I Corinthians 13:4
Several years ago, in the weeks leading up to Valentines Day, 2nd graders in the Lake Charles area were asked, “What is love?” One wrote: “Love is when you are in love. When you are in it, somebody loves you.” Another said: “Love is good. I love love. Do you love love?” (Unfortunately a lot of adults don’t do much better than those definitions!) Some were pretty insightful: one wrote: “love makes your heart sing!” And another said, “Love is kindness.” Well, as we return to our study of Biblical love I Corinthians 13 today, we see that last one is right on target, for I Cor. 13:4 indeed says: “Love is kind.”
For those of you who have not been here the last few weeks, let me give a brief review of our study so far. I Corinthians 13 tells us that the love God has for us, and which we are to share with others, is a “different kind of love” than many people think of when they think of the word, “love.” It is not physical attraction; it is not a feeling; it is a commitment to DO things that benefits the one who is loved. We have seen that this “agape” kind of love the Bible talks about comes only from God, when a person receives Jesus as Savior, and Holy Spirit of God produces this love in his heart. This love is described here in I Cor. 13:4-8 in 15 terms, all of which are VERBS in the original Greek Bible. So love is active; it is comprised of actions, not just feelings. Last week we looked at the first quality, that love is patient – it has “a long fuse.” And today we come to the 2nd quality: “Love is kind.”
I. The Meaning of the word “Kindness”
When the Bible says here, “love is … kind”, the word “kind” is from the Greek Bible word “chrestos”, which means “useful, gracious, kind.” Greek scholars (Kittle) tells us that it “is a common equivalent of such terms as “charis”, which means “grace.” So kindness is very much like grace; it treats people better than what you think they might “deserve” to be treated. This word also has an ACTIVE element in it. Whereas we saw last week that love is patient; patience is kind of a passive thing; it “puts up” with an annoyance. But kindness is active. It does something good for the one who is loved. Really I patience and kindness go hand in hand. Patience is love passive; kindness is love in action. John MacArthur wrote: “just as patience will take anything from others, kindness will give anything to others, even to its enemies.” Kindness acts.
This word was used in ancient Greek literature about rulers, who were gracious to their people, and acted kindly towards them. It was used of kind people, who adopted babies who were left exposed in the weather so that they might die. They took them in and fed and clothed and raised them – they were “kind” to them. Kindness is an active quality, which does good on behalf of others – even those you may not know, and even, as we shall see, one’s enemies.
II. God’s Kindness to Us
One of the most well-known verses in the Bible is Eph. 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” We are going to come back and look at that verse again in a minute, but the first thing we learn from that verse is that the kindness which we are to show to others has been to us first by God. HE is the great example of kindness. Nahum 1:7 says: “YHWH (the Lord) is good” – the word “good” there is translated in the Greek LXX with the word “chrestos” – kindness. So the Bible tells us that God IS kind; it is a part of His very nature to be kind.
And because, as we saw, kindness does good things for those who don’t deserve them, God demonstrated His kindness to us in bringing us salvation. Titus 3:4 says: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, (:5) He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (:6) whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (:7) so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The Bible says there that God was KIND to us, and sent His Spirit to save us, NOT because of our good deeds, but because of the mercy He had for us in Jesus Christ. So we see those two elements of mercy: it is ACTIVE in doing good, and it does it even for those who do not deserve it. We didn’t deserve it – but God ACTED on our behalf, and saved us through faith in Jesus.
Several years ago, I heard a story about a woman from the United States who went over to China on a mission trip. While they were walking in the countryside there, she heard a noise, and went over to see what it was. What she found was a baby; a baby girl. Many of you know that for years, to curb their burgeoning population, China has enforced a “one baby” policy for their citizens. Since many families want a boy, if they have a girl first, they will abandon her, and try again for a boy. What this woman found was one of those abandoned Chinese girls: unwanted, and left to die. The American woman’s heart was broken, and she took that child, and to make a long story short, adopted her and took her home, where she brought her up as her own.
