Love is kind (chresteuetai): courteous, good, helpful, useful, giving, showing and showering favors. Love does not resent evil; it does not revel in the hurt and neglect. Love reaches out in kindness: in helpfulness, in giving, and in showering favors upon the person who neglects or hurts oneself.
Paul speaks of “the kindness and love of God our Savior” ( Titus 3:4 niv ). He is exuberant as he announces: “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it” ( Eph. 2:7–8 msg).
A wise man declared: “That which makes a man to be desired is his kindness” (Prov. 19:22). Kindness includes attributes like friendliness, compassion, generosity, and tenderness. To be kind is to be God-like (Luke 6:35).
Origen had it that this means that love is “sweet to all.” Jerome spoke of what he called “the benignity” of love. So much Christianity is good but unkind.
There was no more religious a man than Philip the Second of Spain, and yet he founded the Spanish Inquisition and thought he was serving God by massacring those who thought differently from him.
Cardinal Pole declared that murder and adultery could not compare in heinousness with heresy. Apart altogether from that persecuting spirit, there is in so many good people an attitude of criticism.
In a world that is saturated with harshness, a kind disposition is a refreshing breeze. There is many a woman who would trade a handsome husband for a kind one. Kindness would stifle the plague of child abuse. More kindness among brothers in the Lord would alleviate so much church trouble. The Scriptures demand that we be kind to each another (Eph. 4:32).
David is one of the most striking examples of kindness. He loves Jonathan, one of his closest friends. After Jonathan dies, David wishes to demonstrate his love toward his deceased friend. Since Jonathan is dead, the only way to show kindness to Jonathan is through his offspring. David is delighted when he is informed that Jonathan has a living heir. His surviving son, Mephibosheth, is crippled in both feet. In one sense, this is even better for David’s purposes, because this man’s handicap presents a need David can meet. By David’s decree, Mephibosheth would now eat regularly at the king’s table (2 Samuel 9). David’s love manifests itself in kindness, a predisposition to do good to others.
Kindness is characteristic of God and should thus characterize the Christian as well:
35 But 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 ungrateful and evil men (Luke 6:35).
4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
7 In order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).
32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
4 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 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).
24 And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged (2 Timothy 2:24).
8 To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit (1 Peter 3:8).
The Christian is commanded to be kind (Ephesians 4:32), and thus, failing to show kindness is disobedience. Kindness is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Paul reminds the Corinthians of the kindness which he manifested toward them even though they were unkind to him (see 1 Corinthians 4:6-21; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13). Kindness was surely lacking in the Corinthian church.
- Kindness is not the spirit which produces strife and divisions in the church (chapters 1-3).
- It was not the response of many Corinthians toward Paul or the other true apostles (chapter 4).
- It surely was not kindness that caused the church to embrace a man living in sin (chapter 5).
- Neither is it kindness which compels two believers to square off with each other in a secular law court (chapter 6).
- Kindness does not cause one spouse to withhold sex from the other (chapter 7).
- Kindness did not prompt one believer to assert his or her alleged rights to the detriment of another (chapter 8).
- It was not kindness that motivated some Corinthians to indulge themselves before their brethren arrive (chapter 11).
- Nor did kindness make one believer look down upon the gifts of another (chapter 12) or cause certain individuals to assert themselves in the church meeting for their own personal gain (chapter 14).
When the Corinthian saints are described, kindness is not the first word which pops into one’s mind!
According to Paul, love is demonstrated by two general characteristics: (1) longsuffering in the face of adverse treatment by others and (2) kindness toward those who abuse us. Longsuffering endures ill treatment without responding in a retaliatory fashion, and kindness seeks to do good to those who delight to cause us harm. That is what love is like. Now, in the second half of verse 4 through verse 6, Paul lets us know what love is not like. If these characteristics exist in Corinth—or in our church—we need to confess our lack of love.
Just as patience will take anything from others, kindness will give anything to others, even to its enemies. Being kind is the counterpart of being patient. To be kind () means to be useful, serving, and gracious. It is active goodwill. It not only feels generous, it is generous. It not only desires others’ welfare, but works for it.
When Jesus commanded His disciples, including us, to love their enemies, He did not simply mean to feel kindly about them but to be kind to them. “If anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matt. 5:40-41). The hard environment of an evil world gives love almost unlimited opportunity to exercise that sort of kindness.
