By Stacey Kuszak
I’m standing on the dance floor waiting for the music to start. My husband comes from a long line of Polish Polka Dancers. It’s the staple of every wedding I’ve ever been to on his side. As the music starts I’m trying to remember if we begin with a quick step or a slow step. Quick, it turns out, because I’m already one beat behind. We bounce around the dance floor to the upbeat accordion music looking like the amateurs that we are. Around us glide the couples who know this dance in their bones. The song ends and we walk off the dance floor a little frustrated. I always mix up the quick and slow parts.
This summer we’ve been examining 1 Corinthians 13, the love verse often quoted at weddings. While it does lend itself to a high standard of marital love, this verse was originally written toward unity in the church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul discusses spiritual gifts. Apparently believers were trying to rank order and out do each other with their spiritual gifts, so Paul follows it up by saying no matter your spiritual gifting, love is the greatest of all. Love is necessary and enduring and more than any spiritual gift. It should be the hallmark of all believers. In the middle of the passage of describing all that love is, Paul switches gears to list a few things love is not.
Love is not easily angered.
I’ve been thinking about those five words for months now. Love is slow to anger. I’ve felt the steady hum of indignation in and around me growing as our nation navigates a global pandemic, racial tension, and an election year. Our nation’s anthem is anger. As I confess the anger in my own heart, I look to God’s word for it’s resolution.
Proverbs 14:29 says, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who
is quick tempered exalts folly.”
.James 1:19 “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Turns out I’m still messing up the quick and slow parts. Slow to anger doesn’t mean never be angry. It means don’t anger quickly. That takes intention on my part. I know from experience when I move quickly when I’m supposed to move slowly, I mess the dance up. What I think Paul was saying is that love creates this beautiful dance of unity and anger disrupts it. It causes us to misstep.
I wouldn’t characterize myself as an angry person, but lately I’ve noticed myself sidestepping around anger, getting swept up in the whirling and dizzying cadence of our world right now.
When I feel myself taking that quick step into anger, I’ve started asking myself these questions:
- Is this annoyance, this irritation, this entitlement, this weariness I’m feeling, is it actually anger? Sometimes I’m hesitant to call it what it is because naming it anger seems more serious, and I might have to actually do something about it.
- Does confession need to be a part of my anger? Is there something I need to confess to God in order to heal or restore unity to a relationship or situation?
- Does my anger produce life-giving outcomes or does it diminish relationships?
Does it cause me to want to strike back or does it produce in me the Spirit’s fruit of patience and gentleness?
- What does God want me to do about it?
I’m certain what our world needs right now is more love, the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13, the unifying love of God. We need more love and unity in our marriages, our friendships, our church, our country. But love’s dance is complicated. It requires more of us than anger. Let’s keep practicing the steps.