There is a verse in the book of Hebrews I’ve liked for most of my life. I think of it often, often enough that I consider it a mantra of mine. I memorized it in the old King James Version of the Bible, but it’s good in any translation. It goes like this: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”
I love the use of the word “provoke” in this verse. “Provoke unto love…”
That’s not usually what I think of when I think of the word provoke. The word being translated here in this verse is only used twice in the Bible. Look at the how this word gets translated in the various other versions:
– Stir up
Generally, it’s not great to be provocative, but I like the use of this word in this way. Provoking to love and good works is a lofty goal. Be a pot stirrer for love, for good works. Stimulate, promote, encourage, motivate, rouse, spur on love in one another.
Let’s consider how we do that.
To provoke someone means that we are stimulating or giving rise to a strong reaction or emotion in someone, usually an unwelcome one. Unfortunately, we often don’t want to love others, we don’t want to do good toward others. We so quickly want to focus on ourselves and our own rights, even at the cost of others. When I am provoked to love it usually comes at times when I don’t want to.
Showing grace and mercy to others is often not natural, it’s not instinctual. It’s provocative to be told to love “the least of these,” to the “unlovable.” Sometimes it’s provocative to think about showing love to our neighbor, friend, coworker, or even our spouse or children when we feel wronged. It’s easy to let anger turn into resentment. But it’s provocative to turn from anger and engage in love and good works.
So let’s consider how we do that.
Here are a couple photos from this morning where I noticed the light. (I know I’ve taken a lot of photos of leaves recently, but they won’t be hanging on all that much longer, so I need to appreciate them while they’re still here.)