Monday, August 8, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Kindness - Galatians 5:22

I gotta admit, being a pastor has some real perks.  Yep, now that I'm a pastor I'm evidently kind of a big deal.  People treat me differently.  For example, when I go to a restaurant...well that's not a good example.  But other places when there is a long line, people often see me and...well, nothing.  Or they often want me to, you know...well, they could.  I'll tell you one thing that does happen to me and it happens almost every week.  God often gives me a personal illustration about what He wants me to preach.  I'll count that as a perk. 
It's been very obvious as I have gone through the fruit of the Spirit.  Maybe I'm just more aware of it sometimes but I know at other times God really shows me, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, what it really means to have love, joy, peace or patience.  And this week He taught me some things I didn't realize about kindness. 

As we make our way through the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 we come to the word "kindness".  A brief recap could include the fact that everybody wants more love, joy and peace, nobody wants patience and nobody thinks kindness is all that important in the scheme of things.  But like so many other things, you don't miss it until you need it. 

I had the opportunity this week to visit several different businesses, not around here, and was surprised by how I was treated.  Maybe I should have told them I was a pastor and then I surely would have gotten some respect!  In every situation I asked to speak to a supervisor and if I was able to talk to a supervisor they treated me rudely as well.  Needless to say, these places will never see me or my money again. 

I went home thinking about why it bothered me so bad for them to not be kind.  I realized that their lack of kindness made me not feel very important.  I was obviously just another number, just someone who was taking up their time.  One of them had to get off the phone with her boyfriend as I walked up so you know that didn't go well.  We will talk about kindness and I have some thoughts on it but I mainly want to know what the Bible says about it so first let's read that passage again. 

