TITLE: The Properties of Love #1 Patience and Kindness
DATE : 21 /08 /2011
DIVISION OF CHAPTER 13:
The priority of Love ( 1 – 3)
The properties of Love ( 4 – 7)
The permanence of Love (8 – 13)
Last time we considered the first three verses in which we find the apostle Paul laying down a foundational principle for the effective working of the spiritual gifts in the church .
He teaches the church that our speaking gifts (tongues/ prophecy- 13:1) , our gifts of understanding and knowledge and faith ( 13:2) and our gifts of generosity and sacrifice (13:3) – i.e. our speaking , knowing and doing , are utterly useless if these are not done in the spirit of biblical , agape love . The practice of spiritual gifts without biblical love is like a skeleton without flesh - like a tree without fruit - like noisy gongs or clanging cymbals ; much noise but no music ! One may be a very gifted individual in the church , but if what you do is not bathed in the spirit of biblical love , the Word of God says that “you are empty … you are nothing “ . This is a very strong and challenging assertion. It must cause every church member to re-examine what we say, know or do in the Name of Christ in the Church .
Paul asserts that biblical love must be at the heart of all that we do in the church . But what exactly is the nature of this love ?
Thankfully , Paul does not keep us guessing , but before we get there allow me to remind you once again concerning the context of this 13th Chapter .
1. The general context is a letter written to a very divided church in Corinth . They were divided because they had slipped into that old, deadly error of focusing more on men than on God ( 1:10-13; 3:1-23) . We need to remind ourselves that there is enough stuff to sink us into despair and criticism when we focus on each others many faults ! Paul encourages us to focus on Christ ( 1:10) and on the word of the cross ( 1:18) .
2. The immediate context is chapters 12 and 14 . Here Paul addresses the matter of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts had become a source of contention , because church members were focusing on the glory they would get for themselves when they were exercising the spiritual gifts , which were sovereignly given to them by God, in Christ , through the Holy Spirit ( 12:11) . We need to know that we sinners saved by grace are capable of turning every good gift from God into something self serving , self exalting if we do not keep the Giver in view . But by God’s grace and through obedience to His Word we may also be able to use the spiritual gifts in self giving and selfless service to the glory of God and in effective and powerful service to the church .
The attitude and atmosphere required for a proper expression of the spiritual gifts is biblical or agape love.
1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7 : preliminary considerations :
Firstly, as we try to understand the nature ( properties) of biblical love ,it is important to note that Paul uses verbs (action words) in describing such love. To be precise , there are 15 such verbs mentioned here. These verbs are all in the present continuous tense, (i.e. denoting a present continual and therefore ongoing action) They are therefore actions and attitudes of love which are habitual and which through constant repetition become ingrained in our thoughts and actions . We often speak about ‘ bad habits’ ! However , there are also good habits that ought to be cultivated . We speak about the thoughts and actions that ought to undergird our spiritual gifts or ministries , in love ! Paul thinks that the cultivation of love is most important .
1 Cor 6:9 –11 describes people whose lives have been characterized by adultery , immorality , homosexuality, thievery , greed , drunkenness and slander. Paul says to these Corinthians “v.11… And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Those sinful lives had characterized their minds as unbelievers, but they had changed. Through consistent practice, unbiblical habits can be unlearned , and biblical habits can be learned and strengthened.
We can learn to love ; we can learn to be patient, to be kind ; we can learn not to be envious ; we can learn not to boast ; we can learn not to be proud and rude and self seeking. We can learn to control our anger ; we can teach ourselves to keep no record of wrongs. We can teach ourselves with God’s help not to delight in evil , but to rejoice in the truth etc. All these things can become living truths in our lives.
2. Secondly, by way of preliminary consideration , we note that these four verses perfectly describe the character of Jesus . We could substitute “Jesus” for “Love” in this passage. By way of application we should also boldly insert our names before each one of these verbs since , in the Bible, we are clearly called to “be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1) and followers of Christ ( 1 Jn 2:6)
The first two properties of Christian love : Love is patient (ESV ) or longsuffering (KJV) ; Love is kind .
a. “ Love is patient /longsuffering” . Although the word “patience” is not wrong, it really does little to help us to understand the richness of the word used here in the
original Greek : “makrothumos”. This is a word made up out of two words: “makro”- meaning “long” and “thumos”- meaning “temper” i.e. long-tempered, and hence “longsuffering” or “patient”. It is clearly the opposite of being “ short – tempered “.
b. “Love is kind” ( chresteuomai-verb ; chrestos- adjective ) – can also be translated as good or gracious. The word is very similar to “Christos” – Christ. Christ is kind !
