Kelly and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Puerto Rico last weekend as we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to be away. It was a much-needed vacation. Puerto Rico was a beautiful, interesting place. I learned so much about it. Puerto Rico is an American territory and Puerto Ricans are proud America citizens. The island has a distinctive Latin/Caribbean vibe, but it is also very much American. 90% of the people we met spoke perfect English. And they live very much like Americans on the mainland.
There was one exception. As we drove to the airport to fly home early last Monday, we were driving on a major highway at about 4:30 in the morning. As we came to the red traffic lights, cars would slow down a bit and then run the red light when they determined the intersection was clear. Everyone was doing it. I guess that’s just the way they do it in Puerto Rico! I said, “Well, that’s not the way we do it in Georgia! So I’m not doing it!” But then I started to get really concerned, because we would be driving along at 65 MPH and I’m thinking if I stop, these cars behind me are gonna rear end me because they’re not expecting me to stop! So, I started gingerly running the red lights too (because I didn’t want to cause an accident!).
That got me thinking about road rage. Road rage is a modern phenomenon where drivers get angry and lose control and lash out at other drivers because of stress and frustration while driving. Most of the time, road rage only lead to verbal attacks (or the use of obscene hand signals). But sometimes it even spills over into physical violence.
Road rage is a modern problem. I don’t think people were arguing, flipping each other off, and rudely tailgating each other’s camels in Bible times. There’s something about being inside a car that makes otherwise polite, mild-tempered people feel empowered to lash out at other people in ways they would never act if they were face to face with another human being.
We see something similar on social media. People will sometimes lash out and call people names and speak rudely on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in ways they would never act if they were with someone in person. In past centuries, we might have been more polite and kept mean words to ourselves, because we were speaking with people face-to-face. It wasn't necessarily that irritation wasn't deep down in people's hearts, but they didn't express it. Then came the telephone where you could speak to someone miles away—maybe an operator or customer service rep you would never meet face-to-face, and suddenly people felt safer to berate someone over the phone. Now, people are mean to others over the internet.
Anger, irritability, and unloving attitudes often hide down deep in the human heart. But what the world needs is love. And the kind of love our world needs is revealed in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Last week, David did a wonderful job teaching that love is NOT jealous or boastful or proud. Today I tell you, Love is NOT rude. It does not demand its on way. And, It is NOT irritable.
Someone who is irritable is grumpy, easily annoyed or made angry. They are like the road raging driver who is so quick to lash out with angry words at the annoying driver who’s driving too slow in front of them (or stopping at a red light in the middle of the night in Puerto Rico while everyone else is running those red lights).
People can get irritated when they don’t get their own way. Irritated people are impatient and can be down right rude. One person’s rudeness irritates someone else who then lashes out at someone else. Before long, everyone is irritated. And irritation and anger are slippery slopes where people sometimes slip down to rage and violence.
Real love puts a stop to it all. When we love—really love the way God loves us—we find that love “does not demand it’s own way.” And love is not irritable, but rather is easygoing, patient, and gentle. Jesus once used love to quench a spark of irritation among His disciples.
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Most people have experienced a situation like this. Are you typically Mary or Martha in the story? Are you the one doing all the work or the one sitting their having a good time?
Martha was annoyed that she was doing all the work while her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet. She got irritated and went to Jesus to complain. I want you to notice verse 40. She goes to Jesus and calls him “Lord”. That’s a good way to start—recognizing that Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all. But then, in frustration, she accuses the Lord. She asks a question, but it’s not really a question. She asks, “Doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?” Martha uses the question to point out what she thinks should be obvious to Jesus. Really she was accusing Jesus saying, “My sister is making me do all the work and you aren’t doing anything about it!” And then she proceeds to try and tell the Lord what to do. (That's pretty brash!)
I don’t want to be too hard on Martha. She was a good woman. She welcomed Jesus into her home. She was being a good hostess, making sure everyone was fed—and it had to be a big meal. There were a lot of mouths to feed—Jesus and all his disciples (that’s 13 people), plus there may have been other’s accompanying them. It could have been a gathering of quite a few people. And Martha is trying to take care of everyone while her sister is sitting at Jesus feet. (Sisters really know how to annoy each other, don’t they?)
