1 Corinthians 13:4

Sermon preached on January 17, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

One of my most vivid earliest memories relates to a time when my mom left me on a bus. It happened when I was almost 4 years old. My mother had taken my brother and me, and my baby sister into town shopping. On the way home on the bus my older brother was supposed to look after me. My mother had a baby that she was carrying and she sat it a seat on the bus and my brother and I sat in the two seats right behind her. I was on the inside by the window and because it was dark out, I went right to sleep. The bus didn't go by our house and we were supposed to get off at a stop at the end of our road, and we'd have to walk about a half mile down the road to our house. When we came to our bus stop I was asleep and my mom gathered up my baby sister and got off the bus, my older brother got off, just assuming that I'd follow him. But I didn't wake up. When they all got off the bus the bus door closed and the bus pulled away. It was then that my mother realized that I wasn't with them. But it was too late. The bus had gone down the road.

A minute or so later I woke up when the bus stopped at a railway crossing. I didn't know too much at that age but one of the things that I knew was that there were no train tracks on our bus route. So when I saw the train crossing lights I became fully alert, ran down the bus aisle and told the bus driver that I had missed my stop. At that point, one of the passengers on the bus, a man with a wooden leg offered to walk me back to my home. I can't remember if he had crutches or a walking cane, but he only had one good leg and yet he offered to walk me home. So we both got off the bus and he started to walk me home. He only had to walk me as far as the bus stop where I had failed to get off because my mother was still there. But then he had to walk up the highway to his house because the bus hadn't waited for him.

That was an almost unbelievable act of kindness on the part of the one legged man—totally remarkable. His act of kindness was a great blessing to me. He reunited me with my mom. But in addition to that, his kindness has had the potential to be a great blessing to me for the rest of my life. Whenever I see someone with a missing leg or arm, or who is challenged physically in some way, that man's kindness to me should remind me not to ignore the person, to look the other way—but to be kind to them. But it also tells me, whenever I think of it—that I should be kind to others no matter who they are. That one act of kindness that that man showed to me—has affected me for the good.

Kindness is such a wonderful gift from God. It's one of the greatest things in the world. How horrible the world would be without it. It's so important. When the apostle Paul starts to describe love in a positive way—the very first thing he mentions is kindness. He writes, (1 Corinthians 13:4)

"love is kind…"

Yet kindness is hard to define.

What is kindness?

The Greek word means to, (BDAG)

"be kind, loving, merciful"

The noun is defined as, (BDAG, 1090)

"the quality of being helpful or beneficial, goodness, kindness, generosity"

This is good, but in a way I feel like we're going around in circles. Paul describes love as being kind, and when you go to define kindness you find that it means, 'loving'. Some of the others aren't exactly equivalent to 'kindness'. For example the definition 'generosity' is used to define 'kindness'. But the two are not the same. They're close, but there's a difference between them. Someone can be very generous to you, but they can do it in a condescending and demeaning way so that they're not kind. So even though they're generous, you know instinctively that they're not being kind.

In a way I think we all know what kindness is. Everyone knows when they've experienced kindness from someone. Kindness can manifest itself in many ways and when you are the recipient of it, you know it. You know you've been loved. It's the same way when someone has not be kind to you—you know you weren't shown love.

Perhaps the best way of understanding what kindness is is by looking at how it is used of how God was kind toward us. David E. Garland wries, (1 Corinthians BECNT; p. 617)

"Love is kind… It responds to others with the same tender heart and forgiveness that God has shown to us in Christ (Eph. 4:32)."

The kindness that we are to have to others is to reflect the manner of God's kindness to us. Jesus told us a much in Luke 6:32f. He said to His disciples,

"If you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even 'sinners' love those who love them.
And if you do good to those
who are good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even 'sinners' do that.
And if you lend to those
from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,'
expecting to be repaid in full.
But love your enemies,
do good to them,
and lend to them
without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great,
and you will be sons of the Most High
because he is kind
to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as
your Father is merciful."

So, from this we see that

God is kind to the unworthy.

In Titus 3:3–5 the apostle Paul wrote to Christians and described what they were like before God's kindness to them appeared. He wrote,

"At one time we too were foolish,
disobedient, deceived and enslaved
by all kinds of passions and pleasures.
We lived in malice and envy,
being hated and hating one another.
But when the kindness
and love of God
our Savior appeared,
he saved us,
not because of righteous things
we had done,
but because of his mercy."

God showed kindness to people who were bad in every way—foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy—hateful people. So kindness, with regard to God's showing kindness, is bestowed on people who don't deserve it.

In our text it's no accident that longsuffering, (patience) and kindness are placed together. The two go together. We saw last week that we are to be longsuffering to those who hurt and abuse us. You put up with abuses from certain people. That's the passive side of it. But there's also an active side—that of being kind to them. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write, (1 Corinthians PNTC; p. 642)

"kindness is the more active counterpart to patience. It has to do with reaching out through deeds that demonstrate compassion and mercy."

So the kindness that you are to exercise is to be to those who are unworthy of it. When you seek to apply this command, don't think,

"I'll be kind to my family. I'll be kind to those people who have been good to me."

That's not going nearly far enough. You must be kind to everyone, even those who are unworthy, even those who are your enemies, even those who fighting against God. It is to include everyone in your life. You are to be kind.

The second thing we should understand about kindness is that,

it's about giving your heart to others.

Kindness one of the ways that love expresses itself. Kindness is goodness designed to help others in a gentle way. How does God deal with us? It's with great kindness. In Matthew 11:28–30 Jesus said,

"Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy
and my burden is light."

