We began last week looking at Paul showing the Corinthians how much they had missed the real character of God by wanting to be “spiritual” over being loving. In the first three verses Paul tells us that no matter how impressive we are with our spiritual credentials, knowledge, power, or gifts—it is meaningless unless we have the character of God’s love flowing in and through us.
Love in the end is really not about us at all, but is about relationships—with God first, and then with others, as Jesus said in the Shema for us to love the Lord with everything we have and our neighbors as ourselves.
Love, then is described by 8 things it is and 8 things it is not. We started the list of things which give definition to love by the word “patience” which means “not short tempered.” As we find ourselves becoming “testy” when God doesn’t operate like we want, or become irritated when others don’t live up to our expectations, we are not operating in love.
Now we move to the second word: Kindness. Kindness is the shoe leather of patience. When we think in a redemptive fashion towards others, rather than a judgmental attitude, we begin to think about how we can act in a way that will help them to become closer to Jesus and share His character, and that’s where kindness comes into play.
Kind – Unmoved
The word “kind” is used only here, but comes from a root that means “to be employed.” The word means to show yourself useful. How is this characteristic of love? Love looks out for the needs of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
How are we not being “useful” to God? One way is when we close off our heart to His desire to work in us or when we turn away from wanting to think, speak, and act like Him to go our own way.
We are unkind towards others when we are unmoved by the plight their, and I’m not just talking about doing acts of charity. I think that when we see someone else hurting and refuse to comfort, we are being unkind. When someone is struggling and we turn away because it’s just too much work we are not being “useful” to God.
So, in conclusion, these first two love-words are about attitudes and responses. If we want to be filled with God’s character then we need to have the same attitude God has towards us that (Rom 5:10 ) “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son”
God looks out for our interests and waits patiently for us to turn to Him and He is always working redemptively in our lives—would we do the same in our relationship with God and with those around us!
Content – Envious (interested in getting more and getting what you have)
Envy is wanting to be like someone else or have what someone else has. This was especially true for the Corinthians when it came to spiritual gifts. They were so worried about having the better gift that all they could focus on was themselves. As we discussed earlier, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for us to be blessed, but for God to use us to bless others.
The problem with envy, or lust, is that is 1) takes something from someone else, 2) may not be what God wants for you and 3) puts the focus so much on you that you forget that it’s about blessings other, thus defeating God’s purpose.
This is where envy leads:
Titus 3 :3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, captives of various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
Instead we should adopt the attitude of Paul:
Philippians 4:12-13 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
It’s like the current saying “there’s an app for that.” Anything you need God to do that will further His kingdom and bring Him glory He can do. If He isn’t doing it, then don’t sweat it!
Modest – Boastful (interested in who or what I know or can do or have)
Psalms 10:3 For the wicked one boasts about his own cravings;
The word “boastful” means: “the aesthetic, rhetorical form of boasting which wounds others, causes unrest and discord, and represents unfounded presumption.” (Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)
It’s not just the idea that you are superior, but that you make it so plain to others that they feel “less than.” Often the boasting is greatly exaggerated, like a fish that gets longer and heavier each time you tell the story of catching it.
The essence of boasting is that it is more interested in impressing than in blessing. It’s the idea that in your interaction with me I want you to be impressed with just how great I am.
Now remember, I’m using hyperbole, but that attitude of wanting to be seen and appreciated for what we give was rampant in Corinth just as it is today.
We even want God to be impressed with us. I’m reminded of when Jesus took the Pharisees to task:
Matthew 6:1-4 Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don't sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They've got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The opposite of boasting behavior is near anonymity.
Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Humble – Conceited (more interested in how I am perceived)
Galatians 5:26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The word “conceited” comes from a Greek root for “bellows.” It’s used metaphorically to mean “puffed up with pride.” Not only do we want people to be impressed with us, we want to be impressed with ourselves!
When you start believing your own press clippings or fish stories, you are in for trouble. Conceit is a part of the self-focused nature. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about the things you do. We get into trouble when the ability comes as the primary motivator, rather than the activity and the benefit to the other.
The opposite of conceited is humility. In describing Himself, Jesus said “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:19 ). The word there means “depressed” and not in a clinically depressed way, but in a comparative way. The default human attitude is that I am god.
Romans 12:3-4 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.
We need to think sensibly—that everything that is good in us is a gift from God to be used in His service. It’s great to reflect on how God has changed us, so long as we don’t start believing that we have done it.
Gentle – Rude (act improperly)
Ephesians 4:29-30 No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear.
The word “rude” actually comes from the idea of doing something sexually shameful or improper. But the idea of crudeness or rudeness is appropriate for the adjective form of the word used here. The Corinthians were apparently pretty good at humiliating others in their worship services around the love feast and segregation according to class.
Why bring this up when it comes to describing love? Because I think there can be a tendency for us to feel so superior that we don’t hesitate pushing our weight around—our knowledge or expertise or maturity.
We grow impatient with others who we think are weaker or less mature than ourselves and we almost brush them off. This is not love.
Titus 3:2-3 and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.
Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won't be tempted also.
The old saying still rings true: Sugar catches more flies than vinegar.
Giving – Selfish (What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable)
The Greek means “to seek oneself” and comes from the Hebrew term for worship. This is the heart of the difference between what love is and what is not.
Real agape love is focused outward. This is the essence of our God.
Romans 5:8-9 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!
Too often, love is something we give in order to get. We love and if we are not loved back we think twice about giving that love. But while we were enemies of God, He loved.
Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We mature into “sons of your Father in heaven” and become “perfect” or “mature” (Greek: “complete”) as we realize love is about giving, not getting. It doesn’t mean we neglect ourselves, that’s not the point. The point is that the more we grow in Christ the more we should realize that everyone is broken and needs God’s unconditional love, even when that love is not reciprocated.