The Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness

Ephesians 2:4-7

 

Intro:  7 ages of a married cold

 

Each year on the fourth Saturday in October is National Make a Difference Day.  Each year, tens of thousands participate in large ways and small, coming up with ways to touch the lives of others in a positive way.  Large corporations and little children participate, some involving thousands of dollars and people, others, just the compassion of one person for another.  Here was the ideal of one 11-year old Ryan Rigney of Manchester, TN, who used his Christmas money to purchase 100 pairs of socks.  With his parents he took those socks down to the Nashville Union Mission, an hour from their home, where he gave out his hundred pairs of socks to homeless men who humbly and graciously accepted his gifts.  Ryan later said, “It sure makes you feel good when you know that, no matter how big or small you are, or what you do for someone less fortunate than yourself, you can make a difference.”

 

What a powerful illustration of such a simple quality – so simple, we hesitate to preach on it.  Kindness is just one of those qualities we assume in most people and expect to find in Christians.  There are so many kind people, it would seem we would hardly need to dwell on it.  Within the simplicity, though, there are some profoundly important characteristics we want to notice and emphasize.

 

These Christlike qualities in Gal. 5:22, the fruit of HS are far more than human virtues.  This kindness is fundamentally different than the humanitarian quality of kindness.

 

It is confusing and misleading – you look around in world and see many good, kind people.  (And truth be told – the world equates kindness and being a Christian… “sweet Christian lady” = nice)

 

I have wonderfully kind neighbors.  Every day my life is touched by numerous displays of kindness from worldly people.  I thank God that he created within humans a natural tendency toward kindness.

 

But there are limitations to humanitarian kindness.  It is still human in its motivation and focus. My natural inclination to kindness and pleasantness remains intact as long as I feel like being kind.  Its source is me – it is as deep as I let it be and dries up the moment I feel otherwise.  My natural kindness extends to whom I want to extend it.  That, of course, will be those I like, and those who like me.  If we don’t have a reciprocal relationship, don’t expect much out of my human kindness – it doesn’t last long on a one-way street.

 

But the kindness produced by the HS is from a different source.  It is not a natural trait, but a supernatural trait.  It’s source and motivation is not me and is not from my power and goodness that it is sustained.  Its source is the Holy Spirit.  Its motivation is God.  Long after my natural kindness would have shut down, this fruit of the Spirit still displays a gentle, loving compassion toward the folks around me regardless of their attitude or response.  Not because I feel like it, but because of the kindness that God displays toward me, and because I am allowing the Spirit to control my temperament, not myself - Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (Col. 3:12).   Not merely a self-induced virtue which we switch off and on, but a nature with which we are clothed.  It becomes integral to my character and personality.

 

The extent of this kindness is so much broader.  We might naturally be kind to a great many people, but there are natural limitations.  Kindness inspired by Christ goes beyond those limitations to be kind to those who are helpless and pathetic – even to our enemiesBut 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 sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (Luke 6:3)  Do you hear that? Kindness extends beyond those who can repay you, it extends to those who are ungrateful and unkind to you.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:20 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

 

My human side has a real problem with that.  When I help someone with food, I want him to be grateful.  Help buy a bus ticket, I want him to be thankful.  When I go out of my way to do some act of kindness to a needy family, I want them to be appreciative.

 

But Jesus says that isn’t how it works.  We aren’t just kind to those who are kind in return, and who respond like we want them to.  We are kind even when it costs us something, even when it hurts, even when there is no thanks in return.

 

The world is kind when it benefits from its goodwill.  But the Christian is kind regardless of the deservedness or response.  This kindness is different in both motivation and focus.

 

The second emphasis compels us to see kindness as a tool in reaching others for Christ.  Not ulterior motives – we aren’t kind only to those we think will respond positively.

 

But clearly in the NT, when we are challenged to display the qualities of Christ, it is so that we might be equipped to carry out his mission of seeking and saving the lost – to extend the kingdom of God into the lives of others.

 

And so kindness is not an end in itself, but a doorway through which we might enter into another person’s life, to bring them an even greater kindness – not just the kindly acts of another human, but the kindness and mercy of God himself.

