Love is kind. Of course it is! We all know what “kind” means, right? So, why do I feel the need to write anything about this description of love? I’ll admit, this topic put a halt to my attempt at defining love as depicted in 1 Corinthians 13 for several weeks. (See previous posts regarding the abundant life). And of course, I started in February, the universal month of love! The subject matter had been front and center as I had been planning an activity on kindness for young children who participate in Chick-fil-A Kids Club. Yet I was still stomped in my writing! I put it aside thinking that I might get some valuable material at Kids Club because kids can say the darndest things, right? Wouldn’t you know, that night they weren’t very chatty.
When I taught vocabulary words to elementary school students I would first ask them what a specific word meant and most of the children in the primary grades usually answered with the same word. For example, if I asked, “What does the word “kind” mean?” They would say, “It means when someone is being kind.” I did get that same response with one little girl at Kids Club. I bet if I asked any adult what “kindness” means, I’d get a similar answer.
Since this seems so obvious, I decided to research the original Greek language used in this passage. The Greek word for “kind” that Paul used here is “chresteuomai” which means to show oneself useful, i.e. act benevolently- be kind. The words “to show” imply there is some type of action involved. This puts a damper on the phrase, “He/She has a kind heart” if there is no display of useful actions. I find it interesting that the definition for “kind” in Dictionary.com gives the first definition as “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition” with no mention of acting out the good nature. The step of showing oneself useful is not mentioned until the third definition which states, “indulgent, considerate or helpful, humane.”
Who comes to your mind when you here the word “kind?” I’m sure we all have an image of someone who has exhibited kindness in one way or another, but did you consider God? In the Bible the disciple John wrote that God is love (1 John 4:8). He is the “agape” type of love which means affection or benevolence, feast of charity, dear, love. This is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 13. So if God is love, He is kind. God does have a “good or benevolent nature or disposition,” but he displayed His love by doing what no one else could do. He made a way for all of his creation to be saved from eternal death by sacrificing his only Son, Jesus to take the punishment that all of humanity deserves. There is no higher kindness than that!
Even before sending His son Jesus to this earth, God was showing kindness to his chosen people. He spoke of this through the prophet Hosea when He said, “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.” (Hosea 11:4, NIV) The New Living Translation says, “I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love.” I believe God is comparing his treatment towards the Israelites in the wilderness to that of the Egyptians. While in Egypt the Israelites were nothing but a means to build storehouses for Pharaoh and he oppressed them with harsh labor. I imagine that the Egyptians used cords (ropes) of human punishment on the backs of the Israelites rather than cords of human kindness.
Did you know that exercising his own kindness is something in which the Lord delights? In Jeremiah 9:24 he said, “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” He revealed his kindness to all of his creation, not just his chosen people. The apostle Paul spoke of this when the people of the ancient city of Lystra tried to offer sacrifices to him and Barnabas. He reminded them that it is the living God (not the worthless things they were worshiping) who has “shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17). He delights is doing this!
We think we know what kindness is, but human kindness only touches the surface of the true kindness of God. We who are Christ followers already have God’s kindness within us. Our own selfish desires have to take a back seat to the desires of the Spirit. That means sometimes we have to be kind when our flesh doesn’t want to. Being kind is beneficial for all involved, but did you know that God has a specific reason for his kindness? It is intended to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4). For all we know, his kindness exhibited through us might just lead someone to Christ.
Is the meaning of kindness still so obvious? I must ask myself, “Am I really a kind person? Do I make myself useful and help others?” Am I a “cord of human kindness” that God can use to further his kingdom? Am I allowing the Spirit to work God’s kindness to others through me? If I’m honest, the majority of my day is spent on myself or at my job where I am encouraged and privileged to show kindness to those I serve. (Getting paid to be kind is an added bonus if the motivation of my kindness is to let others see Christ in me).
These are hard questions and with prayer and God’s guidance, I hope to become a kinder person day by day, not just in words but in actions as well.