I hope all of you had a terrific Thanksgiving last week. It is so refreshing for me as I hope it is for you to reflect on the many ways that God has shown great kindness to us. It is particularly rich to do this, I believe, during difficult times or when reflecting on hardship. You may think that sounds odd, but for me it is true. Because it is when thinking about hard times that I can most clearly see God’s strong and faithful work in and around me. It is true, isn’t it, that when we are weak (hurting, confused, suffering physically, emotionally spent), He is strong. If this were not true it would be difficult to move forward in some cases. But we can be thankful and rely on Him in all of life, that is for sure, and it is particularly rich to do so when we are down, when we are well aware of our weaknesses and therefore well aware of His eternal strength.
I hope you spent time this Thanksgiving season reflecting. At our family Thanksgiving time, I got to hear each person express thanksgiving to God for many things, and I sat back thinking, “What an awesome God.” At our elder meeting we did the same thing on Friday morning, I got to hear each one reflect on God’s goodness, His kindness in their lives. Every day should be a day of thanksgiving, filled with thanksgiving. How might that change our thinking?
And I don’t know about you guys, but we had a feast! My wife is the best cook ever. And even in that we can say, “Thank you Lord for meeting our needs, but also giving to us abundantly, way more than we need, giving to us in incredible measure in so many areas of life including the ability to have a Thanksgiving feast.” All of it is a picture of what is to come, overflowing abundance and kindness from God.
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord. 7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Psalm 36:5-9)
Well, with perfect timing and planning by God this morning we continue to look at 1 Corinthians 13 verse 4 where Paul says, “Love is patient and kind.” We looked at patience last week, so I’m sure everyone who was here last week had a great time exercising patience with others! I would love to hear your stories on that! Love is patient. This week our focus will be on kindness. Love is not only patient but love is kind.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Don’t you love it when others are patient with you? How about kind? There is perhaps no other attribute that we may appreciate in other people as kindness. Just plain old kindness. What wife would not say, “I love it when my husband is kind to me,” or a husband, “I so enjoy and treasure my wife’s kindness.” Or a child who desires kindness from his parents or siblings. Any of us, who does not desire kindness from others?
I want you to think about the person in your life who most consistently shows you kindness. Maybe this person has not given you a spectacular gift or costly things, but has most consistently, when they enter your life, they are most consistently kind in deeds and attitudes toward you. Fill in this blank in your mind: “The person who shows me the most kindness is_______.” I am wondering as you think of this person, how does this person makes you feel? Does thinking of this person put a smile on your face? Do you have good thoughts of delight? Is this a person you want to spend more time with? Is this a person you would want to be more like?
Are there places you go where at that place or at that particular event people seem more kind than at most other places you may go? I remember going to the Shepherd’s Conference in California for the first time and being just overwhelmed by the kindness of those who hosted it. That has been years ago, but I haven’t forgotten it. Everyone wanted to help me, from giving directions to giving me food, making me comfortable in a place where I had never been, the kindness there seemed genuine and it really stirred my heart. For you maybe it is a family gathering where kindness overflows. Maybe a camp like Joni and Friends, maybe some ministry that you are involved with, or a small group that you enjoy. Who doesn’t want kindness to surround them? Love is kind.
In fact when God tells us about heaven He speaks of kindness, His kindness. Paul speaks of the Gospel in Ephesians 2 and he can’t help but include heaven as he speaks of the Gospel, so he gives us this quick one sentence description in verse 7…”So that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” How about that? What will heaven be like? I don’t know, what does the immeasurable riches of the kindness of God look and feel like just raining down on us forever? When someone is kind to you, think of the Gospel of Christ. Enjoy that kindness from others, but don’t stay there; let it point you to something much greater. For whatever it is, however someone may be kind to you, it is just a picture, a shadow of perfect kindness from God to us. Today we cannot enjoy His kindness fully because of our sinfulness. Some day that will change. Some day we will be able to enjoy His kindness fully without the sinfulness of our hearts that hold us back now. I don’t know that God’s kindness will be any greater, but that our capacity to enjoy His kindness will be enlarged by a million, a billion times.
So what exactly is kindness? If love is kind, then we need to know what exactly kindness is. The same Greek word used here for “kind” is also used in Luke 6:35, “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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” So God is kind and good to the ungrateful and evil. This is also the word used in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Here it is translated as “easy” or you could say “pleasant” or “kind.” Also in Galatians 5:22-23 which describes the fruits of the spirit this same word is translated as “kindness” – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” In 1 Peter 2:3 it is translated as “good” – “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” In Romans 11:22 this word for kindness is contrasted with the word severity. So kindness must be the opposite of severity. So we see, “kind, easy (meaning pleasant or kind), “good”, “kindness.” In Ephesians 4:32 kindness is contrasted with some other things like, “bitterness, wrath, being angry, and malicious.”