 

In the days of the Colorado gold rush, thousands of men flocked to the mountains searching for their fortunes by mining for gold, dreaming of striking that elusive mother lode.  Two of those miners, working together found it.  They knew that if anybody else found out about it, their claim would soon be overrun by others trying to cash in on their fortune, so they swore each other to secrecy.  They had to make a trip to the nearest mining town for supplies and to have their gold tested.  While one went to the assayers office the other went to the general store, then they both went to the saloon for dinner and to clean up.  As they headed back out of town they were followed by half the population of the little town.  Both looked at each other and started accusing the other of saying something – both swore they hadn’t said a word.  They stopped the wagon, walked back to the followers and demanded to know which one had said something.  They said, you didn’t have to say anything – we could see it in your faces.

 

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if that was how our kindness affected people?  That without a word, they would sense there is something different going on in our lives because of the way we live.  That they would be impressed by our kindness in such a way that we, like the miners, would lead them to a treasure beyond their initial expectations.  They expect human kindness, but we lead them to the kindness of God.

 

Jim was an elder of a church in California.  Their community had a huge influx of Vietnamese refugees and Jim took it upon himself to start ministering and serving those people.  He didn’t speak any Vietnamese, but had a heart for people.  Jim met one of those refugees named Sun Lee and his family whom he helped with food and finding Sun Lee a good job.  Jim wanted to tell his new friend about Jesus Christ but couldn’t communicate without learning his language, so Jim began learning Vietnamese and Sun Lee began learning English.  Finally, Jim felt like he knew enough to tell Sun Lee about Jesus, but as he began he just didn’t have the vocabulary and became more and more frustrated.  Sun Lee stopped him and asked, “Is your God like you?  If he is, I want to know him.”  Jim explained that Jesus is greater, far greater.  Yet Sun Lee wanted to know more about Jesus if he was like Jim.  It wasn’t through his words, but through his life – his kindness and compassion – that he communicated Jesus.

 

By the same token, unkindness, lack of compassion and disrespect close doors to the kingdom by the way you treat people.  You may have all the correct doctrine and biblical knowledge in the world, yet it falls on the deaf ears of those who have been poisoned by your thoughtless lack of kindness.

 

God’s ultimate kindness isn’t expressed fully in our feeble attempts, and if we stop with our own expressions of kindness then we have shortchanged the people with whom we come in contact.

 

God’s ultimate expression of kindness was in his son – And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:6-7)

 

We are the display, the living object lesson of his kindness.  We are the most powerful sermon God can preach, because we can tell what God has done in our lives.

We have been given an incredible gift – the greatest unkindness would be to keep it to ourselves.

 

Third emphasis – causes us to look at kindness from a more complete standpoint.  We tend to think of kindness in a passive role.  We equate it with gentleness and mercy (both important qualities themselves.)  But we tend to define it as a kind of quality that stands back and lets others do as they wish.

 

But when we look at the kindness of God, we see that there is a counter-side which compels us to respond to him.

Rom 2:4  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? – kindness has a purpose – to lead to respond

Rom 11:22  Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.  There is a flipside to kindness – the sternness which is God’s response to those who fail to respond to his kindness – it’s not contradictory, but both are out of his deep love and desire for best.

 

Kindness sometimes calls us to put aside the smiles and the passive words of sweetness and tolerance, to warn of a hidden danger.  That’s the kind of action God demands of a brother or sister in the Lord.  If I see my brother living in a sin that will mean his ultimate spiritual death, which is the greatest kindness?  To hold my tongue and keep my peace, knowing the ultimate outcome of his sin, but not wanting to upset him or hurt our friendship?  Or would I not be expressing an even greater kindness by confronting him with his sin and bringing him back to the Lord? 

Paul – 2 Cor 5:11 “Knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade men.”

James – James 5:19-20 “Whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his ways covers over a multitude of sins”

 

It would be so much easier to be sweet and easygoing and let people do as they want – but sometimes God calls us to be kind – even when it hurts.  And it is painful to confront sin.  How great an unkindness if I fail to do what is the very best for the person for fear of hurting his feelings.

 

God’s kindness spanned our sin and demanded our response  - Titus 3:3-5 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

 

If you are living outside of Christ, you might think it a great kindness to leave you alone and let you live as you want.  That is not God’s definition of kindness.  We look in the pages of the Bible and know that God’s wrath will be a terrible thing to face on the day of judgment.  God wants to share his kindness and mercy with you – and he extends it through his son.  The greatest kindness I could extend to you this morning would be to compel you to respond to the gospel of Christ.

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