“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” I Cor. 13:4

In the first part of the chapter from which the texts were chosen for our past meditation, the apostle shows how without love in the heart, all show of good works is without value or benefit. Love must be the root from which our good works spring, if they are to warrant acceptance of the God of our salvation, with their deserved reward. To speak and to sing beautifully, as to form and sound and appearance, without love, is nothing but sounding brass or a tinkling symbol. It is as such a very abomination in the ears of God. To speak concerning God, to be deep and penetrating and ingenious in thought and action, without love, is exactly nothing. To have a show of mercy, so that you unclothe yourselves to feed the poor, without love, is without profit for the doer. Yea, even though you would give your life as an offering for others, without the divine motive of love, there would be no gain at all for the self-inflicted martyrdom.

And the reason is plain.

God is the God of love. Love is the fountain from which springs His own love-life. All that God does is motivated by His love. His every thought, word and action is a manifestation of His love. This virtue of God is so fundamental in Him that He tells us how His very name is love. Love is God, and God is love.

And we are made in His image. Therefore:

Love suffereth long and is kind!

Suffering here means the suffering that is your lot because of the offenses and injuries that are inflicted upon you by others.

Well, if others are an offense to us because of their deeds and words, we are at once inclined to even the score: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And if the truth be told, we would like to return the damage inflicted upon us with interest.

Such is the natural impulse of every man, be he child of God or wicked.

But not so love!

Love suffereth long. Love has the capacity to take punishment, unjustly inflicted upon one. It will bear undeserved ill-treatment, and reproach; has the capacity, for instance, to suffer the robbing of one’s goods, good name, place in society, or one’s very life, without striking back, without revenging one’s self.

But not, you understand, because a man who is longsuffering is devoid of a sense of justice and righteousness. Oh no, a longsuffering man has a keener sense of equity than the unhappy man who does the inflicting of all the undeserved abuse on his fellow man.

No, but this is the other element of longsuffering: you bear it all in patience, and that is the virtue to wait, the capacity to wait for the Lord, who will surely requite all evil.

Now we have the full picture. Longsuffering is the virtue to bear evil and pain and misery, unjustly inflicted, while he will wait for the coming of the Judge who will avenge His elect that cry day and night to Him.

That, my friends, is not easy to do.

We would rather institute our own private judgment day.

We would rather strike back, and do it hard and fast, endeavoring to mete out the full measure of our wrath.

But if we have love in our heart, we will desist, and wait. We will wait for God.

God is also longsuffering. I am sorry I put it that way. It is really wrong to write like that. God is not also longsuffering. Our longsuffering is not original, but it is original with God.

God suffereth long.

We could write a book on that. On second thought, we need not. The book is written already. God’s longsuffering is written on the earth, on the oceans and on the heavens. The whole sorry world’s history is a commentary on His waiting, waiting, waiting! O, do fear a waiting God! He does not come at once to avenge the wrong. He has the capacity to bear evil, wrong, reproach, curses, bloodshed, for centuries!

Attend to the awful cross of Golgotha!

God can behold His Son in the hand of the evil. They hate Him, they pour out all the vials of their wrath over the innocent! They take Him in their vile hands and arrange His arms and legs on the accursed tree. They hammer the nails into His holy flesh. His blood flows.

O God! How canst Thou behold all this evil!?

Here is the answer: He suffereth long. He has suffered for centuries.

And He has two reasons for His virtue of waiting.

Reason one: His people must be cultivated in the throes of suffering. They must be born in adversity, and be built up in blood and tears of their suffering. They must all come to conversion. And that takes time, much time: II Peter 3:9. And with regard to the suffering Son, God waits. Jesus must be so treated by the howling mob of God-haters. He must lay the foundation of the New Jerusalem in His holy blood.

Reason two: the wicked must be revealed to be wicked. God must be just when He judges. That is: when the judgment falls, the whole world of men and angels, wicked and good, must see clearly that the punishment is commensurate to the crime. Therefore the crime in all its foulness must be manifested. Therefore this terrible history. Let him that is filthy, be filthy still!

Oh yes, God suffereth long. Because He is Love!

And it is for that reason that His people, His children, practice the same longsuffering. They hate evil, but they will not avenge themselves. They wait for God.

And meanwhile, they are kind!

The root meaning of this word is that you are fit for use, useful, virtuous, good. Therefore, it is used for the state of manageableness, mildness and pleasantness. It is opposed to all harshness, bitterness, hardness and sharpness. A kind man does not hurt or pierce you with many sorrows.

A kind, a really kind man, is a pleasure to know.

Micha has painted his picture. A kind man is one who loves mercy.

And the Gospel has shown his face: it is Jesus Christ. He is the kindest man who ever walked the earth. He could be moved with compassion when He saw the misery of those He loved.

The Holland language has a good word for the virtue of kindness. No, it is not vriendelijkheid, but “goedertierenheid”. It expresses the full idea of the Scriptural word kindness. It is that virtue where everything in your whole being is urgent to the wellbeing of the object of your kindness. You want to be good to them. No, it does not merely mean that you desire to bestow all manner of good things on the object of your kindness, but you really want to give yourself!

