Love is Kind

Title: Love is Kind

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4

Time: February 4th, 2007

Today we continue in the sermon series on love from 1 Corinthians 13; we come to the love characteristic of kindness. The Apostle Paul says in verse four, “Love is kind.” Rather than give us a simple definition of love, Paul gives us descriptions of love in action, or characteristics of love. Paul is defining something entirely different than what our culture defines when it tries to define love. Today, it’s common to define love as romance or emotional attachment. It’s also popular to think of love as a feeling. If we listen to what our culture teaches us from popular songs, movies, television, books and magazines, we’ll think of love as passionate attraction. But the Bible teaches an entirely different definition of love, one that operates on the level of will rather than emotion. We are not taught to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself” because we feel like it all the time. We are taught to do so because it’s the will of God and it is our responsibility to make it our will as well. The Bible says that “God is love” and so as people made in the image of God we are expected to love also. So love is far more than an emotion or feeling or strong attraction; it is an act of the will that gets its inspiration from God. Knowing this we can stop trying to feel a certain way towards people and start simply loving people as God commands us to love. Nowhere does this truth apply more than in the marriage relationship. Unfortunately today ½ of all marriages end in divorce. Why is this so? Because couples confuse love with emotional feelings. They stay together as long as the feeling of attraction remains strong; if it doesn’t, they break up. Or if someone else comes along that produces stronger emotional feelings of attraction, a married person might break up the existing marriage to pursue another relationship. But if love isn’t the same as strong feelings, if love is more than emotional attraction, if love is different than romance, then marriages are breaking up not because people are falling out of love, but because they never really understood what love was to begin with. That’s why it’s so important for married couples to understand what Paul is teaching here in 1 Corinthians 13 when he explains love. That’s why married couples and couples seeking marriage need to listen to what God’s Word says about love rather than what popular culture says about love. But it’s not just married couples that need to learn how to love in today’s world; everyone does. There is a lot of confusion in all areas of society about love today, mostly because people are not going to God’s Word for a definition but rather simply following the common wisdom of the world on the subject. That’s a big reason our world is in such big trouble today. So let’s pay close attention to God’s teachings on love. Let’s make good our New Year’s resolution to be better at loving people in 2007. Let’s look at three things Paul reminds us about love in being kind.

First, love is kind even under pressure. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is kind.” It’s easy to be kind to people when everything is working out fine, things are going our way, the sun is out, the weather is warm. But it’s more difficult to be kind to people when the pressure is on, things are going bad, we’ve had a bad day, we are discouraged, or some other negative factor is affecting our life. Now the question is, “Are most people kind to other people?” Maybe that’s too general a question, but based on averages, most people are more or less kind to other people under some circumstances. Can we say that most people are kind to others most of the time under most circumstances? That’s probably saying too much, but the average person is probably typically kind more or less in a general sense. Or in other words, most people are not usually just mean in most situations to most people. What do we mean by kind, or its opposite, mean? Webster’s Dictionary defines kind as, “disposed to be helpful and solicitous, gentile, arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance.” I like to think of being kind is being sensitive to the feelings of other people. Now the opposite of being kind is being mean, which Webster’s Dictionary defines as someone who is “out of accord with normal standards of human decency and dignity, characterized by petty selfishness or malice, causing trouble or bother.” Or you might say, being mean is not being sensitive to the feeling of others. Now when we think of kindness and meanness in these ways, we see that most of us are more or less kind, but that’s not what God is trying to teach us to be – more or less kind. God is teaching us to be kind in an extraordinary way, to be kind as an expression of love. We can all be kind when we feel good or things are going our way, but what about when the pressure is on, when things aren’t going our way, when we are going through problems? Can we still be kind then? If we are committed to loving kindness, we will be. But it takes commitment and effort. Think about your daily life and how many opportunities you have to be kind or mean every day. Are you normally or routinely sensitive to the feelings of others in your interactions with them? Do you say things and do things that take into consideration the feelings of other people? Or do you just say and do things regardless? Now I’m not saying that we go around being afraid to say and do things because we are afraid we might offend someone. I’m saying that loving-kindness considers the thoughts and feelings of others in speaking and doing things in life. Are you sensitive towards other people before you speak or act? Are you even when you are under pressure? That’s what God is calling us to be as Christians. It’s a tall order, but through God’s power we can do it, if we apply ourselves to it and pray for God’s help to do it.

