Our last two readings focused on the first portion of this verse, "Charity suffereth long...." We learned that Christian love inclines us to bear the offenses we receive at the hands of others meekly, without seeking or desiring revenge. This week we will turn our attention to the next phrase, "Charity...is kind".
- "instruct the ignorant" - leading them to Christ and sound doctrine
- "counseling and warning"
- "stirring them up to their duty, and to a seasonable and thorough care for their soul's welfare."
- "setting them good examples"
"Such and example must accompany the other means of doing good to the souls of men...and is needful to give force to such means, and to make them take effect; and it is more likely to render them effectual than anything else whatsoever; and without it, they will be likely to be in vain."
Second, Persons may do good to others in outward things, and for this world. They may help others in their external difficulties and calamities. Edwards lists many ways in which we can do "external" good to a person:
- "furthering their outward estate or substance"
- "aiding their good name" - speaking well of them, defending them against slander or unfair accusation, seeking to ensure that others think as highly of them as is appropriate
- adding to their physical comfort and personal happiness through kind words and deeds.
- Giving to others
- Doing for others
- Suffering for others - "aiding them to bear their burdens, and doing all in our power to make those burdens light."
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:11
"...when our instructions, counsels, warnings, and good examples are accompanied with such outward kindness, the latter tends to open the way for the better effect of the former, and to give them their full force, and to lead such persons to appreciate our efforts when we seek their spiritual good."
2. Who kindness does good to: Edwards gives us three categories:
- the good and the bad. If we claim God as our Father, then we will seek to love as He loves, and who He loves.
the despisers of God
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matt. 5: 43-45As Edwards says, "...any or all of these bad qualities should not hinder our beneficence, nor prevent our doing them good as we have opportunity. On this very account, we should rather be diligent to benefit them, that we may win them to Christ..."
- friends and enemies
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Mt. 5:43-48
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." Romans 5:6-10
I found it very interesting that Edwards referred to doing good as "retaliation". It doesn't sound very spiritual to view it that way, and yet when I read Romans 12:19-21 I'm forced to reevaluate:
It's not only okay to want to heap "burning coals" of guilt on the head of an evildoer, Paul encourages us to think of our retaliation of kindness in that way. We are to want to see evil overcome by good, and this is a means to that end. Just as when we avenge ourselves we are seeking a triumph, so when we retaliate with kindness we are to have a conquest in mind. When we seek our own revenge we cannot conquer; evil overcomes us. When we "retaliate" with good, evil is overcome, and only then do we triumph.Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head'. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Vengeance belongs to God, not us. We Christians are called to be instruments of His mercy and grace. That's what we've been freely given; that's what we are to freely give. It is not even acceptable for us to rejoice when we witness God's judgment on our enemies, as it is purely a result of the grace of God that we do not find ourselves under the hand of His judgment.
- the thankful and the unthankful
Edwards has this to say of those who refuse to do good to those they feel consider ungrateful:"But love your enemies, and do good,and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:35-36
"...such persons do not sufficiently look at Christ; and they shew either their want of acquaintance with the rules of Christianity, or their unwillingness to cherish its spirit."
3. The disposition of kindness: in other words, the attitude with which true Christian love does good to others. Edwards sums it up in a single word: freely. By "freely" Edwards has three things in mind:
"We are not to do it for the sake of any reward received or expected from the one to whom we do the good....not for the sake of any temporal good, or to promote our temporal interest, or honor, or profit, but from the spirit of love."
"...What is done heartily, is done from love; and what is done from love, is done with delight, and not grudgingly or with backwardness and reluctance of spirit."
Our actions are the only reliable evidence of what we will, of what is most important to us. This is why James can say:"...The proper and conclusive evidence of our wishing or willing to do good to another is, to do it. In every case nothing can be plainer, than that the proper and conclusive evidence of the will, is the act; and the act always follows the will, where there is power to act."
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead....Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.....For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." (See James 2:14-26)And so, as faith without works is no living faith, so love without acts of kindness is no real love.
(See Gal. 5:6)