Text for the Week: Enduring the Irritation

Scripture 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 CEB

Brothers and sisters, I want you to be sure of the fact that our ancestors were all under the cloud and they all went through the sea. All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. However, God was unhappy with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. These things were examples for us, so we won’t crave evil things like they did. Don’t worship false gods like some of them did, as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and they got up to play. Let’s not practice sexual immorality, like some of them did, and twenty-three thousand died in one day. Let’s not test Christ, like some of them did, and were killed by the snakes. 10 Let’s not grumble, like some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them as an example and were written as a warning for us to whom the end of time has come. 12 So those who think they are standing need to watch out or else they may fall. 13 No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.

Theme “Love is not irritable or resentful”

Questions

  1. Read through the passage once, what words and phrases strike you as the most important?
  2. We often expect Christians to be good pleasant people but the picture of Israel in the wilderness reminds us we are all on a path to maturity filled with grace, what are practical steps you take to remember this and extend grace to others?
  3. What are the circumstances that make you the most irritable, the hardships you face or the success of others? What frustrates you?
  4. How can you be more gracious with others in their success and more patient with yourself when you have less success?
  5. How can you connect to others more to avoid the frustration which breaks down love?

Help Understanding the Theme

In 1 Corinthians 13:5 Paul uses two words translated “irritable” and “resentful”

Irritable= to be frustrated in circumstances, piqued,

Resentful= believes others act from evil or deceptive motives, thinks the worst of others.

The background seems to be that some in Corinth had spiritual gifts and displayed them, while those who did not have the same level of spiritual gifts were irritated they did not have the gifts. This irritation led to friction within the church, those without gifts distrusted the motives of those with gifts.

Reflection

In this passage Paul abbreviates the story of Numbers, all the grumbling, complaining, rebellion, and mishap that Israel suffered in the wilderness. It is easy for us who to look at the Israelite community who had seen tremendous miracles freeing them from the power of Pharoah and ask how they ever could grumble and complain so much. But consider their lives after they crossed the Sea and left Egypt. Daily they were in burning heat, wind blown sand all around, hunger and thirst were constant companions. Even when they did have food it was the same thing every day. Now, ask yourself how long do you think it would take for you to get irritated and frustrated by those circumstances?

Personally I would be pretty grumpy at having the same bread every day and not that much of it.  In other words, I can understand why the Israelites were grumpy and irritable with God; even a God who meets our basic needs can be a source of grievance under those circumstances. I also understand the people of Corinth who would look around at others preying in tongues or speaking a word of prophecy while they had no gift to share. I have been in that position several times, that individual who has to look at others having success and wonder, “where’s mine?” These are just two of many examples of the irritants we face in life, things that upset us like sand after you’ve gone to the beach.

In 1 Corinthians Paul reminds us that there are any number of irritating issues in life but love looks past these irritants. Think about a spouse or friend’s annoying habits, the kind of things that you shake your head at, but ultimately it never (or at least rarely) gets under your skin. That is love, love looks past these small personal quirks, and what Paul wants is for us to work at extending this kind of love to everyone in the church. And the reality is that we are people forced together, which means that we will not always like one another, we will irk one another. It is unavoidable that you will be irritated by these people, you will not get along with everyone, you will not agree with everyone, you will be irked, put off, upset, by the people in your life. You will be jealous of the success of others, they will do things you cannot, they will be chosen for things you will not—how are you going to handle that?

Are you going to think ill of these people, are you going to undermine them, are you going to believe the worst of them? What are the motives of the people you do not get along with, what is the problem, is it with you or them? Love believes the best about others, I do not question my friend’s motives, I trust they have my best interests in mind when they act. But this is a dangerous place to be in many corners of life, we cannot extend this level of trust to most. But Christians are meant to create this environment in our churches. Christians are supposed to be loving in our actions and motives so that we can cultivate a space of trust where we can eliminate resentfulness.

At the end of the day, we are going to have to deal with life, many things that do not go our way and people who are annoying. The question is how we are going to approach these issues, are we going to respond with love and grace, or are we going to think the worst of people and events?

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