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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love is Kind"

“Love Is Kind”
Learning to Love
September 21, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:4

“Love is patient. Love is kind.”

We’re learning to love, and we’re learning together what love is like when it’s in action.

1 Corinthians 13 is not a definition of love. It’s a description of love in action.

When love does its thing, this is what it’s like: “Love is patient, love is kind.”

What is kindness?

Again, like patience, it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it, don’t you?

You know it when you experience it.

This last week, as I’ve been meditating on kindness, I’ve seen the word “kindness” everywhere.

You know how when you are thinking about buying new car, and you look at a particular kind, you begin to see that car everywhere you go?

It’s been like that for me with kindness.

We’re reading a book with our kids called “The Little Princess,” and the main character is a little girl named “Sara” whose main character trait is kindness.

She keeps being kind to the other little girls in the book. And the story revolves around her kindness.

The other day, I caught my wife being kind to me (which is not a strange occurrence, of course, though my noticing it might be!). I was going on and on about something (that’s not a strange occurrence, either), and it all of a sudden occurred to me that she was being kind. She was very patiently waiting in a doorway on her way to something else that she needed to do, but she was being very kind and giving of her time and attention to my ramblings.

She could have disappeared while I was talking. She could have begged off as she had something to do. But she was...loving me. She was being kind.

For one of my classes, I’m reading a book on bi-polar disorder, one woman’s struggle manic-depressiveness. And in the book, the woman’s brother is kind to her in practical ways, and it makes a huge difference in how this woman copes with her struggle. Kindness.

A few of you have been kind to me this week, or I’ve seen how you are kind to others.

This last week, as I’ve been ruminating on kindness, I’ve seen it pop up in multiple places. Both kindness and unkindness, actually.

Kind words. Unkind words.
Kind actions. Unkind actions.
Kind gestures.
Kind touches.
Planned kindness and spontaneous kindness.
Random acts of kindness and orchestrated acts of kindness.

Kindness can take a lot of different forms, can’t it?

Let me try to define it for you.

Kindness is wanting good for someone and giving good to them.

Kindness is wanting good for someone and acting on it as a gift.

It almost always involves some kind of giving.

A giving of yourself or of something good for someone else.

If patience is receiving, or taking something negative, some perceived evil either from people or things and being okay with that (contentment while waiting for change), then kindness is giving.

It’s giving something positive. It’s responding to the evils of this world in an unexpected way–with something good in return.

It’s highly relational. You can be patient about things, but you are kind to people or least to living things–I supposed kindness extends to animals and even plants.

But mostly, it’s people-relational. You are kind or unkind to people.

By giving. By wanting good for them and then giving good to them–even at a personal cost.

Kindness is a kind of mercy. A synonym would be “graciousness.”

It’s not giving someone what they deserve but what they need and even more.

It’s doing for someone what they need or could use even if they haven’t earned it.

It’s normally doing something extra. Something beyond what is expected or required.

And it’s a powerful thing. Isn’t it?!

Kindness is a powerful thing.

When you see kindness in a leader, how do you feel?

You want to follow them, don’t you?

When you see a child be kind to another child, how does that make you feel?

It warms your heart, doesn’t it? And you want to praise them!

At our home, we almost never use the word “nice” with our children.

We don’t say, “Be nice to each other!” We say, “Be kind to each other.” That’s a biblical word. And when we see it, we praise it up and down!

“That was kind! Good job!”

It’s a powerful thing in our marriages.

When I see a couple that is unkind to one another, I see a marriage that is in danger.

But it only takes one of them starting to practice kindness to start to turn a marriage around.

Did you experience kindness this week?

It’s a powerful thing.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

One writer describes it this way, “Kindness is a readiness to do good, to help, to relieve burdens, to be useful, to serve, to be tender, and to be sympathetic to others. It has been said, ‘Kindness is love in workclothes.’” [Leading with Love, pg. 44]

I like that, “Kindness is love in workclothes.” ....

Now, this is important. Kindness doesn’t always mean being “nice.”

Just like being patient doesn’t mean being passive, being kind doesn’t always mean being “nice.” Namby-pamby nice.

Jesus wasn’t always “nice.” But I don’t think he was ever unkind, either.

We have to speak the truth in love. Love often speaks.
We have to do hard things sometimes in our relationships. But we don’t have to be unkind.

Kindness is not the same thing as niceness.

Kindness is wanting good for someone and giving good to them, often at a personal cost.

