1 Corinthians 13 — What Does Paul Mean When He Says Love is Kind?

Posted: July 18, 2015 in 46-1 Corinthians
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1 Corinthians 13 — As we continue in the Love Chapter today, we are continuing with the characteristics of love. Paul says love is kind. Kind is defined at dictionary.com as “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person”. Other definitions found there are “having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence.” It is further defined with these synonyms, “mild, benign, gentle, tender, compassionate, gracious, a sympathetic attitude toward others, and a willingness to do good or give pleasure. Kind implies a deep-seated characteristic shown either habitually or on occasion by considerate behavior.

So, as Christ followers, we are to demonstrate love to the world then we must be kind. We will pick a few words from the above definitions and synonyms and run with them. First, we demonstrate kind through being gentle and tender to the world around us. To be kind is to be gentle and tender. That means that we will not run over people just to get our way. To be kind is not to get frustrated with someone and blow up at them just because they have an opinion that makes your blood boil. To be kind is be able to set aside my anger at another person and here what they have to say and then to reason with them. Gently working through problems to ensure that both come away with dignity is a mark of kindness and gentleness. To be kind is to be tender toward the feelings of others. Tenderness stems from having empathy or sympathy for the origin of the feelings of others. Tenderness leads us to understand why a person finds something offensive that you don’t. Tenderness leads us to understand why a person has rejected biblical standards for marriage. Gentleness and tenderness lead us to be kind to others and not to run them over and crush them to the ground. To be kind is to get to know the circumstances of another person and consider their motivations. To be gentle is to understand and get to know why person acts the way they do. Certainly, Jesus had the opportunity to condemn a woman caught in the act of adultery but rather he was gentle with her. In gentleness we have the opportunity to speak of the power of Jesus Christ and the loving forgiveness He offers.

To be kind is to have a sympathetic attitude toward others. Rather than return hate with hate, a kind person shows love to those that have hurt us. Surely, the family members of the Emmanuel 9 in Charleston could have returned hate with hate but they offered the love of Jesus Christ to Dillon Roof even though they were hurting deeply. If we meet hurt with hurt, are we really following the example of Christ. If someone hurts us, if someone bashes what we hold to be true, if someone wishes to take away something that I hold dear, if I lash out in anger at them what have we accomplished. We now have alienated sides of an issue. To be kind is to be sympathetic toward the ideas, positions, and opinions of others. To sympathetic toward others is to consider where they are coming from. Does this mean that I lay down and let people run over me? Does this mean that I do not take a stand on God’s truth? No, it does not. We can be sympathetic toward others but hold firm to the truth of God’s Word. Just look at Jesus, He ate with sinners and got to know them. He was sympathetic toward their situation, the things in life that lead them to where they are. He got to know them. Understood their motivations. Then, he shared God’s absolute and unchanging truth with them in a way that they could not easily dismiss. Isn’t that far better than the us vs. them mentality we see today in our reactions to society’s disregard for biblical truth. It is easier to demonize the other side than it is to get to know them and invest in their lives and then share God’s truth in a way that they cannot easily dismiss.

To be considered a kind person, the dictionary says that one typically has to be habitual in their consideration for others and willingness to do good for others. It is a habit. Habits take a while to develop. It is only through practice that something becomes a habit. We must practice kindness daily for it to become an adjective by which people describe us. Habitual kindness means that I am kind on a regular routine basis such that others notice its repetition. It means that I am kind all the time. It means that I am not just kind when I can gain personal advantage from it (and is THAT really kindness?). When I am habitually kind, it means that I do good for others because it makes me happy to do so. To see others happy is a mark of kindness. As Christ followers, loving our fellow man and putting their needs ahead of ours is a hallmark of who we are. Kindness, habitual kindness, is what we are or it is what we are supposed to be.

Why do you think that this chapter is so often quoted at weddings? It is because it is in marriage, the most intimate of God’s ordained relationships, that we must practice these characteristics of love for our marriages to be successful ones. We are to be patient with our spouses. We are to be kind to our spouses. If we cannot get those things right in this, the most close of all relationships (that of a husband and a wife), then, how do we expect to get it right in the broader world around us? If you cannot demonstrate patience and kindness to your wife or to your husband, then, it is a bet that you cannot do in the world outside your marital home. Marriage is a laboratory for how we are to treat each and every person. In marriage, you see all the warts and defects of your spouse but to make the marriage a place of security, love and stability, we must be kind to our spouses. We must be patient with them. We must love them because love is patience and love is kindness. When we learn to live this way with our spouses, it gives us the education that we need to practice the same in the world outside our doors.

The next few days that we will spend here in the Love Chapter will be about what love is not. Yesterday and today, we have spent time on two characteristics of what love is. We must define what it is before we compare it to what it is not. Love is patient and love is kind. If we could just learn that love is not all about physical attraction. If we could just learn that love is not getting my way all the time. If we could just learn that love is not just loving those who do exactly as we do, then, maybe just maybe we could learn to be patient and to be kind. When we realize that God made all of us in his image and gave us all different talents, different personalities, different rates of spiritual growth, different points at which we find Jesus Christ, then maybe we can take the pressure of other people. Maybe, we can invest in their lives instead of writing them off. Maybe, we can get to know them and meet their needs. Maybe, we can reason through differences with them instead of shouting and walking away angry. Maybe, we can be patient and maybe we can be kind.

Father, in heaven, help us to learn kindness. Help us to learn the kindness without expectation of something being in it for us. Help us to be kind because that this what you call us to do. Help us to think of what we can do to meet the needs of others before ourselves. Help us to invest in other people’s lives and keep investing even when they disappoint us. Help us to get to know people and get to know their motivations. Help us to be a people that are known for kindness. Help us to be genuinely kind as a way to show them what Christ can do in a life. Help us to point people to you through our habitual kindness. Amen.

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