“Irritability is the antithesis of charity. It is not merely a way of complaining, therefore, but actually a way of hating.” ~Phil Ryken (Loving the Way Jesus Loves)
I confess, I am easily irritated. My skin is thin. My feelings are sensitive. My expectations are high. I know it’s true.
I see it in the way I react to a teenage bomb of irresponsibility in my kitchen…in the way I critically comb through careless words spoken to me…it’s in the roll of eyes when something didn’t get done the way I wanted it to…it’s in clenched jaw when someone asks me something with which I disagree or disapprove. On any given day at any given moment, I will have no problem finding something to irritate me.
Traffic. Dogs. Housework. Husband. Neighbor. The Media. Politics.
Yet irritability isn’t about any of these things. It’s about what’s wrong with my heart. It’s about the pockets of self-love that are stuffed so full that there’s no room for Jesus to get close enough to share His perspective. Yes, irritability is the surest sign that there are thoughts and entitlements in which I am not yet allowing Christ to reign.
Every mother of teenagers knows that every pocket must be completely turned inside out prior to washing. Never skip this step. It’s costly. One misplaced item left in a pocket can sacrifice the whole load.
I think irritability is that one little thing I over-look in the pocket. I figure it’s not such a big deal. That is until Jesus comes along with His life and defines His radical love for others as one that impervious to the selfish whispers of self-love. Irritability–touchiness–can ruin a whole load of love.
Looking at several translations of I Corinthians 13:5b helps us to see the scope of the radical, ridiculous love of which the Scriptures speak: “Love is not irritable or resentful” (ESV). “Love is not provoked” (NASB). “Love is not easily angered” (NIV). “Love is not touchy” (JBP). “Love doesn’t fly off the handle” (MSG).
Today as I reflect on Jesus, especially as he prepared to display His most demonstration of love, I imagine there must have been many things in his disciples that were irritating. They were aloof, demanding, and obtuse. Not exactly the kind of support you want when you getting ready to bear the sins of the whole world. Yet, we never see Jesus getting touchy with the disciples. Love–pure, true love–guarded his heart from seeing them only through the eyes of what they were or were not doing for Him. Love always shows up as the one ready give love away, not to receive it for oneself. Love is loving another for their good, not our own ease.
This is the love Jesus showed. It’s the love He’s still showing. Will we let Him show it through us today? With our kids? With our spouse? In traffic? At the market in the very long line with the very slow clerk? When the dog drags mud into the house?