1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Prior to this chapter, Paul’s aim was to describe how we should interact with others, how we should bless the lives of others in the body of Christ. He is ministering to those who, without question, love God. While he is pleased that many have acknowledged and learned to use their spiritual gifts, many have allowed divisions and addictions to lessen their spiritual gifts until they are nothing more than competitors with one another. Paul knows that to live our lives spiritually means to live our lives based on love and kindness, which is where we get today’s scripture.
The Greek word for kind is chrésteuomai. The root word is chrestos, which means fit for usage, or to be useful. This directly manifests what Paul is teaching. It tells your internal voice to say, “I will meet your need despite how you are treating me. I will stay useful to God so that God can keep accomplishing His purposes.”
Now, it’s easy to love who’s loving you back. It’s easy to reciprocate what someone has extended to you. But watch yourself: do not choose to be kind only to kind people. Even when they don’t reciprocate your kindness, even when they won’t say thank you, even when they talk behind your back, even when they take you for granted, you have to not only be okay on the inside, but act like it’s okay on the outside and be kind. You can’t enjoy the fullness of God if you can’t be kind.
It’s not easy. It’s not natural. Paul never said this was the easy way, but he did say it was the more excellent way.
Sometimes, you might want to mistreat those who mistreat you. You want to show them just how sharp your words can be, how menacing the returning dagger. It’s easy to cut someone off, to fight back, to distance yourself from the mistreatment of others and never speak to them again—to treat them how they treat you. But no, you must let love make you useful for God’s purposes. You must let the spirit lead your life and manifest in kindness to others.
We spend so much time concentrating on our response to mistreatment that we miss the Spirit’s provision in our own lives. We forget that while Sally over there misspoke and used cruel words against us, God woke us up, put His hands on us, opened doors for us, defeated enemies for us, sent us blessings, answered our prayers—all day long. Keep your eye on the bigger prize: God and your relationship with Him.
Paul is suggesting that we don’t have to be victorious or even respected, but we do have to be useful. We do have to be kind. God knows that you didn’t make that person cold—you are not the cause of their pain. Why would you take their behavior personally then? A cold heart treats everyone cold; it’s not a you and them connection, it’s a spiritual connection they are lacking. Recognize that you are not responsible for another person’s heart condition, but you are assigned in this season to help thaw it out. Imagine the torment and the fear they feel every day, so much so that they have to sabotage your dreams. That’s a lot of pain. Bend their trajectory back to God. Refuse to attack when attack is the natural response.
Plato once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sure, you can put up walls and barriers and only let in the people who make you feel warm and fuzzy and comfortable and good about yourself. But the risk is that you won’t spiritually mature and neither will those you exclude, attack, and offend when you aren’t partnered with God to help thaw a frozen heart.