We’re continuing our long journey through Paul’s profound epistle to the struggling church in Corinth, the ancient Greek city.
Paul is in the middle of an extended rebuke of the Corinthian church in chapters 12-14, where he is showing them like a patient father how they have been misbehaving. They had been ordering themselves in wrong ways, emphasizing the wrong things, and unkindly treating one another because of their improper view of the spiritual gifts.
Rather than seeing diversity of giftings as a for blessing of the church, dispensed by the very hand of God himself, they had begun to see diversity as a lability. They were unjustly prioritizing and favoring certain gifts over the rest, disdaining those with less prominent and impressive gifts, and thereby doing damage to the body.
Rather than this disunity and unkindness, He instead teaches them about love. Love is what is to mark the body of Christ. And it is only when love is present and prioritized that the church of God can behave as it should.
Tonight specifically we will examine just one part of this glorious chapter. Last time we looked at how love is patient, or more precisely, love shows patience. And we examined patience by first looking at how God is the prime example of what loving patience looks like. God is long-suffering, or patient, and when we’ve been shown such patience, it transforms us into lovingly patient sons and daughters of God.
Tonight we move on to the next mark of love, which is kindness. But let’s begin by reading our chapter again, and let’s listen to God speaking to us through his word. 1 Corinthians chapter 13:
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love is kind, or love shows kindness. It’s a verbal form here, only used in this location in the New Testament.
Let’s begin by looking at KINDNESS DEFINED. Kindness defined.
We might define it in a number of ways, but I think the clearest definition might be that kindness is loving action flowing from goodness. Loving actions flowing from goodness.
Kindness, we might say, is the overflow of good deeds, which naturally come forth from a good person. Kindness is the positive outflow of a good nature; it is a benevolent disposition toward someone else. We might say that kindness is the hands and feet of action, which are directed by a good heart.
A kind person uses their will to actively pursue good for another. A kind man will seek good for his wife. A kind parent will seek the good of his children. A kind employee will seek to do good toward his employer. A kind leader will seek the good of his subordinates.
In terms of language, kindness and goodness are very much overlapping terms, often used interchangeably, as I will often do tonight. And strikingly, the terms for goodness and kindness are most often used in scripture to describe God and Christ. And that’s the best place for us to start, by looking at what scripture says about God’s nature.
Scripture teaches very clearly that God is Kind, which is what we’d expect given that he is first, good. God is good.
If God is good, then God will also show kindness, and if God is infinite in his goodness, then his kindness will be all the more excellent. Consider some of the ways that scripture speaks of his goodness:
God’s goodness might first be seen in his creation. In the beginning, God merely spoke, and brought all things into existence. And at the end of each day, what did God say about his creative work? It is good.
The initial overflow of God’s goodness was seen in the majestic creation that he had formed. The order of the creation, the harmony it possessed, the beauty of it all, every bit of its goodness speaks to the goodness of its creator.
But the goodness of God is seen in even sharper focus on the sixth day, when he created man. Unlike any of the other parts of creation, man was made in the very image of this good God, and when God stepped back and viewed his creation of man on the sixth day, what did he say? It is VERY good.
Mankind, the very image of our good God, possessed an inherent goodness, a moral uprightness, an ability to express goodness to a greater degree than anything created before him. He could commune with and worship the good God in ways that no other creature could. He could engage with God in good works. He could express creative ability and gifts, just like his heavenly father.
He could exercise good rule or dominion over the creation, working for good as the little image of God that he was. He could even imitate God’s good creative acts by being fruitful and multiplying, spreading the goodness of God and His image all over creation.
Goodness was to spread all over the earth, to the praise of God’s glorious goodness.
But Adam failed to retain the goodness that he was given. At the request of his wife and under the influence of Satan’s temptations, Adam covered the whole earth, not with Goodness as was his calling, but with evil.
He chose to violate God’s law, choosing to take that which wasn’t his, choosing to listen to evil lies, rather than God’s good word. And as a result, death, the very epitome of evil’s fruit, blanketed the previously good creation.
Now instead of good fruitfulness, thorns and thistles sprout. Instead of joyous procreation, terrible pain is experienced in childbirth. Instead of marital harmony and communion, there is strife within marriage, jockeying for authority and rule. And now, instead of eternal communion with the fountain of all goodness, mankind was estranged from God, and death reigned.
And still reigns. We all feel the consequences of Adam’s sin every day. We feel the relational strife in our marriages. Churches, like Corinth and like Morningview, feel tension and division. And we even feel the conflict and turmoil in our own hearts. Our allegiances are divided. We know what is true and right and good, and yet we sin.
