LOVE IS DISARMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Today’s message is titled – “Love is Disarming.” In other words, love allows you to drop your guard. Have you been around people who have their guard up – they’re always tense and uptight, they have a defensive perimeter around them? Have you been around people you have to be really guarded with – what you say, how you say, when you say? What is the common problem in both situations? Lack of trust. Why? Maybe at some point in time trust was violated. Something personal or private was shared, some weakness or vulnerability was exposed, and now it is used against the person. During counselling, the wife will say – “He’s so shallow.” Then the husband will reveal – “I messed up years ago or I told her something privately and now she brings it up every time we have an argument and has told everyone about it.” The wife is provoking her husband and he is arming himself. Other times, some people are just easily provoked. Nothing is being done to them but because of their personality or their past experience, they immediately react. Like siblings in the backseat – “She’s touching me!” but the other child is 3 feet away. Love creates a safe zone where no one provokes or is being provoked, where people trust each other and disarm.
I Corinthians 13 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Context: The Corinthian Church had many problems. One major reason for their problems was their nature of provoking and being provoked by each other. Their culture of jabbing and poking each other had come into their church body.
Question: Are you a person who is easily provoked? Are you the person who is provoking someone? I am talking in the context of marriage, family, church, neighborhood, workplace, and community. Do you feel like you are in an unsafe zone? Are you causing an unsafe zone? Are you saved? Without Christ, you are in the unsafe zone. He is the one who can bring you in the safe zone with God.
Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love is not provoked.” The word is “paroxunetai.” It has the idea of “to irritate and to exasperate someone.” It means poking and jabbing someone in a subtle way that they finally react. It doesn’t immediately lead to full-blown rage but it does make a person feel “wounded or punctured by some sharp point.”
Paul also adds to this – “love thinks no evil.” The verb “think” in Greek is “logizomai.” It can have several layers of meaning. It can mean “to count or to evaluate,” like Paul says in Romans 6:11 “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s like “thinking and mulling over a matter.” In some contexts, it can go a step further and have the idea of “planning or plotting evil.” In our context, it may have a double meaning of “sitting around and suspecting your neighbor of evil or sitting around and plotting evil against your neighbor.” There is one more meaning, a secondary one – “giving value or making much of.” This is especially strong when it is in a negative context like the one we are looking at. It has two implications. First, it means that you focus a lot on the evil you see in your neighbor. Second, it also means that you pay a lot of attention to the evil done to you by your neighbor.
Why did Paul bring this up in his description of true love? Because there was a lot of irritation causing behavior going on in the Corinthian church. There was a lot of poking and jabbing each other that was happening. History tells us that this was kind of common in the Corinthian culture. Let me give you one example. As you know, about a month ago Nicole and I were in Corinth, Greece. One of the most interesting sites is on the west side of the Agora, the marketplace, known as the Babbius Monument. It was a circle of Corinthian columns set on a square pedestal. What is very interesting is the inscription on the band above the columns. It says, “Gnaeus Babbius Philinus, aedile and pontifex, had this monument constructed at his own expense, and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir.” There are many monuments in the ancient world but not like this. You have to read between the lines to know what is really being implied. First, his name is a slave name. Apparently, he was a freedman who rose to power and became an aedile, a city manager. His job was to maintain the roads, supervise the food and water supply, organize the local games, among other things. He was telling those who were looking down on him for being a former slave – “I am no longer a slave. I am the city manager. Show me some respect.” But he doesn’t stop there. He adds another title to his name – pontifex, which means priest, probably to the patron god of the Isthmian games. Now, he was telling those who might be treating him like an outsider, “I am also the priest. I have spiritual authority now. You better show me respect.” Then he adds the line – “had this monument constructed at his own expense.” Apparently, people were spreading rumors that Babbius stole the city’s money to build the monument. This was his way of firing back – “Stop saying that. This is my own hard earned money.” The final line is really odd – “and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir,” which was a chief magistrate. Someone must have said – “He ain’t gonna last. Once he gets fired, we’ll take down his monument.” Babbius was sending a warning to them, “Don’t you think even about taking down my sign. I am the chief magistrate now.” This was a threat. By the way, he put a similar sign in four other places in the city! Every time people walked through the marketplace, they had to see those signs. This was part of the Corinthian culture – people were being provoked and they knew how to provoke others.
