Love Is Kind

χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη (I Corinthians 13:4)

“Love is kind.” (I Corinthians 13:4)

ἀγάπη is translated as “love.”

χρηστεύεται is translated as “kind.”

χρηστεύεται is an interesting word. In the Bible, its translation as “kind” is based on context. The word means “useful,” or “useable.” And, to be more specific, this isn’t “useful” in the sense of, “He’s useful – he can be manipulated.” It’s the word “useful” in the sense of “beneficial.” When you’re making a pot of soup, a spoon to stir it with would be useful and beneficial. So, Paul describes love as useful and beneficial. You may wonder, “How did the English translators get “love is kind” out of the word for “useful?”

Highlighted excerpt of I Corinthians 13:4

This is where we must consider context. Context can completely change meaning. For example, if a woman is running at ten miles per hour, we say, “She is running fast.” On the other hand, if a man is driving a car at ten miles per hour, we say, “He is driving slow.” Before we can say whether ten miles per hour is fast or slow, we must be clear about the context.

When Paul says that love is χρηστεύεται, “kind,” we must understand useful and beneficial in the context of love.

Paul is telling us that love isn’t some intangible concept, like “hot” or “cold.”

It isn’t just some philosophical concept, like “virtue” or “honesty.”

Love actually has an effect – it changes things. Love is useful; it’s beneficial.

Paul is explaining that, if you love your neighbor, you don’t just feel some warm, fuzzy emotion toward him or her. Love causes you to do things for that person (or group of people) that are genuinely useful in the beneficial sense.

The Apostle James, speaking about faith, explained the idea this way:  “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.”

James’ example of faith in action is Paul’s definition of love being kind.

Your faith in God, and your love for the people God created, are closely tied together.

–Bob Young

Books by Bob Young

A Slow-Learned Lesson

We are all broken. To one degree or another, the best among us are broken. We’re all in need of some sort of healing, or growing. We all need to be restored, to be put back together.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about brokenness and restoration. Now I’d like to share something with you, something that I’ve only learned through the long, slow, arduous process of repeated breaking and healing.

It is this.

The magnitude of my suffering has never been in proportion to the magnitude of my misfortune. Instead, the magnitude of my suffering has always been proportional to my brokenness.

Hatred, discouragement, bitterness, selfishness, greed, lack of faith, an unwillingness to forgive – these are some of the attributes of brokenness.

These things magnify, ten-fold and a hundred-fold, the effects of misfortune. Misfortune may be an illness, an automobile accident, a house-rending tornado. All of these things are more devastating if you’re broken.

Sometimes our brokenness is a direct contributor to our misfortune. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, and our brokenness leads to crippling debt, a loveless marriage, a painful betrayal, a messy divorce, or cirrhosis of the liver.

In every case – whether we contribute to our misfortune, or whether it’s caused by circumstances we can’t control – in every case, our degree of brokenness affects both our level of pain and our ability to recover.

Enter God.

I’m going to ask you to do something very hard. I hope you’ll try it.

Instead of appealing to God about your suffering, appeal to him about your brokenness. It is here, in the healing of your brokenness, that your suffering will begin to diminish.

You can approach him again, later, about the suffering. You’ll know when it’s time.

Meanwhile, God can do things in you that you cannot do. He wants to. Why not let him?

–Bob Young

Books by Bob Young

The Cup That Jesus Drinks

Convincing the church to sell Christianity as a way to achieve benefit, rather than offering Christianity as a way to be a benefit to others, is Satan’s most insidious deception.

Jesus did not die just for you – he died for everyone. Jesus invites you to participate in his death and resurrection. Baptism and Communion aren’t symbols of receiving a crown, being seated on a throne, and being given a mansion. Baptism and Communion are symbols of Suffering, Sacrifice, and Service. They are symbols of our participation with Jesus in the redemption of a world of people who are lost, and dying, and broken.

“I am crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20)

“Buried with Christ in Baptism…” (Romans 6:4)

“Are you able to drink from this cup I drink?” (Matthew 20:22)

“Drink of it, all of you.” (Matthew 26:27)

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Being a servant – that is, following Jesus – isn’t popular or comfortable. Following Jesus won’t make you one of the Cool Kids. To be sure, following Jesus has its blessings, but they are the blessings of satisfaction, not the blessings of luxury. They are the blessings that come from hard work, not the blessings that come from relaxing. Following Jesus is work, then rest – not rest, and more rest. Jesus will reward you richly – but first, following him will cost you everything.