Both these words are mentioned among the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22
The question now arises, Why are these two verbs or action words important aspects of Christian love ? Why is it important that Christians should be long- tempered/ longsuffering and kind ?
The primary response is this : God is love ! And part of God’s love towards us is expressed in the fact that He is patient and kind towards us ! He who is utterly holy and perfect , is so very patient and kind to believers and unbelievers alike . Although the unbeliever does not acknowledge the fact that God is his Maker ; although he is unthankful and although he blasphemes God and tramples God’s law underfoot , God is patient and kind to unbelievers . The apostle Peter explains this mysterious love of God in 2 Peter 3:9 “…The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
But God is especially patient and kind to believers . Dear believer , remember that you have been graciously delivered from your evil hostility towards God , even when you were still a sinner ( Rom 5 : 8) . It is very important that we remind ourselves very frequently of the patience (and mercy) and kindness of God , so that we keep our consciences tender with regard to others . The reason why we are impatient and unkind to others , is because we forget the patience and kindness of God towards us !
If only we always remembered how patiently and kindly God had dealt with us , we would not be so ‘high-minded’ or judgmental or critical about others . In this regard it important to keep in mind the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35 . The servant begs for patience and kindness from his master (18:26) to whom he is highly indebted . He receives kindness from the master , but then he in turn refuses to grant it to those who are indebted to him (18:30 ) . Is it possible for you to have received the patient kindness of your God , but you in turn have failed to exercise it to others ? Let the parable of the unforgiving servant speak to you . It has some chilling applications.
By our love (Jn 13:35) or lack thereof we shall be known .
This Christian love is an extra ordinary love , because it is rooted in an extra ordinary God . The Bible says that He has “poured his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5) . Christians are recipients and dispensers of an extraordinary love . It is a powerful love which is radically opposed to the standards by which fallen people in this world treat each other. Our world is characterized by impatience and lack of kindness ( except where demonstrations of patience / kindness suit our own goals) . It is sad when we as Christians allow the spirit of this world to rob us of this extra ordinary love .
Let us think us frequently examine ourselves on this subject and ask ourselves where our lack of patience and kindness might fail others and so rob Christ of His love glory of which we ought to be imitators and exporters .
Let us also remember to watch our hearts . Our impatience and unkindness actually begins in our hearts ( Matt 15:18,19) . Let us repent quickly of our sins in this area and plead for renewed resolve to live as children of the light . Remember that we have been called to be salt and light , by living counter culturally . This biblical love goes against all that the world says and does .
Remember then that you are not at the mercy of the world’s powerlessness to love others . Scripture says : “ His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence.” ( 1 Peter 1:3) . You have received power to restrain your impatience or unkind thoughts and actions .
This does not mean that we are not allowed to correct or rebuke those who sin against us. But it is the way in which you do that. John Stott gives a practical example : “If my house is burgled one night and I catch the thief, it may well be my duty to sit him down and tie him up and give him something to eat and drink, while at the same time telephoning the police.”
Even though justice must be done, we love our enemies .Their welfare must be our concern. It is wrong to kill the thief in a fit of anger.
We must never allow those who hate us to rob us of our godliness. If we allow that , we may loose our patience and kindness . Again , I remind you of the patience and kindness of God towards us .
By being patient and kind we will not be caught off balance, and our temper will be kept on an even keel. There is nothing glorious about revenge. Revenge is not sweet, as the saying goes. In fact it often leaves a taste of bitterness in our soul.
In 1 Cor 6:7 (Context: Lawsuits against one’s brother) the apostle Paul takes this patient and kind approach . He concludes : “Why not rather be wronged?” It is not that we must defend or tolerate the wrongdoing of others uncritically. But in many, and probably in most cases, we ought to suffer long first.
That may mean that we may have to sometimes endure substantial pain, but we must always remember that in so doing we become imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember the example of our Lord Jesus, who patiently bore the insults and physical abuses of His persecutors, even praying for them, that their sins might not be held against them. The same is true for Stephen who was stoned in Acts. They were patient and kind to their enemies even whilst they were being murdered.
The spiritual formula is this: Love is greater than any injury we may receive!
Two major principles emerge from this:
(i) nothing can ever really hurt those who love God, because God’s love shed abroad in our hearts is greater than man’s greatest offence against us .
(ii) the more we love God, the more we find our happiness in Him and we remember that people can only do damage to us with respect to worldly goods, and perhaps even our bodies. But they cannot touch the soul which loves God supremely.
I trust that this meditation will help you as we now pray , that in the week ahead we would sense the power of God in our lives as we obey Him in being long-suffering and kind to all . And the God of Grace will be with you as you resolve to do His will . Amen!