Again God is the supreme model. “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4), Paul reminds us.
To Titus he wrote, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 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, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6).
Jesus’ invitation offers the sweetest proof of the kindness of heaven:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. ( Matt. 11:28–30 nkjv )
Farmers in ancient Israel used to train an inexperienced ox by yoking it to an experienced one with a wooden harness. The straps around the older animal were tightly drawn. He carried the load. But the yoke around the younger animal was loose. He walked alongside the more mature ox, but his burden was light. In this verse Jesus is saying, “I walk alongside you. We are yoked together. But I pull the weight and carry the burden.”
I wonder, how many burdens is Jesus carrying for us that we know nothing about? We’re aware of some. He carries our sin. He carries our shame. He carries our eternal debt. But are there others?
Has he lifted fears before we felt them? Has he carried our confusion so we wouldn’t have to? Those times when we have been surprised by our own sense of peace? Could it be that Jesus has lifted our anxiety onto his shoulders and placed a yoke of kindness on ours?
And how often do we thank him for his kindness? Not often enough. But does our ingratitude restrict his kindness? No. “Because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin” ( Luke 6:35 ).
In the original language, the word for kindness carries an added idea the English word does not. Chiefly it refers to an act of grace. But it also refers to a deed or person who is “useful, serviceable, adapted to its purpose.” 2
Kindness was even employed to describe food that was tasty as well as healthy. Sounds odd to our ears. “Hey, honey, what a great meal. The salad is especially kind tonight.”
But the usage makes sense. Isn’t kindness good and good for you? Pleasant and practical? Kindness not only says good morning, kindness makes the coffee. Again, doesn’t Jesus fit this description? He not only attended the wedding, he rescued it. He not only healed the woman, he honored her. He did more than call Zacchaeus by name; he entered his house.
Hasn’t he acted similarly with you? Hasn’t he helped you out of a few jams? Hasn’t he come into your house? And has there ever been a time when he was too busy to listen to your story? The Bible says, “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord ” ( Ps. 107:43 nkjv ). Hasn’t God been kind—pleasantly useful—to you? And since God has been so kind to you (you know what I am about to say), can’t you be kind to others?
Paul’s question is for all of us: “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” ( Rom. 2:4 nasb ).
Repentance from what? Certainly from ungodliness, rebellion, and sin. But can’t we equally state that God’s kindness leads to repentance from unkindness?
Some may think that all this talk of kindness sounds, well … it sounds a bit wimpy. Men in particular tend to value more dramatic virtues—courage, devotion, and visionary leadership. We attend seminars on strategizing and team building. But I can’t say I’ve ever attended or even heard of one lecture on kindness. Jesus, however, would take issue with our priorities. “Go and learn what this means,” he commands. “‘I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices’” ( Matt. 9:13 ). Paul places kindness toward the top of the pyramid when he writes, “Love is kind” ( 1 Cor. 13:4 niv ).
A friend of mine witnessed a humorous act of kindness at an auction. The purpose of the gathering was to raise money for a school. Someone had donated a purebred puppy that melted the heart and opened the checkbooks of many guests. Two in particular.
They sat on opposite sides of the banquet room, a man and a woman. As the bidding continued, these two surfaced as the most determined. Others dropped off, but not this duo. Back and forth they went until they’d one-upped the bid to several thousand dollars. This was no longer about a puppy. This was about victory. This was the Wimbledon finals, and neither player was backing off the net. (Don’t you know the school president was drooling?)
Finally the fellow gave in and didn’t return the bid. “Going once, going twice, going three times. Sold!” The place erupted, and the lady was presented with her tail-wagging trophy. Her face softened, then reddened. Maybe she’d forgotten where she was. Never intended to go twelve rounds at a formal dinner. Certainly never intended for the world to see her pit-bull side.
So you know what she did? As the applause subsided, she walked across the room and presented the puppy to the competition.
Suppose you did that with your competition. With your enemy. With the boss who fired you or the wife who left you. Suppose you surprised them with kindness? Not easy? No, it’s not. But mercy is the deepest gesture of kindness. Paul equates the two. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” ( Eph. 4:32 nkjv).
