Friday, November 27, 2015

Fruits of the Spirit: Kindness


The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all . . . (2 Timothy 2:24a)

Sigh. This is so hard to live out. I sometimes love flying into battle with my tongue. Just ask my sisters. Though we get along really great most of the time, when a quarrel gets going I have a tendency to forge right in and not let up till either I have proven my “point” or been given the last word. The tongue is indeed very hard to tame (James 3).

My parents had an interesting way of curing me and my siblings of our bickering ways. Whenever we were caught bickering in front of either of our parents (or when one of the siblings “ratted us out”), my mom would gather us two bickerers together, produce a length of old jump rope, and tie us together by the wrist. We would then have to spend the rest of the day together—doing each other’s chores together, spending free time together, and sometimes even eating together. Believe me, this was utter misery.

But it worked. You see, we had no other choice but to learn to work together for the rest of that day, which could only happen if we got past our bickering. Though at first we might basically be playing tug-a-war with our arms, each of us straining to get our chores done first, by the end of the day we would have to be working as a team to get anything done. After all, we only had one hand each to work with and walking was almost impossible if we were not both on the same page. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience (though it was comic relief for the rest of the family), but we definitely have less of a tendency to bicker now.

What is desirable in a man is his kindness  . . . (Proverbs 19:22a)

She (the virtuous woman) opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)

Proverbs is a book of wisdom, and from it we learn that kindness is very important for both men and women to possess. In its New Testament sense, this kindness found as the fifth fruit of the Spirit parallels the kindness of Jesus. As my John Macarthur study notes put it (yeah, I am cheating again), Biblical kindness is “tender concern for others, reflected in a desire to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats all believers.”

This principle is backed up in Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

What was the kindness that Jesus showed? Well, even when we had turned from Him and denied Him as our Lord, He came to our Earth, humbling Himself as a carnal man; He lived a life that was completely pure, showing kindness and love to everyone, even His enemies; and He died a horrible death so that we might live, offering Himself as a sacrifice for those who had rebelled against Him. Can you imagine what it would be like if all of us Christians showed this pure kindness to each other and to our world all the time? That is what we should strive for, through the Holy Spirit.

Practical Application

The verse before Ephesians 4:32 offers some very good practical advice:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31)

Basically, to be kind to one another Paul is saying you must “put away” all these things. It makes sense, because everything listed above is essentially an antonym to kindness. But how do we put away these things in our lives?

And in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:7-10)

From this parallel passage we learn that we have put on our “new self” as Christians. There is no longer room for our “old self”, which means all anger and its kin need to be shown to the door in our lives. The “true knowledge” in this passage is the deep, spiritual understanding of God’s will that is described in Colossians 1:9-10:

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

The more we know of the true knowledge (A.K.A. spiritual wisdom and understanding), the more we will walk in a manner worthy of our Lord! Our new self will begin to look more like the image of the One who has created us, and we will put off all anger, bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, and abusive speech and fill the empty spot with Biblical kindness instead!

“Hold on a minute, Kyle,” you might be saying at this point. “Where is the practical application? Sure you have attempted to show us how to put off all these antonyms to kindness by putting on our new self, which in turn means we need to grow more in our knowledge of God’s will, which in and of itself will help us cultivate kindness, but how do we go about growing more in God’s will, so that we can put off the old self, so that we can put on the new self, so that we can cultivate kindness in our lives. (Phew, that was a mouthful. Hopefully you got the point.)

How do you grow in the knowledge of God? By reading His Word! After all:

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Yep, once again it all circles back to God’s Word, and subsequently, obeying it. Where else should it start?