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:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
- 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.
Paul’s great discourse on love, found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, begins with “love is patient.” What does it mean to have patient love? First remember that the Greek word Paul uses here for love is agape. If you recall there are three Greek words all translated “love” in our English Bibles. Agape is the word used to describe God’s love. It is a supernatural love that is not native to us but can be practiced by us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Patience is not a natural virtue in many of us because patience requires self-sacrifice. It means putting the good (or perhaps the laziness) of someone else ahead of ourselves. If we are selfish then we will not be patient. Yet as we read the entire text of Paul’s discourse on love we will see that agape love is a self-sacrificing love and therefore incompatible with a lack of patience.
John Piper wrote:
“Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life the purity of the beloved” (John Piper, Desiring God, 206-207).
Patient love is other-directed love.It is a love rooted in desiring the happiness of the other as more important than our own happiness. In fact is a love that finds it’s happiness in the happiness of another. Think of an earthly example. How often must parents be patient in their love for their children? Raising a child takes tremendous patience as we are born immature and rebellious. If our parents ceased to love us the moment they grew impatient their love would be very short-lived. Patiently loving a child though is often easier than patiently loving an adult. The child is our off-spring and their selfishness is regarded as part of their immaturity and thus to be expected to some extent. We still hope for their maturity and our love for them enables us to persevere through much.
When it comes to a fellow adult though, be it a spouse, a boy friend/girl friend, a friend, a family member, a co-worker or neighbor, then we are far less understanding as we believe they are mature enough to not try our patience. Suddenly we become selfish and our needs come before their needs. We run the risk in our divorce friendly society into becoming cynical about relationships and we put our needs first and determine we will never let someone else’s needs trump our own. We look for a partner who will allow us to keep our needs first. If they will do so and your feel compatible then you seek a relationship but protecting your needs is always foremost on your mind. You’ve been burned before so no more.
Yet paradoxically such an attitude really undermines love and lessens the chance at future success. As soon as needs come in conflict, as often they do, then the solution is often another divorce. What makes love work between two people is when they put each other first and learn to find happiness in serving the other. If that brings you happiness then you will never lack for it. If the other person loves you the same in return you will both overflow with happiness. Both will have your needs met yet not in a selfish way.
Happiness is elusive in a sense. If you seek it you won’t find it but if you seek to give it you will find it in return. When you are not at the center of your world, but God is, then patience will go with the territory and you will possess a patient love.
Patience comes from God:
God’s patience give us time to repent and time to grow in our faith. Patience does not mean inaction but rather faith that our actions will be used by God for good (Romans 8:28).
We all know deep down inside that we are imperfect. We desire that others show us patience. Nothing is worse in a relationship than fearing that one wrong slip up and the other person will dump you. You know you will make mistakes but if they have a patient love they will allow you to grow through your mistakes having faith in you.
Consider practicing a patient love towards all. Remember too that our call to love patiently is not conditional upon being loved patiently in return. As followers of Christ we are to love as He loves. Agape love is unconditional love.Since it seeks not it’s own reward it does not matter how the other responds.We find love in giving love.
A final thought. That does not mean we should enter into a relationship with someone who does not love us.We can love them unconditionally but it would be unwise to seek a marriage with such a person. However we can and should always love patiently and especially in those relationships we already have.
May God grant us the grace to love with patience as He has patiently loved us.