Jesus came to sinners in a very humble way. He did not come as someone who was arrogant, condescending, harsh. No. He was humble and kind to sinners. Jesus' yoke is easy—literally 'kind'. Indeed, how kind Jesus has been to sinners. Matthew 12:20 quotes Isaiah 42:3 with reference to Jesus. It says,

"A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick
he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory."

David L. Turner says that this means, (Matthew, BECNT; p. 316)

"He will handle weak people, pictured as bent reeds and flickering lamps, with compassion and gentleness."

R. T. France adds, (Matthew (NICNT; p. 473)

"The imagery thus describes an extraordinary willingness to encourage damaged or vulnerable people…"

When they brought the woman taken in adultery to Jesus, He dealt so gently with the woman. He was kind to her, and she was a great sinner. When they ran out of wine at the wedding in Cana and Jesus turned the water into wine—what kind of wine did He make? He made the best. It was better than what they started with—and people start with their best. Jesus was very kind to that bride and groom.

How did Jesus deal with the criminal on the cross, with this criminal who admitted that he was worthy of being put to death, after he and the other criminal had both mocked Jesus? (Matthew 27:44) Jesus dealt so kindly with him. When the main asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom, Jesus said, (Luke 23:43)

"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."

How did Jesus deal with Peter after Peter had denied him three times, the third time calling down curses on himself? Two instances show us the incredible kindness of Jesus to Peter. First, when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. When the arrived at the tomb the stone had been rolled away and they saw an angel inside the tomb. The angel said to them,( Mark 16:6–7)

"Don't be alarmed.
You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,
who was crucified.
He has risen!
He is not here.
See the place where they laid him.
But go, tell his disciples and Peter,
'He is going ahead of you into Galilee.
There you will see him,
just as he told you."

Note the line— 'But go, tell his disciples and Peter,'. Can you imagine how Peter's spirits must have been lifted when the women told him that the angel said that? How gentle, tender Jesus was with Peter. What kindness.

The second instance where we see Jesus' kindness with Peter was when, after His resurrection, Jesus reinstated Peter. He said to Peter, (John 21:15)

"Simon son of John,
do you truly love me more than these?"

When Peter responded in the affirmative, Jesus said,

"Feed my lambs."

Jesus repeated this two more times. Peter had his feelings hurt after the third time, but Jesus went on to assure Peter that He would not deny Him again, but that He would be faithful unto death and that Peter would glorify God in his death. In spite of Peter being temporarily hurt—Jesus, through all of that, was showing astounding kindness to Peter.

Here's the point—Jesus loved the woman taken in adultery, He loved the couple that were getting married when He turned the water into wine, He loved the criminal on the cross, He loved Peter. That love expressed itself in such wonderful kindness.

John R. W. Stott makes an interesting point about Jesus and kindness. Writing about the noun of the same root, on Ephesians 4:31-32, he says (The Message of Ephesians, The Bible Speaks Today; p. 190)

"The word is chreœstos, [kindness] and because of the obvious assonance with the name of Christ (Christos), Christians from the beginning saw its peculiar appropriateness."

Christians, as a general rule, you are to be gentle and kind to people. Yes, there are rare times when you are to be blunt, frank and perhaps even harsh. When you are confronted with evil that is persistent, stubborn and confrontational—the appropriate thing to do is to stand and confront the evil. But such cases are usually rare. Overall, you are to be very gentle and kind, realizing that sinners are slaves to sin. You are to love them and overcome evil with good.

David E. Garland tells us, (1 Corinthians BECNT; p. 617)

"The kindness of Christians in the second century so surprised their pagan counterparts that, according to Tertullian (Apol. 3.39), they called Christians chrestiani, 'made up of mildness or kindness,' rather than 'christiani'."

Why was the early church successful in evangelizing the ancient world and overcoming the opposition of Rome—one of the reasons was because of their kindness to all those around them.

This leads us to our third point about kindness.

We need God's help in order to be kind.

True kindness comes from the Spirit. We cannot practice full biblical kindness—kindness to the unworthy, to our enemies, from our hearts—without the Spirit working greatly in us. Peter T. O'Brien say about this kindness, (Ephesians, PNTC; p. 351)

"This does not come naturally and cannot be produced from one's innate resources; it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)."

This kindness flows from love. If we don't have love—we can't show the kindness we ought to show. True kindness only comes from being renewed in the image of God. John Eadie writes that kindness is, (Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians)

"full of benign courtesy, distinguished by mutual attachment,"

Kindness flows from love. Jonathan Edwards adds, (Charity and Its Fruits, p. 102)

"That our doing good be not in a mercenary spirit."

In other words, our motive in being kind to others shouldn't be that we get a reward in this life. Edwards, continues (Charity, p. 102)

"it is requisite that we do it cheerfully or heartily."

So you see, it's not enough to help others. It's not enough to give of your money, talents, goods—kindness involves giving your heart.

Ephesians 4:31–32 impresses this upon us. It says,

"Get rid of all bitterness,
rage and anger,
brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate
to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you."

William Hendriksen defines kindness this way, (Ephesians, Baker New Testament Commentary; p. 223.

"Kindness is Spirit-imparted goodness of heart, the very opposite of the malice or badness mentioned in verse 31."

Colossians 3:8–13 is almost the same. Note how the exhortations are basked on being like God.

"But now you must rid yourselves
of all such things as these:
anger, rage, malice, slander,
and filthy language from your lips.
Do not lie to each other,
since you have taken off your old self
with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed in knowledge
in the image of its Creator…
Therefore, as God's chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility,
gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive
whatever grievances you may have
against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

We have such a calling. We are to be like the Lord—in love, in forgiving, in compassion, in kindness. Pray that God will enable you to show His love in your life. May God give us much grace that we may be people who are kind.