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The Rev. Dr. Emily C. Heath The Rev. Emily Heath

The Rev. Dr. Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire (UCC), and a writer and public theologian. She is the author of 'Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity' (Pilgrim Press).

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Emily C. Heath: I Was Provoked

April 19, 2017

"And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another . . . ." - Hebrews 10:24-25

Have you ever heard someone say, "I was provoked"? Sometimes you hear it as a defense after a fight: "He provoked me!" The idea is that whatever response came next, it was somehow justified. 

That's why I've always thought of "being provoked" as something negative, or as an attempted excuse for violence. Because at the end of the day, you can't blame someone else for your own bad behavior.

But what about the other side? What about being provoked to do good? 

The author of Hebrews tells their readers that they can "provoke one another to love and good deeds". They can be encouragers who gather in community to lift one another up. 

In my 20's I had a mentor who provoked me. She provoked me to do the right thing, to live a life of gratitude, and to serve God first. She provoked me to want to be a better person. How? By simply being herself, a good and kind and decent person who encouraged others and expected the best of them.

Would I be the person I am today had I not met her? My guess is probably not. 20 year old me needed a little provocation in the right direction, and by God's grace I got it. 

But for too many, the spiritual journey is one that is walked in isolation. And without the loving provocation of good people of faith, the angry provocations of a harsh world can be overwhelming. 

And so our job as followers of Christ in community is to provoke one another with kindness, with compassion, with loving challenges, and with encouragement. Because ours is a provocative faith, in the very best sense of the word. 


O God, provoke me, that I may provoke others, and that we may provoke the world.

From UCC's StillSpeaking devotionals

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