Attend to the origin of that virtue: it is God Himself.

God is kind.

God’s kindness is that love of God wherein His whole Being constrains Him to be good to the objects of His kindness, with the expressed desire and determination to give Himself to them for time and for eternity.

God’s kindness to us is Christ Jesus the Lord.

And the end of that kindness is that glorious state where God will be all and in all.

So then, if you have the love of God in your hearts, you are kind to your neighbors. You have the inner urge to be good to them, to give yourself to them, to beam upon them and to make them feel that you mean their welfare. “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you!” Eph. 4:32.

What unspeakable comfort to know that God is chreesos over us!

What consolation in the midst of the bitter, cruel, hard, and cutting world of devils and men who do their utmost to tear us and inflict their wounds on the innocent! Their very tongues are spears and swords: the poison of asps is under their lips. In the midst of it, we know that the Lord is mindful of us. All His mind is that we shall be blessed forever, that we shall feed on His glorious Image, and that is Jesus! God is kind over us!

And He proved it in the gift of Jesus.

I have said that the kind man gives himself, rather than his gifts.

Well, what did the Lord do?

He gave Himself so intimately to you that the church has fought for ages and struggled to clearly see and understand the two natures of Jesus. God and man are united, for God is kind. “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one!” John 17.

O, give Thou me the succor of Thy Spirit! Psalm 119.

Then the love of God will be spread abroad in my heart! Romans 5:5.

Then, then I shall be kind to my fellows! I Cor. 13:4.

But there is more.

Love envieth not!

Envy is the capacity to burn, to be hot in the pursuit of someone or something. It is used in God’s Word for both good and evil endeavor.

Here it is the foul fruit of hatred.

Envy is the hatred of the natural man over against his neighbor, either in prosperity or adversity.

When the brother prospereth, envy is not to be consoled. It gnaws its heart out in the beholding of success of the neighbor: it should not happen to him. An envious soul cannot see the prosperity of his fellows. All the good things that he hath ought to be mine! All the success he hath should be mine! I cannot see that my brother fares well.

It is already evident among us as children.

When the little girl is oh so glad with her new dress, and hastens to school to show it and to wait, eagerly wait for the glad and appreciative response, envy rears its ugly head even when we are small. The dress does not exist! We have not seen it! And when the poor little girl will exceed in boldness and call attention to the boon which made her so happy, the others will spurn and turn away.

Instead of kindness there was envy.

And another little heart is hurt.

Multiply this in the millions, and apply it to all of us in all circumstances, and you will have discovered a world of suffering.

Our dress, our goods, our person, our children, our all—it is good, praiseworthy, glorious! But the other? It should not be; it should not happen. I, capital I, must be glorious in my little heaven. It is the age-old sin: we are our own little god, and there must not, there dare not, be any god than we!

Oh, the foul plant of envy!

And all this is but negative language. Instead of envious we should have love. Love is not envious, saith Paul.

Translate it into its opposite, and what have you?

This: you will rejoice with those that do rejoice, and you will weep with those that weep. Such is love!

If someone approaches you, overflowing with happiness for this and that, and such and so, and when every word tells you of all this delirious happiness that is their portion—then love tells you what to do from the heart: you will say: Your heaven is my heaven! I am sincerely glad with you. The one smile engendered two smiles. The one heart that burst with glee found its counterpart. Such is the nature of love!

Oh, that we would emulate it!

When you are in heaven, and time is ended; when you begin your eternal song, you may be certain that God will smile at all this joy and happiness! Notice: you will enter into the joy of your Lord!

Love, moreover, vaunteth not itself!

He that vaunteth himself is the notorious braggart, the vainglorious fool!

And I would beg of you not to search too far for this boaster of evil things. He is very near to every one of us.

It is found in the wicked heart of man.

We went to school with the devil.

Of Antichrist it is said that he spoke great things. Worthy son of the devil. He must have spoken great things too, on the morning of creation. The devil, when he was still an angel, also sang for joy when God completed His work of the creation of men and the hosts of the earth. But later he spoke great things against the Almighty and to the angels that were under him. And they listened to him. The result? A veritable host of wicked demons that speaks great things against God and His Anointed.

And he taught men.

So that all men speak wicked things against God.

Jude the apostle, wrote of them. Listen: “and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him!” Here you have the braggarts!

A man that vaunteth himself is always blowing his own trumpet. He has much to say of himself.

And over against it, there is only one seemly behavior; we should never vaunt ourselves, but we should grow very still. And even then we should not trust our mouths: we should lay our hands on our mouths! It will happen in the day of days. “That every mouth may be stopped!” When God shows Himself, no one will dare to vaunt himself anymore.

And love is not puffed up!

To puff one’s self up is a necessary corollary to all vaunting. I may be found out in my boasting. So I will make myself greater than I really am.

I will tell you what love does. She has learned from the lowly Jesus to be humble and quiet!

O God! be merciful to us the sinners! And give us Thy love!