August 11, 2013

Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:3;

1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Luke 6:35; Colossians 3:12

How would you finish this sentence – Be kind to…

Would you answer be people, your neighbor, everybody?  I often heard the phrase be kind to animals.  You can, I believe, discover a lot about a person by the way the treat animals.

Twice in recent weeks I’ve been in an interesting traffic situation.  Cutting across from Shelbyville Road to go to Baptist East via Bowling Boulevard there is a pond and a marsh area.  There’s a group of geese always gathered there and occasionally they decide to cross the road.

A couple of weeks ago a large group of them walked into the road and all the cars stopped.  Of course, I had to take a picture (by the way, I was not moving when the picture was taken.  I don’t take pictures or text while driving.  I like the bumper sticker that says honk if you love Jesus; text while driving if you want to meet him).  Most of the drivers were very patient, but as the geese decided to stop in the middle of the road and just stand there, one driver started honking his horn.  That doesn’t work for geese.  Why?  Because geese honk!  They just start looking around and wondering which one of us is honking.  It took a while before traffic could get moving again and I think everyone actually enjoyed watching the antics of those geese.

A couple of days ago, I was driving the same route and a flock of geese decided to step into the road again.  This time, someone driving a pickup truck was not so kind.  He sped up, laid on his horn, and just about ran down the entire flock.  It was really an unkind action.

As we continue our series of messages Nurturing A Healthy Heart, today we come to kindness.

Kindness seems very simple, doesn’t it?  Be kind to animals.  When a flock of geese is trying to cross the road, let them cross.  When a person needs help across the road, help them out.  Hold the door for someone who has their arms full.  Speak to people with kindness.

That’s how we generally view kindness, isn’t it?  And all those actions, and many more, are indeed examples of kindness.  But as we talk about kindness this morning, we will see that in the Biblical sense, kindness is a far deeper matter than how we generally conceive it to be.  Kindness, in the Biblical sense, is much more profound than just helping someone across the street or holding open a door.  As we will see, kindness is very deep, very profound, and, most of all, very challenging.

Scripturally, kindness is a synonym for other things, and I have selected several passages of Scripture this morning that define kindness for us.

Kindness leads to forgiveness.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I don’t think that Paul just casually put those particular words together.  I don’t think that as he wrote he was thinking, oh this sounds good together – be kind, be tenderhearted, forgive one another.  That’s a nice string of things to say.  Paul puts those words together, I believe, for a very specific reason – he does so because Christian kindness brings about forgiveness.

There are stories often in the news about people forgiving others, even when a horrendous crime has taken place.  There are stories of people forgiving the person who murdered a loved one and other amazing stories of forgiveness.  And I don’t know if I have ever heard or read one of those stories where faith was missing.  It is always faith that leads a person to grant forgiveness, even in horrific circumstances.

Now, I want to add at this point that you should put out of your mind the old saying forgive and forget.  I think you should put that saying out of your mind because it leads people to the wrong conclusion – that if you have not forgotten, you have not forgiven.  That is not true.  You do not have to forget in order to forgive.  In fact, some hurts are so deep it is highly unlikely that we will ever forget them, but that does not mean we cannot forgive.

Kindness is an expression of love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says that
love is patient and kind…

It is impossible to fake real kindness.  You can get by for a while, but if kindness is not rooted in love, it will become obvious sooner or later.

Kindness is a synonym for love.  In fact, the King James Version sometimes puts the words kindness and love together – lovingkindness – as a reminder of the intrinsic link between the two.

This is where kindness becomes far deeper, and more difficult, than mere surface actions, such as holding a door open for someone, because that’s easy to do.  It doesn’t cost us anything other than a few moments to hold open a door, or to speak to someone in a polite manner, or to offer directions.  I prefer the type of kindness that only asks me to hold open a door for someone.  What about you?  I prefer it because it’s so much easier.

But to love someone, that’s very different.

Kindness is love personified.  Kindness is love made visible, which is not always easy.  Sometimes it is.  When someone loves us, it’s wonderful and easy, isn’t it?  But Jesus says what is the greatness of that type of love?  We can all love those who love us.  In Matthew 5:46-47, in the Sermon On the Mount, Jesus says, If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?

As I was preparing for Zola Kephart’s funeral Laine brought her mother’s Bible by the office.  People often do this when I’m working on funeral messages and I always appreciate it.  It’s very interesting to go through a person’s Bible to see what passages they highlight and to read the many notes they often place within the pages.  Among the notes in Zola’s Bible was a prayer she had written.  About a paragraph long it included many of the things we often find in prayers – asking forgiveness for our sins and giving thanks for our blessings – but ended in a very interesting way.  Zola concluded with these words – and help us Lord to love others, even our enemies.  We often ask for help in loving others, but we don’t always add the request that we love our enemies, but this is exactly what Jesus asks of us.

The real test, says Jesus, is to love the one who does not love us.  The real test is to love the one who despises us and even works to our detriment.  The real test of love is to love even the one who is our enemy.  In Luke 6:35 Jesus says,
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Kindness leads to compassion.

Compassion is the ability to see others in the way that God sees them.

Imagine it this way – it’s the difference between another child and your child.  Imagine a child that is hungry, and then imagine it is your child that is hungry.  Imagine a child, that is lonely, and then imagine it is your child that is lonely.  Imagine a child that is ill, and then imagine it is your child that is ill.  Imagine a child that is frightened, and then imagine it is your child that is frightened.  Imagine a child that is poor, and then imagine it is your child that is poor.  When it’s your child, your actions and feelings are much different, aren’t they?

There is no one – no one – who is not a child of God, and it is God’s desire, I believe, that we develop the capacity to see others in the way that he sees others – as his children.

I watched a news story the other day about an 11-year-old young man who has spent his summer mowing lawns.  That’s not a big news story, but his purpose was.  His goal was to earn $1,000.00 over the summer to give away to people who had lost homes from storm damage.  That’s a big goal.  That’s a lot of yards to mow.  What was especially inspiring about the story was how he inspired others.  Because of his efforts, friends and neighbors had contributed $16,000.00, without anyone asking them to do so.

We think the world is a tough, difficult, and terrible place, and it can be at times.  But there is a lot of goodness – a lot of kindness still in our world.  It is a kindness born of the Spirit of God that touches the hearts of people.