These consequences are universal. No man or woman can escape the consequences of sin in this world. Goodness has been masked, stifled, even outright rejected.
So much so that the Psalmist says in Psalm 14:
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good. [or we might say, none who is kind]
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,[a]
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
NOT EVEN ONE.”
The corruption of man is inescapable. Even though he was created from goodness, planted in a good garden, and granted every good advantage, he rejected it. And now, because of the rejection of God’s goodness at creation, he’s corrupted.
Man’s very nature is marred. It is perverted, curve in upon itself, caring only for his own sinful desires and passions.
We can see this in ourselves, if we care to look. Ask yourself this question: who do I really not like? Who am I really annoyed by, or who do I struggle to show kindness too? It may be someone who has sinned greatly against you. It may be someone who doesn’t measure up to your standards, who disappoints you. It may be someone who stole from you, or slandered you, or dresses in a foolish way, or acts like a fool.
Whoever that annoying person is, ask yourself this: why do I not want to show them kindness? Why do I find it hard to love them?
The root answer, if we dig deep enough, will lead us to the inescapable conclusion that I AM NOT GOOD. My soul is broken. My nature is corrupted.
If I was good, truly good like God, I should be able to joyfully show kindness to them. But I can’t. I struggle. I don’t like it. I don’t even like to think about showing them genuine, unmerited, sacrificial kindness. I am not good.
But praise be to God that He IS GOOD, and his goodness isn’t only seen in creation. God’s goodness is also seen in redemption.
Turn with me to Titus chapter 3. Paul is writing to his young disciple named Titus, and he gives us one of the most succinct and glorious summaries of the good news in all of the bible. Titus chapter 3, starting in verse 4:
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
God’s goodness is manifested in his willingness to do a kind deed to those who didn’t deserve it. His goodness is shown through his kind act of mercy to a people. His goodness is seen in his washing us of our corruption and sin. His goodness is shown in the renewal, the making right again, that he does for a people that had rejected his goodness.
And the magnitude of God’s goodness is gloriously displayed in the severity of means needed to procure it. He couldn’t just wave a wand and magically act like our sin wasn’t real. He couldn’t just commute our sentence of death through sheer decision.
He is good, and one part of being good is a necessarily-just response to unrighteousness. He would cease to be good if he didn’t hate sin and evil. Sin must be punished. It must be dealt with, or God would cease to be good.
And here is where the goodness of God comes into sharpest focus. His kindness, his disposition to work for the good of others, especially the undeserving, is seen most clearly in the price he paid for our redemption.
Christ was sent, the eternally good son of the father, to be the atoning sacrifice for wicked race. Christ was the anointed one, the truly good son that Adam failed to be. He bore all the curse that Adam and his sons had earned.
Adam brought forth the fruit of thorns through his disobedience, but Christ bore those thorns on his brow.
Adam brought forth decay and corruption, but Christ was the holy one who would never see corruption, Psalm 16:10.
Adam brought forth disunity, but Christ died to make a united body.
Adam failed to do good for his wife, but Christ was crushed for an unkind bride.
Adam rejected the good in favor of evil, but Christ bore the evil, so that we might be made good.
What kindness is seen in God’s work on our behalf! He not only served the undeserving, but at so great a cost. That the eternally good would be punished instead of the wicked. That the benevolent son would be chastised in place of the unkind.
Do you believe in this good news? That you can, simply by faith, have the goodness and kindness of the son counted toward you, and that the consequences of your selfish unkindness can be taken away and nailed to a cross, never to be counted toward you again?
I hope you do. I hope you have tasted of the Lord and sensed his goodness and kindness toward you.
What kindness we have received! We enemies, have been made friends, sons even, through the goodness and loving-kindness of our God.
But if you haven’t trusted in this good God, why do you wait? What more need you to hear?
If this God is so good, eternally good, and unchangeably good, how could you not give your allegiance to him? Any man might seem good today, but that could change tomorrow. You might think you are good, but scripture proclaims the opposite, and your past experience confirms your own lack of goodness.
You have lied before, to save your own skin. You have spoken ill of others, and gotten unjustly angry and impatient with people. Your own evil and lack of kindness toward others is enough to send you to hell forever.
Don’t wait. Trust in this Jesus. Trust in his goodness. See how his goodness overflowed into the kindness of a death in the place of unkind and undeserving people. Sinners had nothing that they could contribute to him, no way to repay him, no way to improve him. And yet he came to the helpless. He became nothing, like a slave, scripture says, in order to save those who were enslaved to unkindness and evil.