Second, love is kind even to unkind people. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is kind.” Most people are more or less kind to people who are more or less kind to them. But what happens is that if someone offends us, that changes things, so we think. I’ve seen normally nice and kind people get mean because someone else was mean to them. Now there is nowhere in the Bible, there is no teaching in Christianity that says when someone doesn’t treat you right then all the rules change, all bets are off, it’s every man for himself. There is no teaching from Jesus that when people aren’t kind to you, you can be unkind to them. There is no biblical teaching that allows you to get mean when others are mean to you. In fact, Jesus teaches the very opposite — love your enemy, do good to those who despitefully use you. “If you are only good to those who are good to you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Matthew 5:46-48. Now that’s hard to do! Sure it is, but that’s why Jesus teaches us to do it, because it doesn’t come natural. Love is kind even to unkind people. Do you have people say unkind things to you? Do you have people do unkind things to you? Sure, we all have that happen to us. But how we act in response shows whether we are truly serious about this love thing, or if it’s just a nice sounding teaching found in the Bible for Sunday church. Loving-kindness teaches us to never return evil for evil. Someone says something unkind or even mean to you. What do you do? We all know what we want to do, but what does God teach us to do? He teaches us to not return evil for evil, to not say something unkind back to the person, or to not get mean to that person because of what they said or did to us. That’s love. But how can we not, because it’s so natural, so impulsive, and it feels so good to pay back an unkind or mean person with unkindness or meanness. We can restrain ourselves because of the power of God working within us when we pray and ask for God’s help in loving people. Do you pray for God’s power to love people, even the hard-to-love people? Do you ask God for help? It’s easy to love nice people isn’t it? I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “I hate mean people.” That’s an oxymoron, or in other words, that’s a contradiction. It’s not ok to hate mean people, even if they are mean. We must draw upon the power of God to love even the mean people in life. Try this today if you have trouble resisting the urge to pay back evil for evil: pray that God gives you supernatural love to be kind to the unkind people you meet each day. Resist the urge to be unkind and mean, just like you would any other sin. This is what Paul teaches us is a characteristic of love.

Third, love is kind even when it goes unrewarded. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is kind.” We talked about patience last week, but we can’t get away from it because it’s an important characteristic of love. Sometimes it’s hard to be lovingly kind when we don’t ever seem to get rewarded for it. For example, if you have ever worked behind the counter at a store or in some place where you come into constant contact with the public, customers, it’s a learning experience they say. I’m trying to think back in all of my life whether I’ve ever worked behind the counter, worked the cash register or checkout in a store or business. I don’t think I’ve ever worked up front like that in my life; I’ve had all kinds of different jobs but never at the counter dealing with the general public customers. Now people who have worked the front counter tell me that customers can be discouraging, especially certain customers. It seems that no amount of kindness can affect certain people. Yet there are some counter workers that seem to keep right on being nice and kind to people whether they get positive feedback from the customers or not. How do they do it, facing negative people and grumpy and unkind and even mean people all day long? They don’t take their inspiration from the people; they get it from someplace else. They make a decision of the mind and will that they are not going to let other people determine their outlook on life or attitude at work. They make a decision of the will that they are going to treat customers, all customers, in a nice, kind, and positive way regardless of what kind of treatment they are receiving from those very same people. In other words, they don’t look for their reward from the customers; they get that in some other way. And that’s a great illustration for us when we go about our daily lives in a world that gets meaner and meaner, and ruder and ruder. We shouldn’t expect that everyone will be kind to us in what they say or in what they do, so when we encounter someone who treats us unkindly or rudely or just plain mean, we shouldn’t expect to change that person’s treatment of us even trying our best. We must decide ahead of time that we are not going to rely on other people being nice and kind to us before we are nice and kind to them. Love makes a decision to treat people lovingly kind no matter what they do in response. Maybe you start trying to be kind to people in response to this teaching and you find that you are not being rewarded or responded to positively in return. What should you do? Just go right on loving people, being patient, being kind, no matter what, because God calls us to love period, and not wait for other people to love us first. Isn’t that what God did? He sent Jesus Christ to die in our place, forgive our sins, and provide eternal life first, before he knew what the response would be? He would have done it if even just one person had responded because it was a demonstration of God’s love. What better way for you to demonstrate your love to others than to love him or her even when they express no patience or kindness towards you? By doing so you are starting to love the way God loves.

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