The word translated “kind” in our passage is not just describing kindness or goodness as a quality, but it describes it in terms of action. In other words it is something not to just hold but something that we are to be. It is an action. You can’t say, “Oh, he is really kind but you would just never know it.” No! This kindness is visible, you see it and you know it. Kindness means being ready to help, to do good, to relieve burdens, to be useful, to be tender, genuinely sympathetic, and then actually doing something that helps someone. Doing good for others because you love them and you love God. Kindness can involve:
- Seeking to make disciples, like we see in Matthew 28
- Evangelizing and witnessing
- Encouraging, building one another up
- Admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak
- Showing hospitality, serving one another to the glory of God
- Shelving our own agendas for the sake of our neighbors
Love that is true biblical love involving kindness includes doing good to others in terms of physical and temporal things, because we love them and we love God. It is what the good Samaritan did in Luke 10, what Phoebe did in Romans 16, what Aquila and Priscilla did according to Romans 16:3-4, what Barnabas did in Acts 4, what Jesus did in John 8 and Mark 8 feeding the thousands. The Bible is full of examples for us leading us to an understanding of what kindness is.
As I have looked at this I have found that it is very hard to qualify this type of Christian kindness. I mean it seems that kindness is alway to be exercised by us toward others and especially so toward brothers and sisters in Christ and those whom God has put close to us, perhaps under our care.
Jesus’ ministry was incredible. His kindness was unmistakable. The frequency with which He healed the sick and the crippled, gave hope to those possessed by evil spirits, spent time with sinners, and time with His disciples. Just the fact that He came down to this world, that He lived among His creatures, ate what they ate, wore what they wore, conversed, hung out with and interacted with people. His kindness was unrivaled by His suffering for sinners, His willingness to take a body and then to feel all its pain. His willingness to take on a heart, a mind, with feelings, and then to have them crushed to the point of sweating droplets of blood. To choose rejection by people and by His Father for our sake. His kindness has been aptly demonstrated for us and has shown us how to live and to relate to other people.
But you may say, “Wait, He wasn’t always kind. He did lash out at a few people. He had some really harsh words for a few.” I have heard some cite Jesus’ harsh words with a few people as a way to say, “I too can blast people, I can get in someone’s face and let them have it, I can angrily approach these people, these enemies around us and tell them a thing or two, after all that is what Jesus did.” Have you heard that before? There is no question that Jesus used very pointed words with some people. Let’s see some things Jesus said and how He said them. Here is an example:
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:27-36)
I’ve been around some people who love this kind of passage, like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! Let’s tell it like it is, let them have it! Kindness is a lot of trouble, let’s just get to it!” What do we make of this? What about kindness, loving kindness? Does what Jesus did here give us some leeway on this kindness stuff? Is our kindness to be conditional? Was Jesus’ kindness conditional? What do we do with this?
I just bring this up because of the many objections out there for simple kindness. Like, “Do I really have to be kind in this situation? Surely God doesn’t want me to be kind right now, not with this going on!” I understand objections to kindness at times because I have battled them in my own heart. Like, “Look what Jesus did, look at what He said, that doesn’t look so kind to me! Maybe I have an out here, maybe I can jump on someone verbally and go on the attack. You know, like Jesus did! So kindness when that warrants or when it is convenient (in my mind), and a good thrashing when it doesn’t!”
I think those are good questions and let me tell you how I would answer them. First of all remember that this is Jesus talking. Jesus the Creator, the sustainer of all things, the giver of life, the one that holds all things on this earth and beyond together. Think about these false teachers, these hypocrites and their standing with God. Yes, they were enemies of the Messiah. Yes, they did misrepresent God. Yes, they were oppressive to God the Father, Christ, and the gospel message. Yes, they were terrible sinners, full of pride, lusted for power, insensitive to the needs of those they were to Shepherd. They were liars, thieves, and wolves in sheeps’ clothing. Jesus knew every bit of this perfectly. Jesus called them on it with very pointed words as we have read, right? But was Jesus kind to them? Unbelievably so!
Yes, Jesus spoke frankly with them, but He also did what? He created them. He gave them food to eat every day. He gave them oxygen needed every time they took a breath. He put them in a place in the universe that was the perfect distance from the sun to feel its soothing warmth, but not too close to be burned alive. Jesus gave them minds to think and reason, He gave them feelings to enjoy life, He gave them feet to take them from one house to another, He have them hands to pick things up and carry them. He even gave them a face to face look at the Savior, the Messiah. He patiently endured them, He did not immediately destroy them. He gave them truth, the Gospel. His loving kindness was the norm in their lives.
