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Provoke to Love

July 28th, 2016

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24, ESV)

The King James version said, “Provoke unto love.”

The usual meaning of the original word “provoke” or “stir up” was associated with anger – to provoke or make someone angry. It was used in Acts 15:39 to describe the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over whether or not to take John Mark with them on their second missionary journey. John Mark had quit half way through the first missionary journey, and Barnabas wanted to give him a second chance, but Paul felt he was undeserving of one and would damage their mission work. The details are not recorded in scripture so we are left simply with the fact of the argument, and not enough information to form our own opinion, though we can understand both sides to some degree.

But it described such a sharp disagreement that the great missionary team of Paul and Barnabas split up.

Yet in Hebrews the word is used for love. In that sense it means to arouse someone or excite someone to the positive emotion of love. We all know how to provoke people to anger – this is something we learned from growing up in a sinful world with our own sinful natures. But God commands us to provoke unto love, to stir people up to do good things, not bad things.

Matthew Henry wrote:

Christians ought to have a tender consideration and concern for one another; they should affectionately consider what their several wants, weaknesses, and temptations are; and they should do this, not to reproach one another, to provoke one another not to anger, but to love and good works, calling upon themselves and one another to love God and Christ more, to love duty and holiness more, to love their brethren in Christ more, and to do all the good offices of Christian affection both to the bodies and the souls of each other. A good example given to others is the best and most effectual provocation to love and good works. (Matthew Henry)

One way we provoke unto love is to be sensitive to one another’s needs, as Matthew Henry wrote. Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). Without being too nosy or a busybody, we should be consider the thoughts, feelings, and needs of others. One way to do this is to simply send a note to someone telling them that you are prayinf for them today – and, of course, you should actually be praying for them and not just saying that you are. Let others know that you care for them and are praying for them.

The entire Christian family is commanded to love one another, so not only are we – you and I – commanded to love others, but the whole of the Christian church must love us as well. So another way that we help provoke others to love is to simply make ourselves more lovable. Certainly to make ourselves less lovable works against this command, so to make ourselves more lovable works in its favor. Be kind to people and help them fulfill their command to love you.

And in so doing we also encourage people to love others. Every positive experience in feeling and expressing love builds toward the desire to love more.

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