Enhancing the Lives of Others
In these verses Paul takes the idea of love & describes it as a person. Of course love is a person, “God is love” & Jesus is the incarnation of his love. These verses are a portrait of him! They are also a picture of the love with which he loves us. If we want to see what these verses look like lived out, all we need to do is look to the Person and work of Jesus.
We see his humble love in his leaving the glory of heaven to take on the flesh of our humanity. We see his patience with all those who pressed around him for healing & help... We see his selflessness in Gethsemane, when, on his way to the cross, Jesus did not insist on his own way. We see him bearing all things in how he suffered for us on the cross. From beginning to end, our whole salvation is a story of the never failing loving-kindness of Jesus!
As we meditate on these verses we’re not going to follow the exact order. This is appropriate because these verses are a portrait not a biography. When you study a painted portrait things just stand out to you. You don’t start in one corner & systematically work your way across. You admire it & as you do different things stand out to you. This is the approach I’m taking with these verses as we admire them in light of the backdrop of the rest of Scripture...
As we fix our eyes on Jesus through these verses let us understand that this love Jesus has for us is the same love he has called us to love one another with. 1 John 3:14 says; “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” This is how vital loving the way Jesus loves is! 1 John 4:7-12;
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
These verses teach us love is evidence we are truly born again & in relationship with God. We’re told our response to God’s love for us ought to be love for one another. And verse 19 of the same chapter states; “We love because he first loved us.” This is why meditating on his love for us is vital for our spiritual growth: It helps produce the same love in our lives & as it does it will rid our hearts of envy, boasting, pride, self-seeking, irritability & other such sins which stop us truly loving.
Let’s begin our study on these verses by focusing on three simple words: “Love is kind”... That’s one of our two primary texts for today. Love is kind. Seems very simple! We like it when people are kind to us. When we think of kindness simple things come to mind, like helping an old lady across a street or giving someone a gift. Truth is we have all been kind & received kindness at some level. But while kindness has this simple side we also need to grasp that kindness is much bigger than we first think.
If kindness was only doing simple things like I mentioned above then it would be within our natural reach, & we could do it without Divine help. But kindness is not so small, & when we study what the Bible says on the subject we soon discover that kindness is a high calling. The whole story of the Bible could be summed up as God’s extraordinary kindness towards us, especially in sending his Son to save us.
On one side kindness can be the small things we do for others, but on the other side it is big enough to summarise all God has done for us. And knowing God’s measureless kindness towards us is what will make us into genuinely kind people.
The word Paul uses for kindness here is unique. This is the only place it appears in the Bible, or in other literature of its time. In fact it seems Paul invented a new word to express this aspect of love by turning a noun into a verb. Paul’s word captures that love is kind in the sense it expresses kindness, it cannot help but do so because that is what it is! It’s an active word, as are all the words Paul uses to describe love here. This underlines that love is not a feeling but an action. We don’t feel to love we choose to love. Loving is not primarily about emotions. It’s about doing right not feeling right. In fact it includes showing kindness to people we don’t feel like loving. This is reassuring & challenging. Reassuring because even if our hearts feel cold today we can still choose to love, challenging because even if our hearts feel warm we have not loved until we move to action.
These verses teach us that love is as love does. This is not to say we never feel love, of course we do & it is better if we do & we should pray that we do more. However when it comes to true love what we do is more important than how we feel... 1 John 3:18 says; “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” We are called to actively love when we feel like it & when we don’t. After all do you think Jesus felt like dying on the cross? No, but he done so because he loved us! 1 John 3:16 says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” We know what love is then, by the action of Jesus for us, not by his feelings! Phil Ryken writes; “Love is the way we live for God even when we do not happen to feel particularly loving.” This is our high calling.
Kindness is part of how we actively live for God. Gordon Fee defines kindness as “active goodness on behalf of others.” Lewis Smedes calls kindness “loves readiness to enhance the life of another person.” I love that definition. We should always be ready & eager to enhance the lives of others in whatever we can. This is why God has called & gifted us...
Our calling is not to enhance ourselves but to enhance the lives of others. Our gifting is not to build something for ourselves but to build up others. This is what the self-seeking Corinthians needed to hear? Isn’t that why they had to be reminded that love “does not parade itself” (KJV); is not “self-seeking”.
We should ask ourselves questions like: How am I enhancing the lives of others? What has God given me to enhance the life of others? What can I do (or not do) to enhance the worship experience of others when we gather together? Why do I do what I do... to enhance my own ministry or profile, or to enhance the lives of others? What really makes me tick?
Being kind also includes not doing things that hinder other people lives as well as doing things that enhance their lives. In fact sometimes the best way to enhance the life of another is to sacrifice something we enjoy for their good. For example it would be unkind to have a beer in front of a struggling alcoholic. It would unkind to hold onto your seat on the bus when a heavily pregnant woman needs it more. It would be unkind to make the person with only one item behind you at the checkout in Aldi’s wait until you get your full trolley scanned through & paid for. Kindness not only seeks to enhance other people lives, it’s also prepared to sacrifice itself for the good of others, like Jesus did!
