By Daniel Bobinski
Note: At the beginning of the year I decided to use this space to focus on God’s greatest command. If you’re connecting with this series for the first time and would like to read the foundational material of this discussion, I encourage you to visit Christian Living’s website to read the whole series. Visit https://www.christianlivingmag.com/columns/
“What is the greatest commandment?” It was likely a gotcha question from the scribes and teachers of the law, but Jesus gave a straightforward answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And although he wasn’t asked, Jesus also told them something else. “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
And then Jesus said something astounding. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Think about that. All the law. All the prophets. It’s an amazing concept. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul gave us an itemized definition of the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13, and interestingly, the words are all verbs – things we are to DO.
In the last issue of Christian Living Magazine, this space examined what it means to be patient. In this issue we’ll be examining what it means to be “kind.”
Modern psychology tells us that to be kind means to be friendly, considerate, gentle, warm, affectionate, and concerned. If you think about it, these words generally relate to feeling. And, as you might expect, that’s how many people today define the word “kind.”
But from a scriptural perspective, the words in 1 Corinthians 13 are verbs – action words. Therefore, being kind when living out the greatest commandment isn’t about feelings.
The Greek word for “kind” in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is the verb chrēsteuomai (pronounced khra-styü’-o-mi), and it’s the only place in all of Scripture that this word appears. With a little digging into a concordance, we learn that chrēsteuomai is the middle voice for chrēstos, which means, “fit for use, useful; virtuous, good.”
With that in mind, instead of saying loving others means being friendly, warm, and affectionate, we should interpret the command to have more of the verb (action) implication. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be warm and affectionate, but we’re not commanded to be that way. To be loving according to 1 Corinthians 13 means to be fit for use, useful, virtuous, and good.
What does that look like?
Readers from previous articles in this series already know that God is our model when it comes to love. Accordingly, whenever I’m teaching this, I always ask people to identify when God has been useful to us. In every day and in every way we should be able to talk of situations in which God has been useful to us. At the most fundamental level, the fact that He provides us food and clothing shows He loves us.
But how do we show love back in terms of chrēsteuomai? How can we be useful to God?
Have you stored up God’s Word in your heart? That’s useful to God, because when we do that, it’s easier for the Holy Spirit to remind us of God’s principles. Have we rested in Him? Quieted our minds and spirits and sought His presence? That makes it easier for Him to speak to us – for us to hear what He’s trying to get across.
These are just two of many ways we can be useful to God, and if we do these things, we are fulfilling the greatest commandment – loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul.
But what about the second-greatest commandment – love our neighbors as ourselves? How can we be useful to them?
If you think about it, kindness and usefulness go hand-in-hand in so many ways. If you hold the door for someone, the person might say, “That was kind of you.” Yes, it was: You were being useful.
When there’s a snowstorm and you shovel your neighbor’s walkway, someone might say, “That was kind of you.” Again, you were being useful.
By the way, this way of looking at things helps us understand the mandate to love our enemies. For example, you might have a neighbor who’s rather venomous toward you. As such, it’s nearly impossible for you to have warm fuzzies for the man, but you can shovel his sidewalk, pick up trash that’s blown into his yard, or rake his leaves in the fall without him knowing. In so doing, you are “loving your enemy.”
Thankfully, Scripture never commands us to have warm fuzzies for everyone. We would fail miserably.
Lastly, let’s talk about loving ourselves, because we’re supposed to love our neighbors AS ourselves.
The question here is, “How can you be useful to yourself?” The answers are easier than you might think. If you eat healthy and take care of your body, you’re being useful to yourself. If you let go of resentment, you’re being useful to yourself because you’re not letting yourself get infected by the poison that accompanies resentment.
Allow me to leave you with an assignment. Make yourself a list of how God is useful to you. The more details you can write, the better. Do it daily for a week or two and you’ll more easily see how God loves you.
Then identify ways you’re being useful to God. This can seem awkward because God doesn’t really need anything from us – but He wants you to love Him, so strive to identify how you’re being useful to Him.
Lastly, identify ways you’re being useful to others and also to yourself. The clearer you can articulate these things, the easier it will get, and the deeper your relationship with God and others will be.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is an award-winning and best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 375-7606.