… does not take into account a wrong suffered”. The NIV is similar. It says, love “… keeps no record of wrongs.” But the KJV, NKJV, and the Geneva Bible say, love “… thinketh no evil;”

The Greek expression is made up of four words, “ou logizetai to kakon” (οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν) The first word “ou” is the negative “not”.

The key is in the meaning of the verb and its object. These have a wide range of meanings in the New Testament.

The verb is, “logizomai” (λογίζομαι). The Greek lexicons say it means: to impute something to someone, to credit something to one’s account, to consider a thing to be so, or to reason or think carefully about something.

It was used by bookkeepers for their accounting records of debts and payments – “to take inventory”. It’s the word used to say that our sin was imputed to Jesus who died in our place, and how his righteousness is imputed to us which makes us holy because of him. Sometimes it’s just the simple word for considering something to be as it is. “conclude, esteem, reason”. The basic idea is mental activity or thinking about what something is or about it’s qualities. One of the closest words we have is “to consider”, to think about something in a particular way.

The object of the verb is, “kakos” (κακός) which means, “worthless, depraved, bad, evil, wicked”. It has a definite article in front of it like our word “the”. That means that it’s not just a general quality of evil, but an actual thing that’s evil.

Here in 1 Corinthians 13 it very literally says, “love … does not consider the evil”.

It’s been interpreted in several ways which are all consistent with what the Bible teaches in other places.
1. Love doesn’t consider or think evil thoughts. The King James, New King James and the old Genevan Bible say that love “thinketh no evil.” This is also taught in other places in the Bible. Philippians 4:8 says, ” … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Our minds should be busy thinking good things, not evil things.

2. Love doesn’t consider doing evil toward others. It doesn’t consider responding in an evil way to what others say or do. In that sense it’s not vengeful for personal wrongs,

3. Love doesn’t think about or dwell upon the evil things others have done. God expects us to be forgiving about wrongs others do to us. NIV says that love “keeps no record of wrongs.” Robertson translates it that love “taketh not account of evil.” The NASB says that love “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” (The word “suffered” is inserted by the NASB translators, it’s not in any Greek text.)

4. Love doesn’t assume evil motives in what others do or say. Presumed innocence is one of the basic principles of biblical justice. No one should assume evil motives in others without good evidence. We should base judgments on evidence, rather than assumed hidden intents.

All these interpretations are consistent with moral behaviors the Bible teaches in other places. And there’s nothing in the sentence to limit this to one of these meanings over another.

The thoughts of a person who learns to love, are not dominated by evil in any form. He fills his thoughts with things honoring to God, not with evil things. He doesn’t keep a record of past sins others do, he’s willing to forgive them. He doesn’t impute evil motives to what others say or do. He doesn’t assume the worst about situations or believe hear-say about others.

We live in an era of road rage, political violence and hatred, and other kinds of rage.

It’s not uncommon to hear people lashing out against others with insensitive comments. It’s an era of bullies, hateful attitudes, and self-interests.

Bullies aren’t just those who beat up weak kids on the playground. They’re also the ones who react with passionate attacks verbally or with scowls when things don’t go their way. They demean others, belittle them, scream at them, and attack them on social media. They make others feel insignificant or just simply unloved. Often it’s because they feel like they can’t control things the way they want. Or they assume evil motives in others or wish evil against them. They get provoked in all the wrong ways, and can’t let go of the sins they perceive in others.

It’s not easy to try to please people who have conflicting ideas about what we should do. But in situations like this, don’t be the one doing this wicked type of provoking. If others are unkind or inconsiderate to us, we shouldn’t let it get the best of us. We need to be forgiving and kind in return to the extent that we can.

Instead of taking on the morality of a lost world, Christ calls us to be different. We ought to be different in our attitude toward all things in life.

In simple terms — we have to love God and others, even when some are hard to love.

That’s the kind of Love God shows toward us all the time. It’s God’s undeserved love that laid the plan that led up the hill of history from Eden to Mount Calvary, and from there to a nearby empty tomb.

It’s this kind of love that doesn’t get provoked to behave badly, and that doesn’t spend its time considering evil. It’s a love that drives us to God in prayer every day asking for his strength, and humbly admitting that we can’t succeed in this on our own.

It’s a better way to live. It’s God’s way. It’s the only way that confirms that the faith implanted in us is genuine. It’s the only way to true inner peace and happiness in this life.

(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)

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