That woman had kindness on that child. The child didn’t “deserve” to be taken by her, but she did, and she demonstrated active kindness by adopting her, and meeting every need of her life. She showed active to one who was helpless. This is what God did for us. All of us are sinners, both by nature and by choice. Ephesians 2 says that we were just like that child, basically “dead” in our trespasses and sins. But God had compassion on us, who didn’t deserve it; we had chosen to sin and rebel against Him of our own accord. And He didn’t just “feel bad” for us, He DID something about it: He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and pay for our sins, that we might receive Him as our Savior, and be forgiven. Rom.2:4 says: “the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” God could have left us as we were; we would have deserved whatever justice we got from Him. But He didn’t leave us; He was KIND to us, and sent Jesus for us.
Some of you here today may never have received that kindness of God. He loves you – and He showed it by what He did for you in Jesus. He will forgive your sins, and send His Spirit into your heart, and give you the relationship with Him that He made you for – if you will turn away from your sins, and trust Jesus as your Savior. Receive the kindness of God today!
Others of you know for sure that you HAVE received the kindness of God. If you have, then you have the special privilege and responsibility of showing that same kind love to others – which is our next point:
III. Our Kindness to Others.
This same kindness God has shown us is what He desires us to show to others. Over and over in the New Testament, we are commanded to be kind to others, just like God was kind to us:
–Eph. 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” “Be ye kind to one another” – this is one of the first verses that our kids learn in SS. But what does it mean; how do we show kindness? We see something of from the words of Jesus in Luke:
–Luke 6:35 “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to evil and ungrateful men”
We see several things about the kindness that love shows:
A) First of all, kindness is not DESERVED. We didn’t deserve the kindness God showed us – and Jesus said in Luke that we are to show that kindness even to our enemies. It is not given just to those who “deserve” it.
There was tv show in Australia last year entitled: “Random Acts of Kindness”. In it, the hosts find some “worthy” person, and give their home, or room, or whatever, a makeover, or do some good thing for them as a reward for the work they have done. The people are surprised by this help, which is a “random act of kindness” for what they have done. The reviews on that show are very mixed, but regardless, let me make it clear: this is NOT what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of “kindness” here in I Corinthians 13. The kindness the Bible describes here is not “earned” by the goodness of the recipient. The people on that show in a sense “earned” the help they got: they rescued animals in the wild, or ran a children’s shelter (or on one episode, a girl helped save whales!) – they all DID something to “deserve” the kindness. This is NOT what the Bible is telling us to do here. We did not “deserve” the kindness that God showed us in Jesus. He did what He did for us by His grace – it was absolutely undeserved. And that is just the type of kindness that we are now to demonstrate to others: NOT to those who “deserve” it – but to those who do NOT! Love is not kind to people because they deserve it – it is kind because love is kind!
— You are to be kind to people at church – NOT just those who are sweet and loving to you, but even to those who are NOT! Your kindness to people in the church is not to be given to those who “deserve” it, but to those who DON’T – just like God’s kindness to YOU was not deserved!
— The same thing is true at work or at school: someone there may stab you in the back, but Jesus says you are to respond with kindness – not because those people “deserve” it, but because love is kind.
— it is especially to be true at home. Husbands & wives, and parents & children are not to be kind to each other only when they feel like the other person “deserves” it – God was kind to us when we did NOT deserve it – and that is how we are to be with our own family members. We are to love them, and be kind to them, and do good things for them, NOT just when they “live up to our standards” and we feel like they “deserve” it. Love isn’t given because it is deserved. It is given because it is love.
And so it is in every situation. You are not to show kindness only to people who deserve it; but even to those who do not. Some of you are thinking of someone right now; yes, even THAT person is the one to whom you are to show the kindness of love! Col. 3:12 says: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; (:13) bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Did you hear that? “Whoever has a complaint against anyone.” Who is the person you have a complaint against? THAT is exactly the person to whom you are to show the kindness of love. (And you are to SHOW it, for … )
B) secondly, kindness consists of ACTS.
Remember, just like all of the 15 qualities we find in I Cor. 13, this is a verb. “Love acts kindly.” We saw in the meaning of the word that whereas patience is passive, kindness is active. John MacArthur writes that patience: “is active goodwill. It not only feels generous, it is generous. It not only desires others’ welfare, but works for it.”
We see that in Jesus’ words in Luke 6; He didn’t just tell His disciples to “feel good” about their enemies; He told them to actively love and be kind to them. He told His disciples to pray for their enemies, and lend to them, and give to them, and go the extra mile with them, and give their coat to them. Kindness is not just an attitude; it consists in kind ACTS.
