I listened to a sermon from Adam Hamilton today and he explained the meaning of the word ‘provoke’ in Scripture. In Hebrews 1o:24 it says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works…” He said the literal meaning of provoke is ‘to come up along side and jab.’ Mike Slaughter always likes to say he has the gift of irritation. There’s something to that. I think I also have that gift. What makes irritating or jabbing or prodding someone a good gift is the willingness and ability to do it in love. When we can make people uncomfortable enough to help them grow closer to Jesus, that’s provoking in love unto love.
Adam Hamilton also shared how his wife sometimes provokes him. She might have a burden on here heart that she wants Adam to help with and he said he might say he was too busy. She would say, ‘Well, you’re a preacher aren’t you? Don’t you think you should care about that?’ And he would say, ‘OK… OK… you’re right.’ I have a great wife like that, who helps me be a better Christian and better pastor when I need to be provoked.
We might be well served to think of it as some other versions put it, ‘spurring one another on’, even if we have to do so by challenging each other. But for those of us who would rather, we’ll just stick to using the word ‘provoke’.