Trust in this Jesus. Don’t trample on his good offer of grace to you. And don’t disdain his patience shown toward you. Don’t presume upon God’s mercy shown so far to you in this life, that he will necessarily be gracious to you in the future.
Paul writes in Romans chapter 2: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
God’s kindness is meant to soften your heart toward turning from Sin back to him. Don’t let sin pull you back, away from God. Don’t presume that because you haven’t felt consequences today, that there won’t be consequences tomorrow. Heed Paul’s words, trust in Jesus, and you too can be forgiven your sin, have your nature changed from evil to good, and have your actions transformed from selfish and wicked, to loving and kind.
And that’s where we will head next. The second point tonight is: KINDNESS COMMENDED. Kindness commended.
If God does indeed transform us through the good news of the gospel, if he replaces our old, hard heart of stone, with a new heart of flesh, then what change should that produce within us?
In short, the bible is clear that God’s initiative taking love working in our hearts will necessarily produce loving fruit in our lives, and one of those fruits of love will be kindness.
But let’s break down this duty of kindness in a few ways, with a series of questions. First, kindness to whom? Who is it that we are expected to be kind to?
Well, as believers, Paul tells us in Galatians 6:10, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
It is especially to our brothers and sisters in the household of God that we’re called to do good, to be kind. We share the same heavenly father, have tasted of the same good salvation, and partake of the same Holy Spirit within us, and therefore it is not only unfitting, but harmful to both ourselves and the body of Christ for us to be unkind to one another.
That’s why Paul condemns things like: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions in the preceding chapter of Galatians. And it also shows how terrible the sin was for the Corinthians to be unkind to one another in their own congregation.
How terrible a sermon is preached by saints, who are saved by God and anointed with the same spirit, to instead quench the Spirit through selfish and unkind behavior. We’re called to kindness, especially in the church of God.
But kindness is our duty not merely within the church. Our neighbors also ought to feel kindness from us. But who is my neighbor? Jesus was asked that same question in Luke 10, and he answered with the parable of the good Samaritan. Shawn just preached that a little while ago, so I linger here, but Jesus’s parable teaches us that a good neighbor is willing to show mercy and kindness to someone who is totally helpless, and unable to return the favor.
Even more than that, the Samaritan and the Jew were ethnic enemies. Humanly speaking, there would have been no public shame for the Samaritan to just keep on walking and leave the helpless man in his misery. But the duty of love obliges us to show love indiscriminately.
So much so that Jesus says something that is humanly impossible. He says in Luke 6, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
Christians are called to do what is counter to our fallen flesh: to show goodness to those that would show us evil. To bless those who have nothing but murderous curses for us. To pray for those that would harm us.
Not even our enemies, not even that annoying person, not even that person who slandered you, not even the one who hurt you, none of them are outside of our duty to show love and goodness.
To whom are we to show kindness: to our neighbors, to our enemies, and especially within the church.
Next question: what should this kindness look like? Or maybe a better question: who gets to determine what is truly kind, and what is not? Is the practice of kindness flexible or malleable in its expression, like a wax nose that we can shape the way we want?
Certainly not. Our duty to show kindness or goodness has a specific standard, which is God’s law. Romans 7:12 says that, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” The law is good, because it is the reflection of the moral goodness of God himself. It is a mirror, that shows us what God is like, and what we ought to be like.
Or to say it another way, the duty to be kind is the duty implied by each of the ten commandments. That’s what Paul is commending in Romans 12 when he says: “Abhor what is evil, and hold fast to what is good.” It’s not enough just to avoid evil actions; we’re called to cling to the good.
For example, you shall not murder, implies for us that you should seek the good of the other person. Saying that you are innocent just because you’ve never murdered someone doesn’t absolve you of guilt. The command assumes that you will not merely refrain from physical murder, but that you’ll actively work for the good of your neighbor. You’ll not merely refrain from slander, but that you’ll speak the truth in love to them, and about them. You’ll not merely stay away from their physical harm, but you’ll also actively endeavor to promote their life.
You could do the same with all the other commands. You shall not steal, implies more than just not robbing them. It implies the duty of Christian generosity. You’ll not merely keep from theft, but you’ll joyfully and generously give to those in need.
So, to answer the question of what kindness looks like, we simply need to look at the law, at how it is explained and illustrated and expounded in the scriptures.