Are you ready for this kind of Christianity?

–Bob Young

Books by Bob Young


How Do You Know Jesus?

I was having a conversation with a very close friend this week. He’s going through a tough time in his life. He has been close to God, in the past, but… not right now, not so much. He asked me a question, and I said, “Well, I know you don’t want to hear my real answer – because you know that my real answer would come out of my religion. But, I can still give you a practical answer. Do you know what he said?

He said, “Actually, I do want you to tell me your real answer. Give me your religious answer. I knew when I asked you that it would be a religious answer, and it’s what I want from you.”

This made my heart leap for joy, of course. Not because I got to express my deepest beliefs, but because I genuinely think that in this answer, my friend will find his greatest peace.

We talked for quite awhile. The conversation was great. Our relationship, which was already solid, was strengthened. Near the end, as we were winding down on the phone and getting ready to end the call, he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

This reminded me of a parable that Jesus told. Can you think which one? Yes, of course. It’s the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew chapter 25. Jesus told a story about a rich man who was going on a journey. Before he left, he called three of his servants into the room and spoke with them. He gave one of them five talents. This was a measure of silver, used as money. Five talents was a lot of money. He gave the second servant two talents, and to the third servant the rich man gave one talent of silver. He told them to invest the money while he was gone, and see if they could make a profit. The third servant took his one talent and – well – I’ll let him tell it.

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” (Matthew 25:24-25)

It’s a great parable. We see here that different people know Jesus in different ways. Kind of like my friend and I, when he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

So, I’m curious. How do you know Jesus?

Well, I have the keyboard right now, so I’ll go first.

I know him to be stronger than I have been able to imagine. He is more patient with me than I deserve. His thought aren’t my thoughts, and his ways aren’t my ways, but when I do things his way, my life is better. I have never been able to drive him away, but he’ll keep at a distance if I demand it of him. Then, when I’m ready (finally ready!), he draws close again. He is able to change my heart. He is able to change my mind. He is able to change my attitude. He is able to make me able to forgive those who have hurt me the most. He is able to urge me on when I want to quit. He helps me stand when I’ve fallen, and helps me run when I can only stagger. I am best when I am his, and worst when I am my own.

Would you like to know Jesus like this? It’s easier than you might think, yet harder than anything you’ve ever done. Here is how to know Jesus better. Close your eyes (just kidding, it doesn’t matter!), and say something like, “God, I’m ready to know you as you really are. I don’t know how to meet you, so it’s up to you, but now would be a good time. I’m ready for you, Father.”

Will you do me this kindness? When you meet him, schedule a time with me to tell me about it. Thanks. I’m praying for you, Friend. If you’re reading this, I’m praying for you.

–Bob Young


How To Keep Going When You Can’t Keep Going

I will not give you a trite answer. There are plenty of those, you know, and I’m sure you’ve heard them. “Suck it up.” “It could be worse.” “Look on the bright side.” “One day at a time.” “You’re an inspiration.” “Be thankful for what you’ve got.” “Pray about it and ask God to help.” To be completely honest, there’s nothing wrong with any of those answers. They’re all true enough. And yet, in the middle of your hardest battle, they seem cliché.

So, here is my attempt to give you an actionable plan for moving forward when everything is pushing you back. There are three things you must have, and three steps you can take.

To begin, here are the three things you must have:

  1. You must have Purpose
  2. You must have Hope
  3. You must have Relationships

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of them. What are these things, really, and how do we get them? At the end of each of the three items, you’ll find an action step.

Jesus showed us the way.

1. You must have Purpose.

Jesus told us about his purpose.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

(John 10:10, ESV)

Jesus came, knowing that he was going to suffer and die for others. And yet, to paraphrase a current slogan, “He persisted.” Purpose. It was his purpose that motivated him to continue, even when he had no place to lay his head, even when entire towns rejected his message, even when betrayed by one friend and deserted by other friends. It was Jesus’ purpose that kept him going.

Your purpose must be large enough to outweigh your suffering.

ACTION STEP: Ask yourself, “Have I chosen a purpose for my life, and committed myself to it without reservation?”

2. You must have Hope.

Jesus saw beyond today’s troubles.