Now, there is a similar inscription nearby that we did not get to visit. It reads, “Erastus, in return for his position as aedile, laid the pavement at his own expense.” Again, this man Erastus was also a former slave who became the city manager. He was also sending a message to his critics that he did all this of his own money. Here’s something interesting – We don’t know about Babbius but Erastus was actually part of the Corinthian church. Paul actually mentions him by name in Romans 16:23 “…Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you…” (Keep in mind that Paul wrote Romans from Corinth.)
Here’s my point: Provoking and being provoked was not only part of the Corinthian culture. It was also in the church! Paul mentioned this because there was a lot of jabbings and pokings going on in the church. You would hear a lot of – “Did you see how he looked at me?” “I know why she said that to me.” “One of these days, I am going to show her.” There was a lot of thinking and mulling over and planning and plotting evil happening. People didn’t trust each other. They only saw the evil in others. They only remembered the evil others had done to them. The Corinthian church was not a safe zone.
Sadly, this is true even today in churches, marriages, families, community, workplace. People are constantly constructed their subtle and not so subtle Babbius monuments and their Erastus inscriptions to provoke each other or respond to someone’s provoking. Are you the one who is provoking someone? Are you the one who is being provoked by someone? Are you the one who is constantly looking for the bad in others or thinking about the bad others have done to you? You constantly have your guard up.
What is the solution? To start with, remember how God loves you – He gives you a new identity in Jesus Christ. Listen to what Paul says in I Corinthians 7:22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. If the world calls you a slave, God calls you free in Christ. If the world calls you free, God calls you his slave in Christ. Either way, God has given you a brand-new identity. You don’t have to live by your past or what the world says about your past.
So how are you to love others? 23 “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” In other words, stop giving in to the opinion and treatments of others. Stop worrying about what they are saying or thinking about you. If you have a lot of time on your hands, guard your mind. If not, you will pout, get upset, and start problems and then refuse to stop until those problems are resolved according to your personal satisfaction. You will become paranoid and build a Babbius monument to yourself. I’m not suggesting that you drop your guard against evil people. Instead, learn to be vulnerable. Disarm. Admit when you’ve messed up. Admit when you’re frightened. Admit when you’re lagging behind. Admit the truth about yourself.
For e.g. Swindoll gives the illustration of Uncle Zeke from Muleshoe, Texas. One of Uncle Zeke’s buddies was the blacksmith. They would spend time together and talk about stuff old guys talk about. One day, the blacksmith was working on a horseshoe before Zeke got there. He kept sticking it in the fire, pulling it out and hammering it. He did it again and again. It wasn’t cooperating so he tossed it on the sawdust on the ground just about the time Zeke walked in. Zeke didn’t know it was hot. He walked in, looked around, saw the horseshoe, reached down, picked it up, and dropped it right away. The blacksmith said – “Kinda hot, ain’t it Zeke…” Zeke said, “Nope, Just don’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.” How true that is of so many of us… Instead of saying, “Yeah, that was kind of dumb of me to pick that up” or “I should’ve checked with you first,” we say something similar that keeps us from looking vulnerable.
I think about Erastus who had his inscription on the ground. Why didn’t he remove it after he got saved? This is just my imagination. One day, Erastus and Paul were walking through the Agora and they came to that inscription on the ground. It was filled with bronze and fastened with lead. Erastus turned to Paul – “Paul, every time I look at it, it reminds me where God has brought me from. That’s how I used to think and live. Always telling my opponents how great I was and how I had climbed the ladder of success and power. But now, I walk on it and I remind myself that God has called the foolish, the weak, and the base things of the world so that ‘no flesh should glory in his presence.’” Later that evening when Paul was finishing his letter to the Romans and warning them to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17) and as he lists the names of his fellow ministers – Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Tertius, Gaius, he says, “Oh yes, Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you.” If he wasn’t a changed man, God would not have included him in his Word.
Are you saved? Are you provoking or easily provoked by others?