A Gift For Enemies and Everyone (1 Corinthians 13:4)

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Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages.

  • Gift cards / Cash
  • Diamond rings or other jewelry
  • Newborn (not an announcement, ship has sailed)
  • Reese’s PB Cup
  • Books
  • Keys to a car / house / vacation spot
  • Letter from a friend
  • Letter declaring a loan has received a final payment.

There’s a small phrase that is popular and carries big impact: “Just Be Kind.” It’s a petite and pithy phrase that almost everyone agrees and appears an easy solution to the conflicts and divisions common in our society. In fact, it’s almost kind of biblical in comparison to the golden rule from Jesus: “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).

The challenge with the “Just Be Kind” message is not in its intent but the first word “Just.”[1]

  1. “Just” implies kindness is without an anchor. The phrase implies there is not opportunity to also speak truth. It lacks the complexity and depth of issues that occur in our world. One can be kind when someone has annoyed them by speaking too loudly in a library. But, when a person has committed an offense or crime, there needs to be accountability. Every wrong cannot simply be winked at.
    Jesus’ kindness to forgive our sin does not come before He convicts us of guilt and calls us to repentance. His death was not without reason – “poor Jesus died…” His death is our death and His resurrection is ours unto new life. Therefore, kindness must be anchored to a specific standard, which as followers of Jesus is God’s word.
  2. “Just” implies kindness is natural. While kindness does have an elementary feel for basic human interaction, it is still challenging in a fallen world. Even Jesus commands us to “love others as He loves us” (John 13:34-35). Nobody can love anyone like Jesus did and does. His love is the perfect target and high standard for us all. The world’s messaging, “Just Be Kind,” lacks the understanding that kindness is not natural but supernatural, requiring the help of the Holy Spirit. We need God’s grace to change our heart, our wants, our words, and our abilities.

Today’s message will help us better understand God’s definition of kindness and ability to live it out in love toward others.

EXAMINE               1 Corinthians 13        Kind    A Gift For Enemies

Review

  • 1 Corinthians 13 is a letter to a church, with chapters 12 & 14 about a worship community – not a wedding. So, thinking about love indeed starts with your spouse & family, but also matters most in our daily relationships with friends and church family.
  • ἀγαπάω: supreme or divine love expressing value and precious possession; love based on giver’s character not the recipient’s condition; the word was rarely used in Classical Greek literature but is frequent in NT, being used in the sense of a self-giving and sacrificial.

1 Corinthians 13:Love is kind

Outline: Upward / Downward / Outward

Upward: What do we know about God? God is love (1Jn 4:8). His very essence is perfect kindness, generous grace, and complete compassion.

In the Bible, we understand God created humanity because He is kind, not because He was lonely or lacked friends. The Trinity experiences unwavering community, which He invites us to enjoy love and life.

  • Ex 34:6 “The LORD is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love (kindness) and truth”
  • Ps 36:7 “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”
  • Ps 63:3 “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.”
  • Ps 117:2 “For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!”

Downward: How does God show love? God is kind. His love does not stay unto Himself – He shares and gives Himself to others. God is holy and lifted high, but His love comes down to the lowly.

  • Isaiah 54:10 the compassionate Lord says, “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken”
  • Luke 1:46 “Mary said, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His servant”
  • Luke 1:68 Zechariah said, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people.”
  • Ephesians 2:7-8 “[God] shows the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it’s God’s gift”
  • Titus 3:4-5 “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”

My friend, If you have wandered so far, God’s grace can help you turn around. If you have ever felt like a hot mess, God’s kindness loves the mess out of us. If you are near the end of your rope, God’s hands are holding tight. If you’re ready to throw in the towel, God’s embrace will catch you. If it looks like everything is falling apart, God’s fingertips are arranging the pieces back together. If you feel empty and you’re uncertain to go another step, God’s breath will refresh the wind in your sail. If you think you are the bottom, God’s arms are underneath you and He is the rock at the bottom. Love comes down and the light of Jesus shines in our deep and dark valleys.

Outward: What does it mean that love is kind?

When Paul uses this word, he invents a word (χρηστεύομαι) that is only used once in the entire Bible. A word with a single usage might appear unimportant and irrelevant, yet Paul coins this word to create it as a verb. Therefore, the translation should reflect dynamic action of something like: “Love shows kindness.”[2]

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

In fact, all these definitions in 1 Cor 13 are verbs. In specific, we know that without kindness life can be awfully harsh and unhelpful. Paul knew the kindness of God was his greatest gift that empowered him to generously share his time, talents, and treasure with others (cf. Titus 3:5-8). Further, he exhorted every follower of Jesus to express kindness (cf. Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12) as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
In fact, the early church was sometimes called “chrestiani” rather than “christiani”; two words sounding similar but the latter meaning little Christ’s – “Christians,” and the former meaning “Kindness people.”[3]

  • As a Christian, are you known for kindness?
  • Is our church known as a kindness community?

Kindness is a language that even the deaf can hear and the blind can read. This is the call of Christmas and the character of every Christian.

Someone said, “kindness is a language that even the deaf can hear and the blind can read.” This is the call of Christmas and the character of every Christian. Biblical kindness is profound to reflect the heart of God and be the hands of Jesus. It is “active goodness on behalf of others”[4] and “readiness to enhance the life of another.”[5] Even further, Christian kindness enables us to “love what is not naturally lovable.”[6]

You see, it is natural to love those who are nice, but it is supernatural to love sinners. It takes the work of God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are called to the supernatural kindness of

  • Loving the church. Every church Paul wrote, especially Corinth, was one in conflict.  
    • Church members: “If you are offering your gift on the altar, and there remember that your sister/brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled, and then come offer your gift.” (Mt 5:23-24)
    • We cannot follow Jesus and fight with His bride. The enemy doesn’t have to murder Christians to destroy a church, he only has to cause division. A divided church will kill itself.
  • Loving the least. Most people and church members can speak and act on their own but there are some who cannot. In these cases, we must prioritize serving the least.
    • Children: “whoever welcomes one child in my name, welcomes me. But whoever causes the downfall of a little one – great woe!” (Mt 18:5-6)
    • Elderly: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
    • Underprivileged: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, the disabled, the blind, and the lame.” (Lk 14:21)
  • Loving prodigals & sinners. There is only one reason why Christians are not immediately raptured into heaven. The Great Commission to reach the lost, teach the untrained, and beseech followers of Jesus to multiply (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Loving our enemies. Again, this one is unnatural and hard. But God does not command us to do anything He has not already modeled. His unlimited love, unmerited kindness, and unfathomable grace have come down to us and work through us to transform enemies into recipients of forgiveness.
    • 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.”

It is natural to love those who are nice, but it is supernatural to love sinners. It takes the work of God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are called to the supernatural kindness of loving: the church, the least, prodigals, and even our enemies.

APPLY/THINK

Romans 5:8,10 “God demonstrates his love in this way: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, then how much more shall we be saved by His life!”

Though we are strangers and outsiders, we have been invited to His banqueting table. His banner over us is love.


[1] Thoughts inspired from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/jesus-transforms-just-kind/

[2] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1047.

[3] Noted of Tertullian by Phil Ryken, Loving The Way Jesus Loves, p.43.

[4] Gordon Fee, NICNT, 1Corinthians, p.636.

[5] Lewis Smedes, Love Within Limits: A Realists View of 1Corinthians 13, p.15.

[6] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p.177

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