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

(Luke 23:43, ESV)

Hope in the future unmasks the present’s true nature: it is transient. This is not the end. Your suffering isn’t eternal.

During a message one day I asked the listeners to raise their hand if they met any of the following conditions in the last five years: divorce, bankruptcy, unemployment, serious illness, death of a loved one, and so forth. Nearly everyone in the room had experienced one or more of those tragedies.

I said, “I want you to think of your darkest day. As you went through that trial, remember the darkest day. Now, raise your hand if life has gotten better.”

Almost everyone raised a hand.

Friend, do you see? Satan wants you to believe that life will never get better. Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s crisis. And it will be that way the next day, and the next, and the next… But the reality is that our hope in a better future is justified.

Admittedly, you may be facing a long, long trial. There may be no cure for the illness. You may be caring for someone with autism. Maybe you lost a limb in a war. This is for life. There is no five year mark on the calendar, where you can say, “This is the day my trouble ends.”

That’s why we need to understand God’s timeline. Even when the trial is certain to last until death, we can still have hope. I will say it again: hope in the future unmasks the present’s true nature: it is transient. This is not the end. Your suffering isn’t eternal.

ACTION STEP: Look beyond the trial, no matter how long it may be scheduled to last, and see your brighter, and certain, future.

3. You must have Relationships

When I was a little boy, still in elementary school, I asked my dad (who was a minister), “Dad, why did God make us? I mean, I know God created us, but – why?”

Dad replied, “For fellowship. God created us for fellowship with him.”

This answer made no sense to me. Remember, I was still a schoolboy. But I never forgot Dad’s answer, and years later, I finally understood it.

Here are some of the things Jesus said to his disciples on the night of his betrayal:

“Rise, let us go.” (John 14:31)

“No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15)

“Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)

What made this night bearable for Jesus? Was it entirely the strength he received from God? There is that, and I won’t minimize it. In the end, of course, God the Father was the only one who remained. And that, too, is a testament to relationship. But I also won’t minimize the importance of Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. He needed them that night. In the end, they disappointed him – but Jesus demonstrated the value of relationships in the midst of suffering.

We can endure much, much more when we go through life’s trials together. It is beyond the power of mathematics to explain this spiritual truth:

A load shared by two weighs one quarter of a load carried by one.

ACTION STEP: In your struggle, may I give you some advice? Don’t neglect relationships, and don’t use your suffering as an excuse for bad behavior.

Purpose. Hope. Relationships. With these three things, you will survive, and thrive.

–Bob Young

If you found this helpful, may I suggest buying one of my books?
Books by Bob Young

How A Prayer Is Formed

There’s a Starbucks about halfway between the hotel where I’m staying and the Technical Training Center where I’m teaching network security to the IT group from a power company. I stop here every morning for a hot breakfast sandwich and a 16 ounce vanilla latte. Today is the third day.

Every morning, I’ve seen this one unsmiling barista. I don’t know how she stays employed, really. The other baristas are all cheerful. In fact, one of them just started spontaneously whistling along with the in-store music for a moment as I’m writing this.

Yesterday, the unsmiling barista was the one who took my order. She didn’t greet me, she didn’t make eye contact. She just did her job. Going through the motions.

Today, a different barista took my order, and was exhibiting that cheerfulness that one is accustomed to in coffee shops everywhere. I sat down at a table while waiting for my food and coffee to be ready, and watched.

The unsmiling barista, head down, moved about behind the counter. Busy. Dilligent. Efficient. Her appearance, other than her deep sadness, is unremarkable. If she’s single, she’ll have no trouble attracting a lover, but at the same time, she has probably never considered herself beautiful. She is, of course. To someone, she is, or will be, the most beautiful woman in the world. Even then, she may doubt it.

I couldn’t distract myself from her sadness. So, while waiting for my food, sitting there, I prayed for her.

“Father, let me see her smile this week.”

But the prayer was wrong, and the Holy Spirit beckoned me to try again.

“Father, make her truly happy.”

But, no, that wasn’t it. The Holy Spirit urged me to continue.

“Father, heal her pain.”

There. That was the prayer God was waiting for.

And she will be healed. Whether soon or long, I do not know, but God assured me then that she will, indeed, be restored.

Whatever deep sadness she now endures will one day be resolved. The circumstances may not change. History cannot be undone. But she will rise. And when she does, she will have a fulfilling present, and hope for the future will return.

