Have you ever provoked someone? Has anyone ever provoked you? Do you think of provocation as a good thing or a bad thing?
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve tended to think of provocation as a bad thing. I even looked up the definition of the word “provoke” and found, “stimulate or incite (someone) to do or feel something, especially by arousing anger in them.” I think it’s that “anger” thing that has given me negative feelings about provocation.
Then, I read Hebrews 10:24 today. “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds…” What!? How could I get someone to love and do good deeds by arousing anger in them?
There must be something more going on with this word, and there is. The Greek word that gets translated as “provoke” means to “stimulate”, and that stimulation can be positive or negative. You can stimulate a negative response in someone or a positive response. A related word (a cognate – from the same roots) actually means “a provocation that jabs someone so they must respond”. I like the sound of this when applied to the passage from Hebrews. As members of a faith community, it sounds like it’s our responsibility to encourage people to love and good deeds (acts of love) in such a way that they must respond. Imagine what a wonderful place the world would be if we took this on as our daily responsibility, as a challenge to fulfill at the start of each day!
So…what kinds of things can you do to provoke your fellow Christians to love and good deeds? – Pastor Brad