1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is kind”
As Paul continues to reveal the full spectrum of love we not only see it in all of its rich color but we hear the melody of its song. 1 Corinthians 13 is both a rainbow and a hymn of love revealing its positive actions and contrasting our negative ones. The first two descriptions are a pair of positives followed by four pairs of negatives. We have already seen the first partner in this positive pair, patience, the elasticity of love and its ability to suffer long. The second side to this positive pair is:
Patience and kindness can be described as two sides of the same coin, the passive and active aspects of the same character trait. Patience involves staying our hands and mouths for the good of others, where kindness involves the active sense of spontaneous action done for the good of others. Kindness is love in action which seems to be in sharp contrast to patience and its virtuous ability to wait. Kindness’ active character is problematic in a world that wants to measure kindness by intentions instead of actions. If we were to be deeply moved after seeing pictures of starving children and say, “Someone ought to do something about that” we can’t consider ourselves as being kind based on being moved by what we saw because kindness is grounded in action not feeling. Kindness always moves in the direction of the need, toward the problem, seeking to help, heal and resolve.
Kindness takes love on the road, it works for the welfare of the one loved and must be experienced through action for there is a great need for this world to see kindness exemplified. In December 1944, when the German army launched the surprise Battle of the Bulge, Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, was away, attending a staff conference in the United States. In Taylor’s absence, acting command of the 101st and its attached troops defending Bastogne, Belgium fell to General Anthony Clement McAuliffe. The German commander with a considerably larger force, surrounding the Americans sent a message encouraging their surrender. After reading the message McAuliffe replied with one word “Nuts”. Surrounded by the enemy he said, we have been afforded the greatest opportunity for we can attack in any direction! Where most would have given in and surrendered he soldiered on for he saw the opportunity of being surrounded by the enemy. The question is, do we? Today surrounded by suffering and pain we have been afforded the greatest opportunity for we can be kind in any direction and hit the mark. In this cruel world, we are presented with plenty of opportunities all around us to be kind toward others, to demonstrate this critical quality of love to a world which knows so little of love.
Sometimes kindness will cost you something, because kindness dares to be vulnerable as it meets the needs of others. This is seen in the price paid by God as He loved us with kindness. As He looked at the human situation, what did He do? He became one of us; laying aside His glory He willing clothed Himself in flesh. He walked with us, wept with us, fed and healed us, showing us how to live with each other. What was our response to this loving kindness, this position of vulnerability, what did man do? We exploited His vulnerable position and crucified Him. We nailed Him to a cross high on a hill for all to see and mock, saying “If you really are the Son of God, come down from the cross. He saved others, Himself He cannot save.” Here is the real love of God in that moment of vulnerability when we would have lash out in pain He instead unleashed power. Power to save, to heal, to mend the broken hearts & broken homes, power to forgive and forget our sins. Love is kind and kindness dares to be vulnerable, will you?
Kindness is vulnerable but it is not a push over for kindness is also tough. There are times when kindness must say to the alcoholic, “You must suffer the pains of withdrawal.” There are times when kindness must say NO and at these times this can appear to be unkind but in reality it is loving. There are times when kindness says to a spoiled child, “You can’t have it.” and what you really need is discipline. That’s kindness, it may not appear to be, but it is. So the great question becomes, “When is kindness to be tough, and when is it to be tender?” Paul doesn’t answer that, he simply says, “Love is kind.” and he leaves it there. Jesus demonstrated both types of kindness, when He drove the moneychangers out of the temple He was being tough. When He told the Pharisees they were whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones,” He was being tough. When He told them they were “walking around with beams in their eyes trying to pick specks out of other people’s eyes.” He was being tough. But was He being unkind? No, He was doing the kindest thing He could do, giving those living a lie the truth. Then there were other moments when He demonstrated tender kindness, like when He walked underneath a sycamore tree and seeing an old tax-collector said “come down let’s go to your house”. He could have said, “Zacchaeus, you’re the scum of the earth, you have used your power to extort from almost everybody in the whole community.” And He would have been right. But instead He demonstrated tender kindness and Zacchaeus was changed forever.
The truth is we would rather act with the tough kindness and when it comes to being shown kindness we want the tender. We like those moments of tender kindness in Scriptures, like that man who carried the cross for Jesus because of He was tired and weary after His all-night trial and the brutality of His beatings. We say “that’s kindness” and we applauded Simon for carrying the cross for our Lord. But we forget the weight of that kindness, the heaviness of each step. Simon didn’t think about kindness, he acted and like the Good Samaritan, it will cost us. Kindness dares to carry the cross all the way to Calvary, will you?