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t get irritated with Martha. He loved Martha (and her sister, Mary). Rather than escalating the situation, Jesus said the truth in a gentle way. He speaks tenderly, “My dear Martha…” It’s a very tender way to rebuke her. He knows her name and she’s dear to him. Jesus appreciates what she’s doing—or at least he appreciates she is trying to help in the best way she knows how, by taking care of the meal. But Jesus also conveys that what He really wants, the food that truly feeds him, is to teach and to have students soaking up the Good News about God’s Kingdom he came to give the world. Mary is sitting at Jesus feet listening. She has chosen the most important thing. While Martha is “worried and upset over all these details”, Mary is sitting in the listening at the feet of God’s only begotten Son.
Love does not demand its own way. When we try to demand our own way, we are easily frustrated. When we are frustrated, we become irritable. When we’re irritable, we are rude. We might even say something for which we’ll be sorry later. We might even go to the Lord, like Martha, and try to rebuke him saying something like: “Now listen here Lord! You should’ve told so-and-so to do what I wanted them to do.” In that moment, we’re not loving God. We’re not loving our neighbor.
When we act like that, we’re being selfish and demanding our own way. Our “own way” might not be the most important way. It may not even be the right way. We’re so distracted by all our plans and concerns that we don't care. We’re not thinking of anyone else. That's not love.
Martha was so distracted and concerned by all the details of fixing a big dinner for her guests that she missed the main point of the gathering, which was to spend time with Jesus. The best hosts I’ve ever known—people who truly have a gift for hospitality—know how to make people feel welcome. They don’t get so wrapped up in the details of serving that they lose sight of the people they are serving. Exceptional hosts always keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the people they are hosting. The food, the setting, and everything else supports the people and if they they don't, they are simply discarded.
When we get so wrapped up in accomplishing all our own big plans, we may not even notice our big plans have nothing to do with what Jesus really wants. And who’s plans do you think are more important—ours or Jesus’?
So if you find yourself “demanding your own way”, it might be a good time to check yourself and ask: “Have I drifted off course here? Does it really matter? Why am I so upset and frustrated? What’s the main point of all this anyway? Have I abandoned love in this circumstance for the sake of something I really want? Am I demanding my own way?”
The kind of love our world desperately needs is "patient and kind. It is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable." That’s only half the definition of real love from 1 Corinthians 13, but can you imagine how much better our world would be if everyone just lived out this first half of 1 Corinthians 13's definition of love?
Well, if you are a Christian—if you call Jesus Lord—you are called to live this way. The early Christians changed their world with this kind of love. They started out as just a handful of people living in a hostile, unloving, unchristian world, but they didn’t let that stop them.
You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Go out there and only love the people who are loving to you.” No, Jesus said, “Love everyone.” He even said, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.” And that’s what those early Christians did and it changed their world.
And that’s what Christians are called to do today—to love everyone, even our enemies. When we do, it changes our world and makes it better. So we need to get out there and do it.
Maybe you aren’t a Christian, yet. Maybe you haven’t decided to follow Jesus. I would like to invite you to start today. Jesus loved you so much he gave His own life for you. And there is no greater love than this. His love is so deep and powerful it can set you free from sin and shame. It frees you from the wounds of the past and gives you a whole new future. You can make a fresh start through Jesus' love. Jesus’ love will change your live and empower you to change others too.
You see, Jesus has already won. And if you decide to follow him, you are included in His victory too. There won’t be anything this world can do to you, because you’ve already won. You have nothing to lose, because you've already been crucified with Christ and risen to new life and you have the greatest reward anyone can ever receive--eternal life. So you have nothing to lose! Even if the evil forces of the world kill you, they still can’t defeat you because you have eternal life. Living is serving Jesus and sharing His love with the world. Dying is going Home to live forever celebrating Jesus love in the holy presence of God, where there will be no more sickness or sorrow or suffering or death. For as the Bible says in Philippians 1:21, “Living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”
Why don’t you make a choice to be a Christian and follow Jesus today? I invite you to pray to Jesus right now and ask Him to forgive you and accept you as His follower. He will save you and give you Eternal life and also fill you with His Holy Spirit who will guide you to live for Him and His Kingdom.