Galatians 5:22
As usual, the dictionary is not very helpful in really understanding what it means to be kind.  1. having a friendly or generous nature or attitude 2. helpful to others or to another: a kind deed 3. considerate or humane 4. cordial; courteous .  We can all understand that but it's not very informative or motivational.  Here's my own definition.  Kindness is love put to work.  We all say in grand and lofty tones that we love everybody.  Do you?  It's time to put your kindness where your mouth is.
You can say you love someone and I have to just believe you.  I can't prove that you do or don't love someone.  But kindness can be proved.  Kindness will be seen or heard.  The Bible is full of good examples of kindness and few negative examples as well.  Let's look at, who else, my friend David.  Turn to II Samuel 9:1-7.
"Don't be afraid..." says David.  Why?  Because Phib had a lot to be afraid of.  In that day it was common for the incoming king to kill all of the previous king's family so that none of them could ever revolt and try to be king.  I'm sure Phib thought he was going to be killed here so he had plenty to be afraid of.  But David accepts him into his household like his own family.
The question is, why? Why would David do this?  What could possibly be in it for him?  The answer is he brought Mephibosheth into his home because he promised Jonathan years ago that he would always be kind to Jonathan's family.  He loved Jonathan and proved it, even after Jonathan was dead, by his kindness to Phib.  Love put to work.  When there was absolutely nothing in it for David he was kind.  And how do you think that made Phib feel?
Most of you know my parents.  Most of you would agree that they are kind people.  But did you know that my mother knows quite a bit about cars and trains?  Growing up, I loved cars.  I loved fast cars and big cars and pretty cars that made a lot of noise.  I loved everything about them and I always had some piece of junk project car out in the driveway that just needed a few things to make it run.  I would be out there working on it and Mom would come out there and ask me questions about what I was doing and then she would just listen to me rattle on, dreaming mainly about what this car might do some day or how I could make it faster.  How if I had just a little more money I could put a bigger carburetor on it or louder pipes or bigger wheels.  It always impressed me that she would listen to me ramble on about something that there was no way she could be interested in.  Not long ago I went over to their house and heard my great-nephew Tristan telling his Grannie about trains.  Why some of them have a certain number of wheels and some of them are coal-powered and some are diesel.  And she knew the names of them.  She knew what certain cars were for and why some of them had certain features.  See, I know that my Mama loves me and Tristan knows that his Grannie loves him because she has proved it by being kind enough to listen.  By just listening.  Even when she would otherwise have no interest.  That is kindness.  That is love put to work.  And how do you think that makes Tristan and me feel?
There are other reasons to be kind to people.  Even if you are not concerned about how it makes other people feel, you might want to be kind because God commands it and when we are obedient in that then there are rewards.  If it's not enough to read it in Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in the life of a believer, listen to what Jesus says in Luke 6:35, "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
Also, Proverbs 25:21, "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you."
One of my favorite parables is of the Good Samaritan.  I think he would be better labeled the Kind Samaritan.  We will talk about goodness next week and while they are related there is a difference.  I don't know how good this Samaritan was but I can clearly see that he was kind.  You know the story.  Some guy gets robbed and left for dead on the side of the road  Some "religious" people walk by but nobody helps.  He lays there bleeding and would have died if not for this Samaritan.  We often have good excuses why we don't show kindness to someone. 
If I stop to get involved, I’ll be late for work.
 I can’t give because we have made a commitment to get out of debt.                                            If I say something nice, then my friends will make fun of me.
The priest and the Levite in this story didn't do anything to make it worse.  They didn't kick the guy or spit on him.  They were busy.  They justified not helping because it would have made them unclean or they were overwhelmed with the other good things they were doing.  Or, or, or...
But the Samaritan helped.  He put his love into action and even when there was no way he would ever get repaid or the acknowledgement he deserved.  He left before the man could even thank him.  And how do you think that made the man feel when he woke up and realized that someone had taken care of him?
I looked online for some examples of kindness and immediately came across the movement to do "Random Acts of Kindness".  As a response to random acts of violence some people started doing random acts of kindness such as getting on a subway and giving out free food.  One group was on a college campus giving out free hugs!  And there is nothing really wrong with that but I can tell you I don't want food or hugs handed out by some stranger.
I have a better idea.  Instead of doing random acts of kindness, let's make our acts of kindness intentional.  Let's be kind for a reason.  You see, there is no testimony, no sermon, no lecture as powerful as an act of kindness to draw people to Jesus Christ.  I've mentioned before that these fruit of the Spirit, when manifested in our lives, make us more attractive and there are none more attractive to an unbeliever than true Godly kindness.
You can say you have love, joy, or peace but when you prove you love someone by being kind, especially when there is no way they can repay you, that is attractive.  That will draw people to Jesus and that is the answer to their problems.  So I am going to challenge you this week to be intentionally kind.  As you go to work or school or the gym or whatever you do and you see the opportunity to be kind, do so with Kingdom focus.  I say don't even invite them to our church.  If we increase our Kingdom focus, in bringing people into the Kingdom of God, then God will take care of the church.
This week be kind and tell the person that Jesus loves them.  Don't just say God loves them because "God" can mean a lot of different things to people.  Be bold and tell them that Jesus loves them and because He loves them you do too.  You know what is going to happen?  The first thing that is going to happen is that person is going to think you are some kind of freak.  And that's ok because later they are going to think that Jesus freak sure was kind to me.  And he said Jesus loved me.  I need somebody to love me as I am going through these difficult times.  I'm going to find out about this Jesus.  As it says in Romans 2: 4, "God's kindness leads you to repentance."
I have one last thought to close out.  And I need my steel toed boots on for this one because this is hard for me to do sometime and that is if somebody wants to do something kind for you, let them. 
I read this story this past week about Tony Campolo.  Tony Campolo tells about an incident that happened to him on his way into work. Walking the sidewalk pathways of downtown, Tony would often pass by a number of homeless and transient people. From time to time, they would make requests for money; generally, he ignored them.
One day a bag lady, whom he had seen before in his mad dash to get from point A to B, shuffled out of a donut shop with a steaming hot cup of coffee. Their eyes met and Tony forced a smile. Putting down her coat and bags she called out, “Hey mister, would you like a sip of my coffee?”
Now if you were Tony how would you respond? Keep walking and ignore her? That’s what Tony did, or at least he started to. A half a block away, he turned back around and said, “Hey lady! Yes, yes I would like a taste of your coffee.” She held out the cup with her dirty hand; he took the cup and swallowed what had to be the most delicious cup of coffee he had tasted in a long time.
“Isn’t it good,” she said.
“Yes it IS GOOD! and thank you. By the way, why did you offer me your coffee?”
“Because it was so good, I thought someone might like to share it with me and enjoy it too.”
Well I can testify to the fact that God has been kind to me and I would like to share Him with you so you can enjoy Him as well.  I would like to tell you about the release of guilt that comes with a relationship with God through His Son Jesus.  I want to tell you about the peace and joy that you, yes you, can have when you agree with God that you have done things in the past that have displeased Him.  He calls that sin.  But when you accept Him into your life by grace and through faith and let Him be Lord of your life, not because you are good enough or because you have done lots of kind things but only through His death and resurrection was the debt of sin paid and you too can live with Him and all believers in Heaven.

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