The best way for us to learn to be kind is to see it in the character of God; his love is always ready to enhance the lives of others. In the KJV Bible you find the word ‘lovingkindness’. It’s a beautiful word. The word attempts to express the rich OT word for God’s covenant love. Some translations translate this word consistently as steadfast love; others choose to translate it differently in different places (e.g. mercy, unfailing love, faithful love, unending love, compassion, loving-kindness or simply love) to help express the full meaning. The word loving-kindness helps capture how vital kindness is to love. This connection between love & kindness is seen in the NT not only in our text but in other places as well. One such place is Titus 3:3-8:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
Note how love & kindness are tied together again as well as the ideas of mercy, rebirth, generosity & eternal life. Note how it is the loving kindness of God that changed these people from malicious, envious haters into new people devoted to doing what is good. As Romans 2:4 says; “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.”
So kindness is not to be underestimated. We may be tempted to see it as something small, but here the Bible takes everything God has done for our salvation & basically calls it loving kindness. And because we have benefited from such kindness we ought to do everything we do from a heart of kindness.
Kindness is more than doing nice things for people. It includes that, but it is much more. In fact just because we do nice things doesn’t mean we have been kind. Our motivation has to be right. We can do nice things to manipulate others for our own ends, or we can do nice things because we genuinely want what’s best for others. Kindness is as much about our motivation for doing as our actual doing.
Also kindness includes telling people what they really need to hear, not necessarily what they want to here. Kindness includes disciplining our children for their good. Kindness is simply doing what is best, not for us, but for others... It’s sacrificing our preferences & ease for what’s best for others. Kindness will take us out of ourselves & out of our comfort zones. Kindness took Jesus all the way to the cross...
Let’s think about God’s loving kindness under the light of the verses I read from Titus. Firstly God’s kindness saves people when they are at their worst. Note the words Paul’s uses to describe recipients of God’s loving kindness; foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved... malicious, envious & hating one another. Not a good spiritual CV at all. Do such people deserve kindness? Have such people earned it? What does this teach us about the loving kindness of God? It teaches us it is unearned & undeserved. In fact vs4-5 underlines this further when they say; “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
God shows loving kindness to people simply because he is merciful, not because we are righteous or deserving. Likewise we should show kindness to people simply because we are called to be merciful, not because others are deserving of it. We are called to love the same kinds of people Jesus loves! This is our high calling! The Beatitude of Jesus comes to mind at this point; “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” Are we merciful? Are we kind like our Saviour is kind?
Secondly God’s loving kindness is life changing. God is kind enough to give us new life & a renewed heart. He does this by making us born again & by giving us his Holy Spirit. Rebirth is the inward work of the Holy Spirit giving a lifeless sinner new & everlasting life. When the kindness of God comes into our lives; it washes away our sins & makes new people out of us. Renewal is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in us reshaping our hearts & minds. It’s God’s commitment to never give up on us until we love like Jesus loves.
We can’t give others new life or the Holy Spirit, this is God’s work alone, but we can mirror God’s heart by never writing people off & by generously committing ourselves to their long term good. Phil Ryken writes; “The Spirit is the best of all gifts because he is the gift of God himself. And when God pours out this gift, it is not merely a trickle but a fountain.” In the same way we should be prepared to pour out ourselves for others with generous acts of loving kindness. 2Tim4:6
Thirdly, God’s kindness fills lives with hope. God’s kindness makes us heirs. His grace justifies us so we become heirs who possess eternal hope. No matter how messy or difficult our lives may seem today we can still know that God’s loving kindness has brought the hope of eternal life to our hearts. For this reason we are more blessed than we can comprehend. Our future is as bright as the glory of God. 2 Cor. 4:17 says; “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Since we own such hope we are called to bring hope to others. This is another way we can reflect Christ’s kindness.
So we are called to show mercy to the undeserving, to pour ourselves out for the good of others & to bring hope into their lives. This is what it means to be kind like Jesus is kind. This is how we are called to enhance the lives of others with loving kindness. Here are three ways we can do this.
Evangelistic kindness: We should tell others about God’s loving kindness. One of the kindest things we can do is tell others about the kindness of God. God can show people more kindness than we ever can, so it is kind to tell others about his kindness. In fact it would be unkind not to.
Practical kindness: We should do what we can for people around us. If we have something that would benefit them we should give it to them. 1 John 3:17 says; “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity in them, how can the love of God be in that person.” John the Baptist said; “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” And if people need help in some practical way we should be prepared to alter our plans & give time to help.
Gifted kindness: We should use our gifting to love others. The context of these words about love is spiritual gifts. Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts...” Our gifts have been given not to enhance ourselves but to build up others... If fact perhaps one way you can tell if you are really gifted in an area is to ask yourself: Does it enhance the lives of others when I do what I think I’m gifted to do? Our gifting & calling has been given to enable us to love more effectively, to enhance the lives of others. If it is not doing so then it may not be our thing... If you have been gifted then your gift will make room for you...
Using our gifts to love others also means we will express kindness in different ways. A teacher will express kindness by using his teaching gift to enhance the lives of others... Likewise, a cook will use their gifting to enhance the lives of others. This is part of what it means to be kind, using our God-given gifts to enhance other people’s lives.
God has shown us kindness upon kindness by saving us, changing us & giving us hope. We ought to show kindness upon kindness to others by telling them about his kindness, sharing our possessions & time with those who need it & using our gifting to enhance the lives of others.
Let us learn to be kind from the kindest One of all, may our lives point to Him! Everything we do ought to be from a heart of kindness. Kind is what we are called to be.
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