Third question: why should we show kindness? Why are we obliged to show kindness? There’s a whole host of ways we could answer this. Because we’re made in God’s image. Because that’s what the law requires. Because we’ve been given the spirit of Kindness, and many other possible and true answers. Let me give us a couple of reasons we may not initially think about.
Why should we show kindness? I have four reasons, and I’ll go through them quickly.
- To strengthen our protection. To strengthen our protection. I’m getting this from 1 Peter 3. Peter says, ““Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? ”
He’s saying if you want to live a long and full life, do good. You want to see old age, do good. You want to be free from pesky enemies chasing you all the time, do good. Who is there to harm us if we are zealous for doing good? These aren’t absolute axioms of truth, but rather proverbs that Peter is quoting, but we can see the connection. If you are evil, you will make more enemies, but if you are good, if you are a kind person, you’re generally going to have fewer enemies, have more friends, and have a longer and more fulfilling life. Kindness strengthens our protection.
- Why should we show kindness? To bolster our assurance. To bolster our assurance. John makes clear in his first letter that love is a distinguishing mark of a true disciple. If the love of God is in you, then you will show love to others, and he specifically mentions seeing a brother in need. 1 John 3:16:
- “16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him”
- How do we know that we are of the truth? We love our brother. How do we know we are saved? We are kind. One way that the Spirit confirms our assurance, is by producing within us love for others, especially kindness. If you are never kind, if you are always harsh and cold and demanding and rigid, then you should pause and reflect. You should have no assurance of your salvation if you are an unkind person. Kindness helps to bolster our assurance.
- Why should we show kindness? To earn heavenly rewards. The bible makes clear that there will be a time where God will call all people to account. 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
- Good and evil will receive their due. That means that we will be rewarded for acts of kindness.
- Now, for sure, We shouldn’t take the promise of heavenly rewards as our exclusive motivation for showing kindness. That would make us a lopsided Christian, and turn acts of kindness into a selfish endeavor. But it is not unchristian for us to consider that God will reward us for faithfulness in the realm of kindness.
- Jesus himself spoke of the final judgment and rewards in Matthew 25. On that day the righteous and the unrighteous will be separated, the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. He said:
- “34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f]you did it to me.’”
- Showing kindness to the least of this world, is showing kindness to Christ himself, and each single act of kindness will be rewarded. Sometimes we can be aided in our obedience, especially when it is particularly difficult to show kindness, by remembering that God sees your effort, and will reward you accordingly.
- Why should we show kindness? To fulfill our purpose. To fulfill our purpose.
- Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We are God’s handiwork, Paul says, and we were made to walk in good works, to do good, to show kindness.
- It’s one of our primary purposes. We weren’t made to do evil, to bring harm, to show unloving impatience, or to judge with harshness, or to slander, or to hold a grudge. You were made to do good, to be kind, and when you do anything other than that, you’re cutting against the grain of how this world was intended to operate.
- So don’t be surprised if your life is hard when you’re unkind. Don’t be surprised if your siblings don’t like you when you’re unkind. Don’t be shocked to see that you’re lonely and isolated because you’re not kind.
- We’re made for more. We’re made to be good and do good. To be kind and to show kindness.
Now, one final question. I’ve talked about all kinds of stuff related to duty and obligation, and some of you might be exasperated because I haven’t really told you how. How are we to show this kindness? How am I going to be able to show goodness towards people, especially people I don’t like, people that are my enemies, people that have hurt me?
The short answer is that YOU can’t. At least, not in your own strength. This kind of kindness requires a supernatural source. But the good news of scripture is that God has offered to provide you what you need to be kind and good.
Turn with me to 2nd Corinthians chapter 9, and then we will end there. 2 Corinthians 9, wherein Paul is specifically speaking about Christian generosity, but in the middle of that section he makes a universal statement that is relevant to our discussion of good works or kindness.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:8- “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency[e] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Notice how all-encompassing and thorough God’s grace is toward us: ALL sufficiency in ALL things at ALL times that you may about in EVERY good work.
Nothing will be lacking. No necessary grace withheld. God has promised all that we need to do the hard work of good work, of kindness.
You may feel unfit for the task of forgiving that one person, but God’s grace will provide for you. You may feel like you’ll never overcome the pain of their sin against you. But God’s grace will be sufficient for you. You may feel like you’ll never be able to endure that person; but God has promised all that you need.
He’s the source of all goodness. Pray to him. He delights to give his children what they need. He will sustain you. He will remind you through his word how good he is, how much he loves you, how much kindness he has shown to you, and he will grant you the strength to overcome feelings of unkindness, so that we call all grow to be more like Christ himself, the kindest man who ever lived.