Thoughts about faith

Archive for December, 2012

Love is Kind

The second attribute of love Paul gives us is that love is kind. He began with love is patient and now moves on to kindness. Kindness could be described as an example of love in action. What is wonderful about kindness is that it originates from within us. You can command someone to be kind but if it is not natural for them to be kind the command will have little impact on them and their attempts at kindness will be forced. Yet through the working of the Holy Spirit we can learn to be kind.

I should backup though and first define love. In the Greek language of the Bible there were three words all translated as “love” in the English. Two should be familiar to us. The first is phileo from which we get the word Philadelphia. It speaks of a brotherly love. It is a love two friends or siblings might have toward each other. The second is eros from which we get our word erotic and refers to the physical love a husband and wife would have for each other. The less known word is the Greek agape which is the kind of love God has and is also known as unconditional love. Only God naturally possesses agape love. As believers, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we can possess agape love but it comes from God.

Throughout his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul exclusively uses the word agape. So he is telling us what God’s love is like and what it should be like in the life of a believer – a follower of Jesus Christ. So agape love is patient and it is kind.

The word “kind” is the Greek word chresteuomai, which means to be adaptable or compliant to the needs of others. This kind of love does not demand that others conform to how we want to love but rather goes outside itself to love others how they need to be loved.

It is a willingness to serve and to change in order to meet the needs of others. By nature we are selfish. We want easy love. Easy love is when you love in a way that is easy and convenient for you. Kindness is when you do something for someone for no other purpose then to love and serve them. Kindness comes from a soft and tender heart. It is able to put the needs of the other above our own needs. It also speaks to the way we treat others. Acts of kindness touch other people’s heart. It makes them feel special. They recognize that you are showing a compassionate, self-sacrificing love.

Gary Chapman wrote a best selling book called The Five Love Languages in which he posits that we each speak one or more of the following types of love languages: 

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Physical touch
  4. Gifts
  5. Acts of service

According to Chapman we don’t just speak one language but we may speak one or two stronger than the rest. These love languages address how we feel loved and how we express love. The point of his research is to help a couple understand themselves and each other. Once you understand how your loved one experiences love you then endeavor to love them in that way. That may not be natural for you. They may desire words of affirmation and you don’t naturally think to affirm them through your words. Or they make value physical touch but you are not a hugger or expressive physically. This is an example of where love is kind. Because you possess an agape love that is kind you change in order to meet their needs. Your love motivates you to love them in the way that is meaningful for them. The easy love would be to love them as you like to be loved. If you love gifts then giving them gifts would be easy for you. Sometimes we make the false assumption that everyone is like us. 

We’ve all have heard of the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. While completely good and true we need to put an asterisk on the end. In doing unto others as we would have them do unto us we need to add a footnote that what we really want is for them to love us in a way that is meaningful to us. So doing the same for them means loving them as they need to be loved. It involves kindness. I don’t think any of us would apply the Golden Rule to say that since you’d love everyone to give you hunting related gifts for Christmas that “doing unto them” means giving everyone on your list hunting related gifts. Some may have no use for such gifts. In that application “doing unto them” would mean giving them gifts that were as meaningful to them as hunting gifts are to you.

agape love involves going outside ourselves and doing kind things for others. Simple acts of kindness, even to a total stranger, can convey love in a most powerful way. Christ set the example. It is a Divine act of kindness to save lost sinners. It is agape kindness that says to “Do good to those who persecute you.” Jesus showed kindness on the cross when He prayed to the Father to forgive those crucifying him as they “no not what they do.”

There are many ways to express kindness. It is not the act but the spirit in which is is carried out and our willingness to change to meet other’s needs. To be known as a kind person is a great testimony to agape love working within you.

I truly believe what the Apostle Paul wrote that it is “better to give than receive.” Giving is self-sacrificing especially when we do not receive in kind. It is giving out of pure love for the good of the other expecting nothing in return. It is a desire to bless another with nothing in it for you. agape love is not a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” arrangement. It does not expect an equal amount of love in return. agape love loves purely as an act of kindness toward another.

I try to practice kindness with everyone I meet. I think it is one of the most powerful testimonies I can give to the love of God within me. It’s not forced though. I don’t practice kindness because I think I should. It just flows out of me because the agape love of God is at work within me.

So if you want to practice the Golden Rule love with great kindness. Some think kindness a weakness. No it takes more strength to be kind, to change for the sake of another, than to not practice kindness. If we possess the love of God then our love will be kind.

Thoughts on Christmas 2012

Recently my local Christian radio station encouraged listeners to call into their listener line and comment on their best Christmas memories. I have yet to hear any on the air but I imagine the stories will have to do with family reunions, loved ones returning safely from war, a last Christmas with a loved one, or just great fun times. As I thought about it I could not think of a single meaningful Christmas memory. For various reasons I won’t go into holidays in general have never been much celebrated in my life and I have no traditions around any of the holidays. While others are madly dashing to stores in December and attending all sorts of holiday parties and events my Decembers tend to be pretty close to any other month. This Christmas, like some past, I will spend alone yet I can’t say that bothers me. Oh I would love to spend it with someone but at the same time I don’t find it depressing that I will be alone.

Not having traditions has it’s advantages. For me Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. I am not distracted by all the gift giving, events, and family gatherings. At the same time I know December 25th is just a day picked by an ancient Emperor since we don’t know the true day on which Christ was born (probably not in the winter though). As a believer I celebrate the birth of my Savior every day. So while it is nice to gather with other believers in a community celebration Christmas is not that unique for me.

What I told the radio station is that I don’t have any wonderful Christmas memories but perhaps this year will provide one. This might seem backwards but my dear sister is dying of pancreatic cancer. She has fought bravely since March but at this point the cancer has won and her days on this earth are nearing their end. It could even come during this holiday. While it saddens me to no end yet it is a powerful reminder of why Christmas is such a wondrous celebration. We would be without hope had Christ not been born. He came into the world to bring us the Good News and then to pay the price for our sins on the cross. Through His death and resurrection we can live eternally with God in Heaven. 

For many the loss of a loved one at Christmas can forever dampen the holiday for them yet for me it will be a celebration of the birth of my Savior and my sister’s Savior. Though we mourn the death of a loved one because we will miss them so badly yet when they know Christ we know they’ve graduated to glory. We cry because we miss them and feel the loss of them in our life yet we cry not because they are without hope and we will never see them again. Now we look forward to that day we will be reunited with them for all eternity in the very presence of God Himself.

To me the story of the birth of Jesus overcomes our human affairs. In the future my celebration of Christmas will come with the glorious reminder that the birth of our Savior means I will see my sister again.

There is nothing wrong with gathering with family and friends to celebrate Christmas or to attend events and such. As Christians though we need to find our true meaning in what the birth means. Hope was born that night!