Jesus said: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you.… If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get? … [L]ove your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin. Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. ( Luke 6:27–28 , 32 , 35–36 )
Kindness at home. Kindness in public. Kindness at church and kindness with your enemies. Pretty well covers the gamut, don’t you think? Almost. Someone else needs your kindness. Who could that be? You.
Don’t we tend to be tough on ourselves? And rightly so. Like the young couple at the wedding, we don’t always plan ahead. Like Zacchaeus, we’ve cheated our share of friends. We’ve been self-serving. And like the woman with the illness, our world sometimes seems out of control.
But did Jesus scold the couple? No. Did he punish Zacchaeus? No. Was he hard on the woman? No. He is kind to the forgetful. He is kind to the greedy. He is kind to the sick.
And he is kind to us. And since he is so kind to us, can’t we be a little kinder to ourselves? Oh, but you don’t know me, Gary. You don’t know my faults and my thoughts. You don’t know the gripes I grumble and the complaints I mumble. No, I don’t, but he does. He knows everything about you, yet he doesn’t hold back his kindness toward you. Has he, knowing all your secrets, retracted one promise or reclaimed one gift?
No, he is kind to you. Why don’t you be kind to yourself? He forgives your faults. Why don’t you do the same? He thinks tomorrow is worth living. Why don’t you agree? He believes in you enough to call you his ambassador, his follower, even his child. Why not take his cue and believe in yourself?
Peter tells us that we should “long for the pure milk of the word” and thereby “grow in respect to salvation,” because we “have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Pet. 2:2-3).
The first test of Christian kindness, and the test of every aspect of love, is the home. The Christian husband who acts like a Christian is kind to his wife and children. Christian brothers and sisters are kind to each other and to their parents.
They have more than kind feelings toward each other; they do kind, helpful things for each other—to the point of loving self-sacrifice, when necessary. For the Corinthians, kindness meant giving up their selfish, jealous, spiteful, and proud attitudes and adopting the spirit of loving-kindness.
Among other things, it would allow their spiritual gifts to be truly and effectively ministered in the Spirit, rather than sup+erficially and unproductively counterfeited in the flesh.
Dear Ann Landers: I have a message for that 16-year-old boy who has a “21-year-old problem” — his brother. My brother drowned three weeks ago. One minute he was alive and full of fun. The next minute he was gone, forever.
I never felt especially close to my brother. We fought and didn’t agree on many things. But now I realize how much a part of my life he was. Sure, he got on my nerves, and I’d tell him to bug off. But now I remember all the favors he did that only a brother could.
I’m just trying to urge people to think about what their brothers and sisters mean to them and to express their appreciation. I hope they do it today because tomorrow may be too late. — Miss Him a Lot
Dear Friend: I’m sure your letter will make millions of brothers and sisters think. Thanks for expressing those beautiful sentiments. —Ann Landers, 8-24-92
Eighty percent of the problem patients that have come to me, come because good manners were never taught them as children. As adults, they made mistakes and were rejected. They couldn’t play the game of life because they didn’t know the rules. — Dr. Smiley Blanton
Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings. When I pray for the world, I become the world; when I pray for the endless needs of the millions, my soul expands and wants to embrace them all and bring them into the presence of God. But in the midst of that experience I realize that compassion is not mine but God’s gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. I cannot pray, but God can pray in me. When God became as we are, that is, when God allowed all of us to enter into the intimacy of the divine life, it became possible for us to share in God’s infinite compassion.
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these. — George Washington Carver
A little girl one day went to her mother to show some fruit that had been given her. “Your friend,” said the mother, “has been very kind.”
“Yes,” said the child. “She gave me more than these; but I have given some away.”
The mother inquired to whom she had given them.
She answered, “I gave them to a girl who pushes me off the path, and makes faces at me.”
When asked why she gave them to her, she replied, “Because I thought it would make her know that I wish to be kind to her, and she will not, perhaps, be so rude and unkind to me again.”
Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses. Chinese Proverb
Hatred and anger are powerless when met with kindness.
Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on; ’Twas not given for thee alone, Pass it on;
Let it travel down the years, Let it wipe another’s tears, ’Till in heaven the deed appears—Pass it on. Henry Burton (1840–1930)
He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain. Douglas William Jerrold (1803–1857)
I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness that I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. Stephen Grellet (1773–1855
It is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar. English Proverb
Keep what is worth keeping— And with a breath of kindness Blow the rest away. Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887)
Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power that seems to be beyond natural causes, as if they were some angel’s song that had lost its way and come on earth. It seems as if they could almost do what in reality God alone can do—soften the hard and angry hearts of men. No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm—crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never. Frederick William Faber (1814–1863
Kind words don’t wear out the tongue. Danish Proverb
Kind words toward those you daily meet, Kind words and actions right, Will make this life of ours most sweet, Turn darkness into light. Isaac Watts (1674–1748)
Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning. Frederick William Faber (1814–1863)
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. Lao–tse (c. 604–c. 531 b.c.
Kindness is a language the dumb can speak, the deaf can hear, and the blind can see. Kindness is like a rose, which though easily crushed and fragile, yet speaks a language of silent power. Frances J. Roberts
Kindness is love in work clothes.
Kindness is loving people more than they deserve. Joseph Joubert (1754–1824
Kindness is the sunshine in which virtue grows.
Kindness will always attract kindness. Sophocles (c. 496–406 b.c.)
Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness and small obligations win and preserve the heart. Humphrey Davy (1778–1829)
Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone— Kindness in another’s trouble
Courage in your own. Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833–1870)
Life is short and we have not too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark way with us. Oh, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind! Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)
Little drops of water, little grains of sand, Make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land.
Little deeds of kindness, little words of love, Help to make earth happy like the heaven above. Julia A. Fletcher Carney (1823–1908)
Make a rule and pray to God to help you to keep it, never, if possible, to lie down at night without being able to say: “I have made one human being at least a little wiser, or a little happier, or at least a little better this day.” Charles Kingsley (1819–1875
One kind act will teach more love of God than a thousand sermons
One kind word can warm three winter months. Japanese Prover
Speak your kind words soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late
The best portions of a good man’s life—His little, nameless, unremembered act
Of kindness and love. William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
The greatest thing a man can do for his heavenly Father is to be kind to some of his other children. Henry Drummond (1851–1897)
The heart benevolent and kind The most resembles God. Robert Burns (1759–1796
The kindest are those who forgive and forget.The sun makes ice melt; kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate. Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)
There is a grace of kind listening, as well as a grace of kind speaking. Frederick William Faber (1814–1863)
This world is but the vestibule of eternity. Every good thought or deed touches a chord that vibrates in heaven.
What time is it? Time to do well, Time to live better, Give up that grudge, Answer that letter,
Speak the kind word To sweeten a sorrow, Do that kind deed You would leave ’till tomorrow.
Wise sayings often fall on barren ground; but a kind word is never thrown away. Arthur Helps (1813–1875)
You are best to yourself when you are good to others. You may be sorry that you spoke, sorry you stayed or went, Sorry you won or lost, Perhaps, sorry so much was spent. But as you go through life, you’ll find you’re never sorry you were kind.
Despite his busy schedule during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln often visited the hospitals to cheer the wounded. On one occasion he saw a young fellow who was near death. “Is there anything I can do for you?” asked the compassionate President. “Please write a letter to my mother,” came the reply. Unrecognized by the soldier, the Chief Executive sat down and wrote as the youth told him what to say.
The letter read, “My Dearest Mother, I was badly hurt while doing my duty, and I won’t recover. Don’t sorrow too much for me. May God bless you and Father. Kiss Mary and John for me.” The young man was too weak to go on, so Lincoln signed the letter for him and then added this postscript: “Written for your son by Abraham Lincoln.”
Asking to see the note, the soldier was astonished to discover who had shown him such kindness. “Are you really our President?” he asked. “Yes,” was the quiet answer. “Now, is there anything else I can do?” The lad feebly replied, “Will you please hold my hand? I think it would help to see me through to the end.” The tall, gaunt man granted his request, offering warm words of encouragement until death stole in with the dawn.
Mamie Adams always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. She went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year and the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait on line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. “I know,” said Mamie, ‘but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.”
Bits and Pieces, December, 1989, p. 2
Somerset Maughan’s mother was an extraordinarily beautiful woman married to an extraordinarily ugly man. When a family friend once asked how such a beautiful woman could have married such an ugly man, she replied, “He has never once hurt my feelings.”
Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it.
– Alexander Maclaren
But in all things commending ourselves…by kindness,…by love unfeigned. 2 Corinthians 6:4, 6
When William McKinley was President of the United States, he had to make a decision about the appointment of an ambassador to a foreign country. Two candidates were equally qualified, so McKinley was still a Congressman, he had observed an inconsiderate action by one of the men. He recalled boarding a streetcar at the rush hour and getting the last vacant seat. Soon an elderly woman got on, carrying a heavy clothesbasket. No one got up to offer her a seat, so she walked the length of the car and stood in the aisle, hardly able to keep her balance as the vehicle swayed from side to side. One of the men McKinley was later to consider for ambassador was sitting next to where the woman was standing. Instead of getting up and helping her, he deliberately shifted his newspaper so it would look like he hadn’t seen her. When McKinley noticed this, he walked down the aisle, graciously took her basket, and offered her his seat. The man was unaware that anyone was watching, but that one little act of selfishness would later deprive him of perhaps the crowning honor of his lifetime. – H.G.B.
- Our Daily Bread, Monday, November 8
What is the kindest thing someone has done for you lately? Have you tried to do something kind for someone? What is it? What do usually think about when we think about kindness? Opening the door for others. Being nice to the cashier at the store. Leaving a generous tip for the waiter. Sending a card of thanks. What do you think of when you think of kindness?
All of these are good things. Typically, kindness is equated with being polite or nice. Some years ago a movement started that called people to practice random acts of kindness. In other words, be nice and be polite. I am not sure if the goal was to make people feel better about themselves or to make the world a better place. Either way, both are good things. Now think of the fruit of the spirit, among which is kindness, and ask yourself, is kindness just being nice and polite, or is there even more to it?
Kindness in scripture is more often equated with love. The word for kindness in Hebrew and Greek is interchangeable with mercy, goodness, loyalty, faithfulness, but most of all steadfast love. Kindness is the visible action of love directed toward others. God is praised for being kind – for showing his steadfast love in so many ways. There is an example in the Bible of a mortal like you and me putting the kindness of God into practice. Read from 2 Samuel 9.
There’s more in this story than politeness. Here is kindness with long lasting implications that spanned generations. What does this tell us about the character of God and the kindness of God? It shows that kindness is the fruit of the spirit that holds us together. It is love directed toward others for their sake and not just our own. Talk about life on the vine – kindness is like a ground covering vine or ivy that binds the earth so that it doesn’t erode away. It is the raw material of the social fiber.
Knowing what the kindness of God is, we can understand why it is hard to cultivate kindness in our culture. Our culture is hostile to kindness because …
- Our culture tolerates rude, angry, unkind, and violent behavior. No one really likes this, but they have become so commonplace that we have just accepted it. Talk shows and sports thrive on a culture of conflict in which it is more important to be tough and take no “guff” from anybody. We mentioned random acts of kindness – recall that this is a take +off on the phrase random acts of violence. Maybe we crave something as refreshing as nice and polite because we have suffered enough from the RAV.
Even in church it is possible to accept and tolerate crude and unkind behavior. One of the reasons we find it difficult to debate and discuss serious and controversial matters is because there has been too many occasions of attacking the person rather than the argument. One of my delights in Restoration History was being in class with a man who had lived ministry in the 20th century. When the class began discussing one well known “debating minister,” this man chuckled and told us how he had seen that minister debate many times. He described how he would turn red, sweat, call his opponents names and ridicule them. “Nobody bought the man’s argument,” said our wise classmate, “but it was a sight to see him get mad.” We all appreciated our classmate’s humor but his wisdom also reminded us that many people and many churches are hurt by such behavior.
But this sort of behavior is a symptom of the deeper problem. The rude behavior we see is the product of radical independence and self-sufficiency. Why is there road rage? Because people act and drive as if they are the only ones who matter. Why do people get rude at restaurants? Because they hold their satisfaction in higher esteem than the person who waits on them. Our culture promotes radical independence and self-sufficiency.
Technology has enabled us to be radically independent. Remember when phones operated on a party line? Now you and every member of your family can have your own mobile phone. Against the experience of the public concert or radio broadcast is the iPod or MP3 player which allows you to have your own personal concert with every song you can ever imagine. [Have you seen the MP3 commercial of people going about their lives stoically while their reflections enjoy their own private party?]
