In our series, “Imitators of Love”, we are looking at God’s true nature, but not in the traditional way. We are not looking at the verses that specifically teach us about His divine characteristics, but are looking at the ones that instruct us how to treat one another. In so doing, we are learning that if God tells us to love our brothers & sisters and even our enemies in a certain way, then that must be how Love Himself will love us. In other words, we are looking at the things He tells us to do and learning more about His loving nature because He wouldn’t instruct us to do something that He is not willing to do.
Our keynote passage of Scripture that we are basing this teaching on is Ephesians 5:1-2 where the apostle Paul instructs us to imitate God as dear children. So, yes, being imitators of God would encompass everything else we could ever aspire to be in Him and for Him.
So we spent several weeks looking at the verses that preceded Ephesians chapter 5 and learned how Paul got to this point of summarizing with this exhortation to imitate God—how God will not lie to us or steal from us, how He will speak to us in a certain way, and what His attitude is towards sin versus the sinner.
Then last week, we started looking at another section of Scriptures that has been traditionally used to teach us how we are to love one another – the great love chapter, First Corinthians chapter 13.
First Corinthians 13:4-8 teaches us how “love suffers long and is kind. (how) love does not envy; (how) love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (how it) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; (how it) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (yes, how love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I made the point that unfortunately, most of us have mainly only heard these verses expounded on at marriage ceremonies. I for one love how these verses are used in weddings because, how many of you know, a newly married couple needs to know that these are the things that love does and they will have every opportunity to practice all of these various characteristics of love in their marriage? But the sad thing is that these descriptions & characteristics of love are not just for a married couple. No, they are applicable to every Christian for any & all relationships.
But what we are doing is turning this around and teaching these verses from the same perspective that we have been—how because God is love, that these characteristics of love teach us the very characteristics of God Himself. So I encourage you that as we go through these verses, read them as so: “God suffers long and is kind, He does not envy, God does not parade Himself, He is not puffed up; God does not behave rudely, He does not seek His own, He is not provoked, He thinks no evil; God does not rejoice in iniquity, but He rejoices in the truth; God bears all things, He believes all things, He hopes all things, He endures all things; God never fails …”
So, last week, we looked at Paul’s first description of love—that it “suffers long.” So, at the forefront of all of Love’s characteristics, we see that God is “longsuffering” (you might also say, “patient.”)—meaning that longsuffering with people is one of the most telling signs of where one’s love is.
We learned that this phrase from First Corinthians 13:4 (“suffers long”) come from the Greek word makrothumia and comes from two words. The prefix is makros, which simply means “long”, and the other word is thumos, which describes “passionate anger or wrath.” So, when you combine these two words together, you see a person described that takes a “long” time to get “mad,” or you could say they are slow to anger.
But again, we are not just looking at how we are to be longsuffering ourselves; we can read this verse as God suffers long with us because of His great love for us. So we looked at several verses that describe to us God’s divine longsuffering:
We looked at the apostle Peter’s letters, understanding that Simon Peter was certainly a man who understood about the patience & longsuffering of God.
In First Peter 3:20, we saw how Peter describes that it was “divine longsuffering” (i.e., God’s patience) that had Him wait in the days of Noah before bringing the flood on the earth—which we learned that sometimes we make the mistake of seeing God as quickly judging the world during the days of Noah, but while we might read about this event in one chapter of the Bible, the entire timetable that led up to this was much longer than it seems by just reading Moses’ account of it. And I can assure you that this was a several hundred years at the bare minimum from the time God pulled the trigger to flood the earth and the time it started to rain.
And we also learned in Second Peter 3:9 that Peter talked about how this same longsuffering is on display even with us today: He said, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The apostle Peter goes on, in this chapter, to describe this “longsuffering” of God as the grace & mercy He gives us until His Second Coming. So, like it was in the days of Noah, the human race is still here, and the Judgment has been staved off because our God suffers long!
Isn’t the Lord described in the Scriptures as being “slow to anger”? In fact, I counted that, in the Old Testament alone, there are at least nine times that He is described this way. That’s a lot, church! And we learned that this is not our version of doing something slowly either. For instance, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus said, “Behold I am coming quickly!” right? Now He said that how long ago? Around 2,000 years, right? So, if 2,000-plus years is God doing something “quickly,” what is Him doing something “slowly”? Selah.
