Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. (Philippians 4:9)
Jesus said that “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). I began this series of articles by stating that all that the Christian church can learn and receive from the apostle Paul and from Christ Himself can be summed up in one powerful practice: LOVE. On Wednesday we used Paul’s definition of love, given us in “The Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, to look at the practice of patient love. Today we will dig down into how to practice kind love. The kind of patient love that Paul was telling his audience 2,000 years ago–and is telling you and me today — to practice, practice, practice is the kind of love that is able to endure displeasure for a season and then respond with kindness.
In the Greek language that Paul wrote his epistles in, the word for kind describes the qualities of benevolence, gentleness, tenderness and mercy. In essence, kind love expresses itself by extending good to others, especially those who might be extending some kind of “bad” toward us. This good is not only something that kind love desires; it is something that kind love demonstrates as it patiently endures whatever circumstances life sends its way. In a word, kind love is merciful. When our patience is being tested and tried, kind love displays a merciful attitude toward all involved.
Because life consistently confronts us with challenging circumstances and challenging people, Paul tells us to practice the love of God in Christ Jesus that we have received . . . and that we continue to receive, not just daily, but moment by moment. Without a disciplined approach to putting this love into practice, we tend to respond harshly to ill treatment; we are filled with anger, bitterness, and hostility toward those who mistreat us.
Don’t miss this, Christian: Kind love does not mean we refuse to speak truth to others, truth which might include a gentle rebuke. Paul charged his protege Timothy to “correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). But Paul also made it abundantly clear that our truthful rebukes are always to be delivered in love . . . kind love, which seeks the ultimate good of the other person.
The only way we will ever consistently live out a patient love that finds its expression in kind love is through practice, practice, practice! Remember, both of these loves are fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Actually producing these fruits in our lives is what I call an “inside job,” because these character traits, which are rooted in the nature of Christ, can only be produced by the Holy Spirit working in us. And yet, while these fruits are gracious gifts from our loving God, that does not mean there is nothing for us to do in order to increase the demonstration of them in our lives. And what did Paul telling us to do in order to maximize our fruitfulness? Practice, practice, practice!
So . . . how are you doing in your practice of a patient love that is expressed through kind love? Always remember that perfection will never happen on this side of the grave. Practice will not make you or me or anyone else perfect, no matter what the old saying tells us. The goal is to continue making progress as God grows and matures us in our faith, and as we cling to His promise of perfection when we are received into glory. So until that day comes, practice, practice, practice for the glory of God and the good of others.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!