- But technology is not the cause; it is just the enabler. For many generations now we have praised the self-made man and the pioneer spirit. We have acclaimed the rugged individual who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps. We learned from Shakespeare that we should “neither a borrower or a lender be, but to thine ownself be true.” Many people in our culture assume that the old maxim “God helps those who help themselves” is really in the Bible.
- I love to watch when two fiercely strong-willed and independent individuals fight over who will pick up the check at a restaurant. They will even trick one another out of paying and bribe waiters and waitresses. A few even threaten the friendship if the other pays the bill. Why? Why would someone risk a friendship over an act of kindness? Well even those of us who aren’t quite in that league still understand the awkward feeling of obligation and dependence. We would rather be the giver than the recipient because receiving erodes our feeling of self-sufficiency.
Knowing the disease is the first step to taking the cure. Isn’t it wonderful when medical science affirms that something very simple might be a solution to some of the worst problems we know? Recently studies showed that blueberries have a greater effect at reducing the development of cancer than any other fruit. You can prevent cancer by eating blueberries! It is that simple.
Likewise, cultivating kindness will overcome so many of the problems we suffer from as a culture. It is that simple. If David could demonstrate the kindness of God then I believe we can too with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Kind Ones: It is said that in the ancient world the early Christians were sometimes called the Kind Ones rather than Christians. This is due in part to the fact that there is just one letter of difference in the word for Christ (christos) and the word for kindness (chrēstos). People were confused about the name.
I would think that it is also due to the fact that the early church demonstrated the kind of life that would make them live up to both names. My hope is that the people of our age will also be confused as to whether we are Christians or the Kind Ones. Let us strive to live up to both names.
The text (1 Cor. 13:4) combines the patience of love with its kindness: love is patient and kind (as in Gal. 5:22). These are two aspects or elements of love that are presented in explanation of what love is (cf. the subject “love” is repeated here, love is patient, love is kind; except for a variant after the word envy, the term love is not used again until v. 8). Then comes a list of eight things that love is not (4b-6a). Of course, from what love is not we learn what it is by implication to its opposite. And from what love is, we can infer nuances of what it is not. The negative is like a dark background that helps you see what’s in the foreground more clearly. Paul shows us this interplay between the negative and the positive in verse 6 where he begins with the negative and then moves to the positive (showing the implication of the positive that is contained in the negative statement).
The list and the way it is set up show the fullness of the subject under discussion. Paul is concatenating. He is squeezing volumes into a few paragraphs (four to be exact). Such fullness justifies the effort to understand a specific virtue in light of the entire Bible, and by thinking carefully and logically.
Thus, two important things need to be kept in mind as we work our way through this famous love chapter. a) Each dimension of love presented needs to be appreciated in its uniqueness. Each element of love is a distinct reflection of the love diamond. b) Also, the virtues of love are interdependent. They overlap with one another and they imply one another. One reflection of the diamond implies the reality of other reflections and it implies the diamond as a whole.
Therefore, we have two overall goals. We want to find a good definition of each love fruit. Such defining should reveal as much as possible the distinctiveness of each grace. And at the same time, we want to see how the graces overlap and imply one another. Otherwise, we will fail to see the richness and fullness of each grace.
These goals are important because this richness and fullness for learning and living is what true disciples seek. Remember, if you understand all mysteries and all knowledge but have not love then you are nothing (v. 2). Without love, communication is ultimately meaningless (a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, v. 1); your sacrifices, however great, gain nothing (v. 3). Therefore, learners show themselves to be Christ’s disciples by their love, which means they learn with the immediate goal of obedience and with the ever present ultimate goal of glorifying Christ.
To that end, let’s consider the love fruit of kindness this morning. If we put these words together literally we can come up with a title for the message: loving-kindness. I have two main points: an explanation of loving-kindness and an exhortation to loving-kindness.
1A. An Explanation of loving-kindness
So what is kindness? As a love fruit, what is the nature of loving-kindness? Three words will cue our answer: comparison, definition, and pattern.