Friend, when you pray for someone, pray until you receive that peace from God that indicates you have prayed his heart.

–Bob Young

Ask Bob #94: Is It Okay To Harden Your Heart?

Today’s Question: A friend asked me, “Bob, is it okay to harden your heart?”

My Answer: Now, that’s a fascinating question – thanks for asking! The answer, as you might expect, has a few layers to it. Let’s start by taking a look at some biblical examples.

Example #1 – God hardened Pharaoh’s heart

The first passage we’ll look at is found in the Old Testament, in the story of Moses and the Exodus:

“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.”
(Exodus 9:12, NIV)

Well, that’s interesting! I mean, after all, if God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, then it must be okay that his heart was hard, right? But of course, we know that’s not true. It was a most unfortunate circumstance that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened after each of the first nine plagues. I don’t remember who said it, so I can’t give him or her the appropriate credit, but I remember hearing this profound statement: “The same sun that softens wax hardens clay.” God was just being God. He knew that his actions would result in a hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, but ultimately, that hardening was a result of Pharaoh’s own nature. Someone else may see God’s activity and find their heart warmed and softened in his presence. But not Pharaoh.

Example 2 – An example of God having a hardened heart

In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter quotes from King David in Psalm 34:

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(I Peter 3:12, NIV)

In this passage, which has the affirmation of both King David and Peter, we are told that God sets his face against some people. So then – if it’s okay for God to have a hard heart, then it must be okay for us to have a hard heart, too, right? Well, not so fast; there’s more to consider before we come to a final conclusion.

Example 3 – Court judges are to have a certain hardness of heart

In a rather famous Old Testament passage that prescribes the death penalty for murderers, we find these words given to court judges:

“Show no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.”
(Deuteronomy 19:13, NIV)

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. There are circumstances that call for justice, not mercy; for punishment, not a free pass. There is a time to balance the scale, to right the wrong, to defend the weak, to stop the tormentor.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that one of the most important wisdom passages in the entire Bible is found in the writings of Solomon, in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything.”

Relevant to our question here are the following excerpts:
a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to love and a time to hate
a time for war and a time for peace

So, Friend, to answer your question: Yes. There are times when it’s okay, even wise, to harden your heart. There are times when you must set your preference for mercy aside. There are times when you must demand, or administer, justice.

But wait – there’s more to consider…

I wish I knew why you asked your question. It would help me to answer you clearly if I knew what prompted you to ask. Because, you see, the passage I referenced from Ecclesiastes says there’s a time to hate, yes – but it also says there’s a time to love. There is a time to kill, yes – but there is also a time to heal.

May I suggest a more accurate question? One that is, in fact, a much more difficult question? With your permission assumed, here is the harder question:

When is it okay to harden your heart?

Ah. There’s the rub. This is what you’re really after, isn’t it? You have been hurt. Betrayed. Misled. Lied to. Deceived. Hit, battered, bruised, and broken. Your trust has been held in another’s hands, and those hands have cast your trust, forcefully and heartlessly, to the ground, where your trust, and your very heart, now lay shattered and broken.

And all your life, in every church, you have been told that Jesus said you are to forgive. Not once, not twice, not even three or seven times – but over and over again.

I’m going to try, with one sentence, to set you free from your dilemma. Here it is. Here’s my declaration of your freedom:

Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing.

Do you see? You never have to trust the betrayer again. You see them now, and you understand: they are not trustworthy. You can forgive, without going back. You don’t ever have to enter that room again. You don’t ever have to walk that path again. There is a fork in the road, and from this point forward, you and the Harmer will not be walking on the same path.

There’s one more concept you need to grasp, by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, so that you can be as powerful as God intends you to be:

A hard heart does not rule out forgiveness.

Dwell on this. Meditate on it for a while. Do you see? You can forgive, and still have the judge’s hard heart. You can still demand justice. You can still testify to the truth. And yet, even while requiring justice, your heart can hold forgiveness. Not trust. Forgiveness.


Pharaoh’s hard heart is wrong. Pharaoh is willing to hate others, to use others.

The judge’s hard heart is right. The judge is willing to restrain evil and protect the innocent.

Jesus is both Judge and Savior. He is our example of the perfect combination of a hard heart and a forgiving heart.

–Bob Young

Books by Bob Young

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