And sometimes, that “good thing” that we’re giving won’t be seen by others as “nice.”

But it will still be kind. ...

Now, I asked, “Did you experience kindness this week?”

The other question is, “Have you been consistently kind yourself this week?”

We’re learning to love. “Love is patient, love is kind.”

Are you kind? Am I kind? Or do we have something to learn here?

As I was pondering kindness this week, I came up with a list of principles for how to grow in kindness. How to Kindle Kindness. There’s six in this list. Let me give them to you.

Learning to Be Kind. How to “kindle” kindness:

#1. LEARN FROM THE MASTER.

Who is the King of Kindness?

It’s our Teacher for this course: God Himself.

Remember Titus 3 from last month? “He Saved Us?” Titus 3:4

“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

The kindness of Christ is our greatest example because it’s the greatest kindness!

We didn’t deserve His wanting good for us.
We didn’t deserve His giving us good–giving us His own Son on the Cross for our sins!
We didn’t deserve His bearing that cost for us.

But He did it out of His kindness.

Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind! So much we can learn from the master!

His kindness is not just our example, it’s also the power that enable our kindness, isn’t it?

If we hadn’t experienced His kindness at Calvary, we, as Christians wouldn’t have much power to be kind to others.

But because He endured so much for us, He gives us the ability to not only be patient and receive, but to be kind and give.

When your co-worker “disses” you this week, your natural inclination will be to “diss” him or her back, won’t it?

But if you are a Christ-follower, saved by the kindness of God our Savior, you don’t have to spurn them, snub them, or gossip about them in the office.

You can be kind to them.

When your teammate steals the glory this week. Hogs the ball. Makes it all about them and maybe does something in your face, you don’t have to retaliate. You can be kind to them.

When your brother or sister steals your toy, uses your stuff, breaks your mp3 player, you don’t have to throw a fit.

You can be kind.

Because Jesus did for you.

1 Peter 2:23&24: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. [It takes faith to be kind.] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”

Learn from the Master.

#2. LEAN INTO PEOPLE.

What I mean is lean towards people. Take a step in their direction. Be giving towards people.

The opposite of kindness...What is the opposite of kindness? The total opposite of kindness is meanness. It’s harshness. It’s becoming scratchy, shrill, abrasive, abusive, hostile. It’s coming against someone.

But that’s the polar opposite.

You can also be also be unkind by just being civil. Can’t you?

By leaning away from someone. By not giving to someone.

By only doing what you must towards someone.

We see this in marriage, too, don’t we?

“I did what I had to do.”
“I gave what I needed to give, and that was all.”
“I was just and fair and equitable and give them what I had said.”
“I kept my end of the bargain.”

Okay. But were you kind?

Lean towards people.

This will mean repentance for some of us. We will have to ask for forgiveness of God and others for not leaning toward people.

God went out of His way to do good to us. We need to do it for others.

#3. BE KIND DESPITE PEOPLE.

To whom are we supposed to be kind?

Jonathan Edwards in his book, Charity and Its Fruits, suggests these three types of people to be kind to:

A. The Good and the Bad.
B. Your Friends and Your Enemies.
C. The Thankful and the Unthankful.

Ouch.

This might cost more than I reckoned for.

To want good for the good isn’t hard. But for the bad? Won’t that just encourage them to keep being bad?

To do good to my friends, sure. But to want good and do good to my enemies?

Friends, that’s Christian love. We love our enemies.

And we do good to them.

A couple different people opposed me this week. Neither are really my enemies in any strong sense, but they were on the opposite side of an issue from me this week in two different situations, and I felt it.

And I wrote them strong letters defending my position and my interests in these matters.

And then I didn’t send them. I sat on them. And I prayed over them.

And then latter I sent them much different letters that communicated kindness.

I hadn’t changed my position. But my heart had been changed. And it changed my actions.

Our kindness is not dependent on whether or not the person we are interacting with deserves what we are giving them.

In fact, kindness is (almost by definition) giving what they don’t deserve.

Moms and Dads. This is key for parenting.

Are you kind to your children? Maybe you keep them in line. That’s fine.

But are you kind?

Will they remember growing up in your home as living in an environment of kindness?

That was my experience. That’s what my childhood was. My folks are some of the kindest people on Planet Earth. And they keep pouring out kindness on my family.

Kindness reigned in our home. I don’t remember an unkind word! They might have been there, but I don’t remember them.