1B. A comparison of kindness with patience as love fruits
When we unpack patience toward sinners and note that it means we do not retaliate in thought, word, or deed, we discover that instead of being harsh it involves being gentle and kind. So we ask, “what is the difference between kindness and patience?” The answer is that patience has the context of being injured particularly in mind, it is a reaction to the sins of others against us. And in this context, patience shows itself in kind thoughts (good will), kind words, and kind deeds despite the fact that someone has hurt us deeply. Kindness here is being viewed from the perspective of patience in the face of injury.
When the kindness quality of love is the subject of attention, let’s say viewed in itself, it is concerned with contexts larger than that of being injured. Here kindness is the whole pie and one slice of the pie is kindness in relation to those who afflict us. To say it is the whole pie is to say that it is the subject now being considered. To switch analogies, this means that we are looking at love as a diamond again and we are now looking at the kindness reflection. If we look deep into the diamond from this angle we will see that it includes a response to the sins of others around us and against us. If you look into the diamond, into the patience reflection you see kindness in there. If you look into the kindness reflection you see patience in there. But they are different reflections or sides of the diamond each with its own hues and accents.
Hence, there is much more to kindness than a response to sins against us; it has many applications where our response to injury is not the point (it may, for example, be a response to someone else’s suffering).
Kindness can be described by explaining its core, its independence, its universality, its comprehensiveness and its spirituality. At its core, kindness is doing good to others. It is doing good to others from the heart (from a heart of good will); it means to do good to others in thought, word, and deed. This is the core or center of loving-kindness.
Kindness has an interesting independent quality about it. It means to do good to others in a way not dependent on their character, conduct, or responses to you. Its universality simply means that no one is excluded in principle. We are to extend loving-kindness to all that come across our path in need. That is the neighbor as defined by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The comprehensiveness of kindness refers to the fact that love seeks to do physical, temporal, emotional, and eternal good to others. By this fruit, we do what we can to promote their physical and emotional well being, their wealth, and the safety of their entire selves before God in the final judgment.
But let’s not leave out the spiritual depth that applies here. We should not have a specialist mentality about a person’s total health and well being. That is, we should not think that the physical needs of the body are the exclusive responsibilities of the medical doctor and the emotional needs of man are the exclusive responsibilities of the head doctor. That is a sacred/secular way of thinking. It is not a Christian way of thinking. My point is that spiritual laws, principles, and graces apply to our physical, temporal, emotional, and eternal needs. It is not as if the physical/temporal/emotional is over here and the eternal is over there. It is not that the former means that a person is non-spiritual or secular and the latter means that he is spiritual or sacred.
All of the areas of human need have a spiritual dimension. For example, we pray for daily bread in conjunction with praying for the hallowing of God’s name (cf. the Lord’s Prayer).
If we are kind, we will promote the good of others in any way that we can, whether inward or outward, temporal or eternal as the Holy Spirit enables us through His words in Scripture (i.e., the spiritual applies across the board). For example, it is not the job of the church to have wealth and prosperity seminars. But Christians should be alert to opportunities to help others with work by recommending to a job. It is a marvelous opportunity if one has a business and can put others to work. This issue of a weekly paycheck is a spiritual matter as an outflow of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. the implications of the 8th commandment, work to eat, and the workman is worthy of his wages, etc).
In this light a great quote from Edwards is made even greater. He stated that to be instruments of spiritual good is to do to others greater good than if we had given them the riches of the universe (Charity, 97). Of course, this does not exclude giving of our material possessions; it simply puts it into perspective as a sacred duty.
If I asked you the following question, how would you reply? Loving-kindness has what pattern? If it follows a pattern, then what might that pattern be? Reach as high as you can to answer this question. Once you do, I think we will have the same answer. God’s kindness is the pattern. If you the six and one pattern of creation came to mind, you went in thought to a superlative example of God’s loving-kindness in making a habitable place for man to live (in the work of the six days) and promising rest with Him at the end of our work on earth (the rest of the 7th day that is enjoyed week by week in fellowship with God is a foretaste of the eternal Sabbath rest).