Yes, God in His longsuffering has given each of us much more grace & mercy than we can comprehend. The fact is, if it were not for this “divine longsuffering,” many of us would not even still be here. The very fact that you and I are able to gather together today is proof of God’s patience. He has certainly suffered long with each and every one of us. Amen? He is incredibly slow to anger, and He is certainly longsuffering.
LOVE IS KIND
But looking back over at First Corinthians 13:4, I want you to notice that the apostle Paul does not just say that love suffers long; he says that love suffers long and is kind.
How many of you know that it’s one thing to suffer long or be patient with others, but it’s a whole other ballgame to be kind while you’re doing it? In other words, someone might appear to be longsuffering on the outside, but on the inside, they have the wrong attitude while they are waiting. Let me give you an example of this— say someone is putting up with or tolerating another person’s tardiness. In other words, they are showing no signs that they are bothered by the person being late. However, they are fuming on the inside while they are waiting on them. Sound like anyone we know? Don’t look at your spouse😊
So, based on this, I see “kindness” as more of the attitude by which we do things for people. Sure, kindnesses are physical acts and things we do, but its more of an act of the heart that God is looking for. This is why as we saw in the first few verses of First Corinthians chapter 13, Paul was letting us know that even the most noble behaviors like prophesying into someone’s life, having faith that moves mountains, or even giving all of our goods to feed the poor mean nothing if they are not done motivated by love. Therefore, being patient with others has no real value if I don’t have a kind attitude while doing it. Amen?
So let’s delve a little deeper into this virtue called “kindness.” In fact, it’s not just a virtue; like the fruit of longsuffering, the apostle Paul said this was one of the nine fruit of the Spirit.
You see, in Galatians 5:22-23, we have two fruit of the Spirit “sandwiched” right in the middle that are generally not given as much attention to—these are the fruits of kindness & goodness.
What is the difference between these two fruit of the Spirit? I mean, they sound similar, don’t they? Well, they are strikingly similar, but there must be a difference if the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to mention them both as two distinct fruit of the Spirit, right?
Like I said, I see “kindness” as more of the attitude by which we do things for people. “Goodness,” on the other hand, is what I believe to be the action accompanying the right attitude that we possess. But my point is that these two fruit of the Spirit work hand in hand. We might describe them as sister fruits, seeing how closely related they are. For example, some of you might describe the fruit of kindness in the exact opposite way—as the action itself and not the attitude—and the fruit of goodness as the inherent quality of a person.
But here is what we must agree on: that both kindness and goodness are to be produced in our lives seeing as they are fruit of the Spirit. In other words, Paul is describing two virtues that we can see evidence of in one’s life and are not just what a person is versus what they do. No, every believer is called to both be kind and do kind things, to be good and do good things. And do you know why? It is because like it is with all nine of these fruit of the Spirit, these are not just virtues that God picked out as being good ideas for us to produce. No! They are fruit of the Spirit—meaning, they are fruit of who He is and what He Himself does! Amen! In other words, God has called His children to produce His very own fruit—that is, His will is for us to be just like Him! Sound familiar?
Yes, love is the first fruit listed because this is the core nature of God Himself. Therefore, our call to produce the fruit of love is to simply replicate God’s nature of love. Even the fruits of joy & peace are a part of the nature of God. Did you know He is called the “Happy God”? Yes, God rejoices and is the possessor of all joy. Not only that, but He is called the God of Peace, the Prince of Peace is He! Next, we see the fruit of longsuffering—which we learned last week is a big part of His nature as well.
Well, just as these first four fruit are fruits of God’s character, the next two are as well: God is absolute goodness, and He is total kindness!
Let’s look a little at how “goodness” is a big part of who our God is:
GOD IS GOOD AND DOES GOOD
Now our Lord and Savior Jesus walked in the light and bore this fruit of goodness as well, did He not? We are told in Acts 10:38 that He went about “doing good” and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. Sure, Jesus performed miracles and healed thousands of people during His earthly ministry, but what people don’t talk about as much is all the good that He did aside from those spectacular things. Yes, Jesus bore an abundance of goodness in His life and ministry along with the healings and miracles He performed.
You see, over and over, the Scriptures speak to us about the fact that God is good, and He does good (Psalm 119:68). And these verses not only tell us He’s good, but some of them show us how He is good. Let’s look at a couple of them in order to learn how we ourselves can walk in His goodness towards others:
Psalm 34:8-10 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”
When the Holy Spirit begins in verse 8 by inviting us to taste and see the Lord’s goodness, I can’t help but think of this fruit of the Spirit. And this fruit of His goodness can be both tasted and beheld. In verses 9-10, we see what His goodness produces— “no want, lack, or suffering hunger.”
