Monday, September 10, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit of God living inside them.  The Apostle Paul says the Spirit produces fruit—Christian virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  I challenge you to memorize this list of virtues.  More importantly, I challenge you to seek to have them all more abundantly in your life.

Over the past several weeks, we have already studied:
  • Love – the greatest Christian virtue. We are to love God and love others the way Jesus loves us (even gave His life for us).
  • Joy – a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”
  • Peace – the wholeness that comes when we live in harmony with God
  • Patience – persevering through whatever trials you face while you wait for God to set things right in His time according to His perfect will.
  • Last week, my guest blogger David Crawford, shared a creative message about cooking with the fruit of the Spirit (i.e. tying all the virtues together in your life).
  • Along the way, we have learned that you don’t grow the fruit of the Spirit yourself.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and nurture the fruit He produces in us—through worship, prayer, practice, and discipline.

Today we will consider another part of the fruit of the Spirit, which is kindness.

Kindness is simple. Give it a try.  The definition of kindness is:  the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.  Kindness is so simple, even a child can understand it.  The challenge for this virtue is not in understanding, but in doing.

You may not know this, but I have trained in martial arts almost all my life.  I started out learning a Korean form of "karate" called Tang Soo Do when I was just a young kid. My instructor was very kind to me. He recognized my interest and encouraged me to take more classes, but I could only afford one class a week—and that just barely. So, in kindness, my Kyo Sa Nim (that’s the Korean term of respect we used for him) said I could take classes for free! In addition, he even drove to my house every day to give me a ride to class. I was ashamed that Kyo Sa Nim should be so kind to me when I could do nothing in return.  I offered to pay for his gas once and he simply said, “No, no, no. It’s my gift.”  

“But I feel so bad because you’re always paying my way.”

My instructor just looked at me and said, “Don’t worry about it. Somebody was kind to me once. One day, you can be kind to someone else. What you do for them, you’ll be doing for me.”

I think about his words quite often now that I’m older and can afford to pay for my own gas. I’m thankful every time I have the chance to be kind to someone and remember that I am only returning the kindness that was shown to me.  

Even more important, Jesus is infinitely kind to us.  He came to live with us, walk with us, teach us, empower us, live, die, and rise for us. We never deserved his kindness, but he was kind to us anyway.  Whenever we are kind to others, we are simply thanking Jesus for being kind to us. Pray that the Holy Spirit will cultivate the fruit of kindness in you more and more.

Don’t Just Act Kind; Be Kind
Jesus told a short parable in Matthew 21:28-31 that encourages us to follow through on kindness.
28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.

Some people are polite and look or act kindly on the surface, but they aren't really kind.  They are like the one son in the parable who politely says "Yes sir", but doesn't really obey.  Others are like the other son who initially said "no", but eventually went and obeyed his father.  They are like some people you meet who look rough or speak rudely, but are truly kind down deep inside.  I would encourage you to do both--speak kindly and follow through by acting kindly.

Practical Steps to Nurture Kindness in Your Life
  1. Make a commitment to be kind throughout your day.  Start your day off with a prayer that God would help you be kind throughout the day.  Keep your thoughts focused on it.  If you mess up (as we all do sometimes), just ask God for forgiveness and try again.  Focusing on kindness will help you remember to be more and practice will help you improve, with the Holy Spirit's help.
  2. Genuinely care for others. When I was a young man, I was so overwhelmed with how kind Jesus was to me.  I wanted to see the world with more compassion like Christ sees us.  And so, I prayed that God would help me and fill me with more compassion like Christ.  Through the years, God has helped me become more compassionate, to truly care more about people. I still have a ways to go, but I am more caring today than I was twenty years ago.  How about you?  Ask God to help you genuinely care about others and you will start to be more kind.
  3. Don't be kind for the sake of getting what you want.  There is a type of kindness that says, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine."  But that's not the type of kindness the Holy Spirit wants to grow within you.  Jesus specifically said to be kind to people who can’t do any for you.  For he said, "If you are kind to those who will be kind to you, you already have your reward.  However, if you are kind to those who cannot do anything for you, God will reward you." (At least, that's a loose paraphrasing of Luke 6:32-26.)
  4. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes, we are our own harshest critics.  I am amazed sometimes at how hard I can be on myself.  My inner voice sometimes says things to criticize me that I would never in a million years say to someone else.  I have to stop myself and say, "Be nice!"  So don't be so hard on yourself.  Give yourself a break.  Cut yourself some slack.  Be kind to yourself.  If you mess up, ask forgiveness and forgive yourself! And remember, it's the Holy Spirit's job to grow fruit in your spirit; your job is just to nurture it with love and tenderness.  So be kind to yourself (and this may also help you be kind to others).

Spiritual Gardening
Throughout this series, I’ve tried to relate the Fruit of the Spirit to gardening.  You can’t make a garden grow.  Only God can make a garden grow.  However, there are some things you can do to help nurture the Holy Spirit's work--fertilize the soil, pull up some weeds, water the garden, protect it from pests, etc.  And of course, nothing is likely to grow in your garden if you don't plant some seeds.  Showing kindness it like planting seeds.  Kindness is often just a small thing, but it can grow into something beautiful and even reproduce and spread like wildflowers that color our world.  I challenge you to look for ways to color your world with kindness as much as you can.  Here's a video to inspire you.

Closing Prayer
"Father, thank you for being so kind to us through Jesus Christ.  Help us to focus on kindness throughout every day.  Fill us with Christ's compassion that we may truly care about people.  Help us to be kind to everyone--especially those who don't deserve it or can't do anything to return the favor.  Help us even to be kind to ourselves.  We ask in Jesus name.  Amen."