God’s kindness is our pattern for kindness even in this fallen world. Speaking to unbelievers Paul says that God gives rain and crops in their seasons to give man the enjoyable things of life (Acts 14:17; cf. Rom. 2:4, His witness extends a overture of grace inviting sinners to Himself; cf. His outstretched hands, Rom. 10:21). This is part and parcel of His call to sinners to seek Him and live. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us of the Father’s love that sends the rain and sunshine on the just and unjust alike (Matt. 5:43-48). There is loving-kindness that is common to all (cf. common grace and common goodness). His kindness is our pattern and it has independence in that it does not rest on the character, conduct, or responses of others as is clear in the “therefore you” of verse 48.
However, it should be noted that God’s kindness has limits that reveal His severity. Paul tells us to consider His kindness and His severity, kindness to you and severity to others (Rom. 11:22). Therefore we have to balance the fact of His common goodness with His special goodness to His covenant people.
The OT has many occurrences of God’s abundant kindness to His covenant people (cf. the same Greek word for kindness in the LXX). In Psalm 25:7, the Psalmist pleads to be remembered according to God’s love that he grounds in the fact that God is good (for you are kind). God is great in kindness that is public and protective (Ps. 31:19-20). His bounty is abundant (Ps. 65) and includes atonement (v. 3), awesome deeds of righteousness, giving of joy, and the blessing of the water cycle (vs. 5, 9, 12). But we must not miss two things. 1) His kindness is parallel with holiness, which reminds us of God’s severity. 2) His kindness is shown in election (v. 4; cf. the good figs versus the bad figs, Jer. 24:1f).
In Ephesians 2:7, Paul refers to the riches of God’s grace “in kindness” toward us in Christ. His loving-kindness appeared in the Savior and when it did, He saved us (Titus 3:4). Thus, it is not based on our character, conduct, or response to God. We love Him because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). His goodness to us generated our response and cannot be based on it in any way.
We follow the pattern He sets when we do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith and when we seek their good despite their character, conduct, and responses to us.
2A. An exhortation to loving-kindness
Let me exhort you to show kindness to all men everywhere seeking their physical, emotional, temporal, and eternal good. In a word, my exhortation is, “Go about doing good” as Jesus did and thus follow in His steps. Do so with a spiritual depth that opposes a sacred/secular worldview. Do so after God according to the pattern He has laid out in front of us.
1) Go about doing good because of God’s fatherly goodness to you. Note the exhortation in Titus 3 to every good work in speech, demeanor, and common courtesy that is based on the fact that we ourselves were once foolish. But when Christ appeared He saved us by doing good to us that we do not deserve (work of the Spirit, justification, entitlement, and hope, Titus 3:1-7). Because He has been good to you, go and do good to others.
2) Go about doing good because you are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Bring some of His heaven to this earth. Thus imitate God, as dearly loved children live a life of love as Christ loved (Eph. 4:32-5:1)! What a packed statement!
3) Go about doing good because in this way you show that you are children of God. Show you are children by doing good to others whatever posture they may take toward you.
Do good to those who persecute you. Pray for them who despitefully use you. Do good to the thankful, the unthankful, the good, the evil (whether directed toward you or not), the friend, and the enemy. All of these things are in Luke 6:27-36: do good to those who hate you (v. 27), bless, pray, turn the other cheek, go extra mile, practice the golden rule (v. 31). What credit do you have if you do good to those who are good to you? That is, what can be credited to your account as a child of God that shows you are God’s child? Doing good to the enemy leads to great reward and then, Jesus says, you are sons. Namely, you demonstrate sonship and daughtership to God because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Loving-kindness is a good work and its takes work (cf. the delicacy of trying to tell a mature adult that they have lice in their hair!). There are many pitfalls and responses to us will vary.
One translation renders 1 Thessalonians 5:15 in this way, “try to be kind.” This exhortation is preceded by many references to Paul’s example (2:1ff.). It is an example worth following. It is for ministers and for all believers. A case in point within this context is 2:9-12. Consider Paul’s kind-heartedness (his heart attitude) and loving kindness (in outward actions). These things lead up to the final instructions of his letter (5:12-15) and the crisp exhortation, “don’t pay back but try to be kind to one another and to every one” (5:15). Thus seek to be kind, make that a determined goal of your life. Make this a conscious goal in life: try to be kind!
I close by noting that ultimately loving-kindness begins with the love of Christ for us. On that basis, live a life of love and go about seeking to do good to everyone but especially to the household of faith.
2 Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 9:483.