II Samuel 9 says that after David became king, he asked, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” They said there was one relative left, a young man by the name of Mephibosheth, who had fallen when he was 5 years old, and who was now lame. So David called Mephibosheth, and gave him all of Saul’s family land and possessions, and David ordered people work the land for him, and bring him the produce, and David had him eat at his own table regularly. David really showed what it meant to ACT in “kindness”: taking in someone who was helpless, to whom he didn’t “owe” anything (in fact he was the grandson of his enemy!) giving him things, providing for him, and even having him eat at his own table. His kindness was love in ACTION! In the same way, when God leads you to love someone, He will show you something specific to DO for them: pray for them, give them something, serve them in some way.
Jesus demonstrated this active love too, when Judas and the crowd came to get Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, before His crucifixion. You remember that Peter took out his sword and struck Malchus, the servant of the high priest, with it, and cut off his ear. These men were coming to take Jesus away to kill Him. Yet Jesus was not only patient with them – He said He could have called 12 legions of angels to destroy them immediately – but He didn’t. He was also kind: after Peter Malchus’ ear off, Jesus reached out, and miraculously reattached the servant’s ear, and healed him. Jesus was not only passively patient – He was actively kind – even to His enemies.
And this is what He is calling us to do, too, as His followers. He wants you to be both passively patient, and actively kind with others – even to those who have offended you, or hurt you.
And that doesn’t mean just in big, dramatic situations, either. We are to apply this in every day incidents at home and at church. For example, let’s say that we go out to the cookout here in a few minutes, and you can’t wait to get some of that good cooking. And some thoughtless person cuts right in front of you in line. What do you do? Love would make you not only patient with them – so that you would not yell at them or say anything tacky; but it would also make you kind: you would do something for them: ask if you could get them a drink, or remind them: “Don’t forget to get a fork!” Love is not only passively patient; it is also actively kind. Kindness is love in action.
And finally, God wants this kindness from us, more than He wants so-called “religious deeds.” You know, we are often pretty good at showing God the “religious” things we are doing supposedly “for Him” – all the while ignoring what He really wants us to do!
I was reading Zechariah 7 the other day in my morning worship time. In it, two men came to the Lord to ask Him if they were supposed to observe the religious fast they were accustomed to. God’s answer is striking. He said, “When you fasted all those years, was it for Me?” And God said in :8-9, “practice kindness and compassion each to his brother … and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” God said, in effect: I don’t want your fasting; I don’t want your so-called “religious deeds”; I want you to be KIND to each other!
And of course He is saying the same thing to us today. Many of us are just like those two guys in Zechariah we come to God, saying, look at the religious things I am doing, Lord: I go to church 3 times a week; I’m tithing my money; I am serving on this church committee – all the while there are people whom you snub and treat badly, and talk about, and are trying to get back at! And God is saying to us today that He is not impressed with how “religious” you are; what he really wants is for you to be KIND to people — even to those who don’t deserve it – especially to those who don’t deserve it! – do active deeds of kindness!
You may say, Pastor, I can’t do that! You’re right; you can’t! Not unless the Holy Spirit of God lives inside of you! Gal. 5:22 says that this kind of love, and patience, is a fruit of the Spirit – “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness …”. And the Holy Spirit is only inside of you if you really know Jesus as your Savior. When you give your life to Him, He sends His Spirit inside you, and He grows His fruit of love, with its patience and kindness. But the truth is, you can’t share what you don’t have. If you’ve never trusted Jesus as your Savior, and His Spirit is not in your heart, then you CAN’T live like this. First, you must ask Jesus to be your Savior.
If you do know for sure that you are a Christian today, it should be of interest to you that the two Greek Bible words for “Christ” and “kindness” are very similar: the word for “Christ” in Greek is “Christos”, and the word for “kindness” is “Chrestos.” Because of this remarkable similarity, some people in the early church even began to substitute “Chrestos” for “Christos”: because “Christ” is such an example of kindness. You know, the same thing should be true of us as followers of Jesus. If you are a Christian, your life should be so marked by kindness, that people say of you “there goes a Christian; there goes a person who is kind.”. If you are really a Christian, you have received the undeserved kindness of God; and that is the very thing that God now asks you to share with others. “Love is kind.”