There was plenty between my brother and me! But not from my folks and not in front of us between them, either.

Did we deserve that? Were my brother and I worthy recipients of my parent’s kindness?

No! But we benefitted from it, and still do.

Be kind despite people.

But, Pastor Matt, you don’t understand! You don’t know that person has done to me!

I don’t doubt that it was terrible. And still is.

But we crucified the sinless Savior, and He’s kind to us. ...

Be kind despite people.

#4. EXPECT NOTHING BACK.

In some ways, this is saying the same thing. Do it regardless of whether or not they deserve it.

But I’m also saying this. Don’t do it expecting to be paid back for being kind.

That’s not being kind.

If you are trying to flatter someone to get flattered, or trying to butter someone up by doing good stuff for them, you aren’t being kind.

Kindness is not bootlicking or currying favor.

It’s not a strategy to get someone to like you.

Some of us, me included, try to do things that look kind so that people will like us.

And sometimes it works. But that’s not kindness.

Expect nothing back.

Give freely. Give with no strings.

Expect nothing back–from them.

We should expect something from God.

In God’s world, giving results in reward.

We can expect God’s reward when we are kind.

I’ll tell you one thing. It feels good! Doesn’t it?!

Doesn’t it feel good to genuinely practice kindness?

I know it does for me. In a few of the times when I was genuinely kind this week, I got a real buzz from it!

And sometimes, the dynamic of the relationship will change.

If you are patient and kind with someone, it’s hard for them to stay angry and bitter towards you. They might still do it! But it’s hard.

Sometimes the dynamic of the relationship will change.

But whether or not it does, do it!

Expect nothing back.

Except from God. Jesus has promised great reward for great giving. Listen to this promise:

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful....Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [Luke 6:35, 36, & 38]

Those are Jesus’ words!

That’s an incentive to be kind, isn’t it?

#5. GIVE SOMETHING EXTRA, FROM YOUR HEART.

It’s really saying what we’ve already said so far, but I want to emphasize this word “extra.”

When Heather listened in the doorway to my rambling, she was doing something extra and it was kind and it was from her heart.

Kindness is little (and sometimes big) extras and they come from a hear of love.

So, if your boss is being very demanding, don’t just do what he or she says, but do it with a smile and a friendly word.

If your sister wants something you think is unreasonable, maybe you don’t give it to her out of love for her or love for someone else, but you go out of your way to creatively think of another way to achieve what she is really looking for.

That vendor you’re working with at work is driving you nuts? How about dropping them a thank-you for something good they’ve done, even if it’s just filling the order like they said they would.

Give something extra in this relationship. And do it out of your heart.

You say, “I don’t have it in my heart.” I know. I don’t always either.

That’s why we need the Holy Spirit. That’s why we need grace. That’s why we need to be saved people, changed by the gospel to be truly kind.

We need to be kind, to do extra, to do it from the heart.

And number 6. To not stop.

#6. DON’T STOP.

I’m glad that Jesus doesn’t stop being kind with me!

We’re going to be tempted to give up on our kindness.

How long do we have to be kind to that person?

“Love IS patient, love IS kind.” It doesn’t have expiry date on it.

Here’s where Jesus’ Golden Rule of Thumb comes in again.

How kind would you want that person to be for you?

Don’t stop. Keep on kindling kindness.

Become a King or Queen of Kindness.

We have a Queen among us today in Amber Lockwood. A Homecoming Queen.

I want us to be a church full of Kings and Queens of Kindness.

I think of Nicholas and Nancy Black, the kind folks in Glenside, Pennsylvania that put me up for 2 weeks while I was taking my doctoral classes at CCEF.

They fed me (up to 3 meals a day), gave me a place to stay, gracious conversation, took an interest me. Asking nothing in return. King and Queen of Kindness.

I think of my classmate who purchased lectures and outlines for me even though I had done nothing to earn them. A Queen of Kindness.

I’ll bet you have a King or a Queen of Kindness in your life that you can point to. And want to become like.

In your marriage.
In your parenting.
In your relationship with your parents.
With your brothers and sisters.
With your fellow church members.
With your neighbors.
With your co-workers.
With your teammates.

With your enemies.

Kindness is powerful!

Patience was powerful. Think about how it combines and work with kindness.

Patience AND kindness. That’s dynamite!

And it reflects the Lord of Lords and the King of the Kings of Kindness.

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