I’ll bet that if we all got together and began listing all the ways that Christ had shown kindness to these men, that after a week of discussion among all of us after our list was made we might be about a billion things short that we would never think of. Don’t discount the kindness of God, the kindness of Christ in anyone’s life on this earth, even in this case when He spoke harshly with them. Even for them, even with them He gave them life, showed them light, showered the knowledge of the Gospel upon them. So once we have shown kindness like Jesus then we should consider speaking as He did! Jesus had shown them kindness, beyond our description, for all of their lives and He still was. Kindness was not absent.
Where does that leave us in dealing with people, maybe even some people who might resemble these hypocrites to which Jesus spoke? I think, the best we can and with the most creativity as possible, that we too can shower kindness on even men like these in the midst of speaking the truth with boldness. Yes, speak the truth in love, but don’t forget kindness. Our speech is to build up, to give grace that is good for the occasion, from Ephesians 4:29. How important is kindness?
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
We may think of kindness as trivial or nice, but not that important. We may fail to see that kindness is a way that we represent God to the world. God shows kindness to the world often through His people, through you and through me. That is how some people will begin to see and know God. Kindness is important as an aspect of love.
So how do we take this, this aspect of love, and make it a regular part of our lives? What are the implications of this for each one of us?
For many of us here this morning, for most of us here I would guess there is at least one person that you may have a particular problem being kind too. There is probably at least one person who maybe has sinned against you terribly, or who has just failed to love you, or who just sees the world differently than you do, or maybe one who just rubs you the wrong way. Who is that person in your life? Who is that one person whom you struggle to love with the kindness that we have been talking about this morning? Think about him or her. Now remember this: love is patient and kind. Now alongside that thought consider this: consider the loving kindness that God has shown you. Consider all you have done to offend Him, think about your sins for which He suffered and died. Think about how He entered this world in the body of a man, how He was rejected and ridiculed, how He was physically beaten and abused for you. Think about how He knew all of this ahead of time, including how we would reject Him, and He said, “I will love you anyways. My lovingkindness will rule in my heart for you.”
Now think of this person in your life and remind yourself, “Who am I to withhold good from this person, this person who will never sin against me as much as I have sinned against God?” And then think about how you will begin to show kindness in love to this person, no matter what that person’s behavior looks like toward you. You may say, “How? I just can’t.” If that is what you are thinking, then let me remind you of this: both patience and kindness are fruits of the Spirit. These are things that really are ours in Christ. If you think you can’t be kind to a particular person, then maybe you are in a good place. In a place in which you say, “I can’t, not in this flesh, not in my strength, I can’t just by the will of myself. No, I need Christ, He must do this in me! Here you go God, please do this in me, by your might, by your strength, this thing is yours. Take me, use me, make me what you want in this, do this in me and for me, by faith I know you can, so please do.” Give up your strength, go to Him, fall down before Him. When we are weak, He is strong.
And when He works, and you are kind when you haven’t been before to this undeserving person, and he or she takes notice and may ask, “Why? Why are you doing these things? What is going on with you and all this obvious kindness?” And we can say, “Because my Lord, my Savior, and my God has overwhelmed me with kindness. Christ has given to me so much I don’t deserve. Life here depending on Him by faith, life after this of pure joy and happiness, relief from all the guilt of my sins, I have no fear of deserved punishment for all I have done wrong. Christ gives to me everything I need and so much more, His kindness is great, more than I could ever hope for or imagine. And this kindness from Him, I want to give some to you, so that you may see something of who He is and what He does. It is overflowing from Him to me and from me to you! Let me tell you more about Him.”
You see, our love in kindness expressed to others is never to be based on their works, what we like about them, or how they treat us. No, this loving kindness is not based on works just like God’s loving kindness is not based on our works! And so others can see Christ, should see Christ in us. We are here to represent Him, and one way we do is through loving kindness to others.
It is a powerful witness when biblical kindness accompanies the gospel message. Through kindness we often gain entrance into people’s lives. And with that entrance we often gain their ear, their attention, a soft heart ready to listen. Try that, even with your own kids, your neighbors, see that kindness precedes your words and watch hearts soften, see minds that will more often receive what you have to say. It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance.
What about here in our church? How do we do this with each other? What about visitors who join with us on a Sunday? Are we looking for ways to serve each other here at church? Are we making an impression for Christ with those who walk through our doors? Are we going out of our way to be kind in the ways that we serve? Are we willing to forfeit our own agenda, our preferences, our likes to consider how someone else may be better served? Are we too set in our own ways to be kind? Are we too busy to be kind? Are we too selective with kindness? Where are we with kindness?
Has God been kind to you? Who are we to withhold that from others?
Will we let this kind of love rule in our hearts as a powerful and effective witness first of all that we belong to God and secondly so that unbelievers may be drawn to Him?
Who will we love with kindness this week? How will we trust God to work this in our lives this week? Will we lay our lives before Him, desiring to be used by Him to show loving kindness to people in our lives who don’t deserve it? Will we represent Him well in this way?
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:1-4)