Let’s now look at the 84th Psalm: Psalm 84:11 says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
You see, our good God is described here as a “sun,” and there are not many other physical things that we’ve been given that illustrate God’s goodness more than the sun. James 1:17 describes Him as the Father of lights that gives us every good and perfect gift. So, the sun itself is one of those good and perfect gifts. All we would need to become acutely aware of how good God has been to the human race is have that sun in the heavens burn out. Life would not be good, I can assure you.
Not only is God our sun, but he is also our “shield.” That describes Him as our protector. Oh, how much each of us have been spared from!?!
But notice what He is said to give—grace and glory. Church, in His goodness, He shares His glory with me. You could say, in His glory, He shares His goodness with me! That’s right! No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly! And what are these good things? Things that benefit and bless you and I. All of His grace and glory work on our behalf to meet our every need. Oh my glory!
So, all of these Scriptures that illustrate to us God’s goodness teach us that the Lord is the giver of good things—and only things that benefit and never anything that steals, kills or destroys (John 10:10). No, God only gives “good” and perfect gifts, and He does not deviate from doing that very thing. Pastor James told us to not be deceived in this truth. (See James 1:16-17).
May it be so with us, church, that as it is with the Lord, those around us will be able to both taste and see the fruit of goodness in our lives! Amen!
THE RICHES OF HIS KINDNESS
Now while we certainly see a lot about the goodness of God in the Bible, we don’t see a tremendous amount about God’s kindness. Or do we? Although we might be dealing with a matter of semantics when we attempt to differentiate between goodness & kindness, I think there is a lot more mentioned about God being kind in the Scriptures than we realize.
For one, we saw how in First Corinthians 13:4 that love is kind. So if God is love, then that Scripture is clearly revealing to us that God is kind. Therefore, as we saw earlier, God is not only longsuffering with us, but He is also kind in the midst of it! In other words, He will still pour out His kindness in our lives while He is waiting for us to repent of our mistakes. What an awesome God we serve!
You see, even the “select elect” out there who actually believe God is patient and longsuffering have a hard time believing that God remains kind in the midst of our continual stumbling. They think that He is longsuffering, but He is tapping His foot in the midst of it. But no! God changes not! Therefore, He is still doing good and being kind even while He is waiting on us to live up to our potential. Isn’t that amazing!?!
In fact, the Lord Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that you are to “love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” Why? “For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (See Luke 6:35-36). Do you see how the idea of imitating of God is taught here by our Lord? And what is it that we are imitating? Yes, His mercy, but also His kindness. Amen!
So let me ask you this—if God shows such great kindness to His enemies, to those are unthankful and not reciprocating in any way, to those who are evil even, then how much more will He be kind to His own children? Selah and selah!
Church, the apostle Paul taught us that it is going to take all of eternity to reveal to us all the riches of God’s kindness towards us (See Ephesians 2:7). This entails everything from our initial salvation to all the other ways that He has shown forth His kindness towards us in our walk with Him.
Regarding the kindness shown to us at salvation, Titus 3:4 says that it was the kindness of God our Savior that saved us. We also see in First Peter 2:3 where after the apostle Peter encouraged us as newborn babes to desire pure spiritual milk that we may grow up in our salvation, that he said, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” The word “gracious” here is the same word as “kind” elsewhere. So the ‘kindness” of God is meant to be experienced all throughout our Christian lives! I mean, how many times in the Scriptures are we made aware of the “lovingkindness” of our God?
Finally, look over at Romans 11:22 with me. In this verse, we see something very important about the kindness of God … In it, Paul said, “Considering both the kindness and the severity of God …”
Church, I think most of us have only considered the severity side of God and not the kind side of God. In other words, far too many Christians have been trained to be hyper aware of God’s wrath, His anger towards sin, in an attempt to instill the fear of God in His people. And there is certainly a place for this, but what about the kindness side of God? Have we become as conscious of that as we are of His severe side? Sadly, most Christians have not.
Church, we need to become more aware of this One of a KIND God. We need to consider that side of Him and let His goodness & kindness impact our hearts to the extent that it impacts our lives, and we start replicating His goodness & kindness. Yes, let’s begin to behold how good He is and how kind He is so that those fruits of the Spirit will start being produced in our lives. Amen?