By Pastor Glenn Pease
Allen Emery, one of Billy Graham's associates tells of his experience as a boy back in 1937. He was travelling on a train with his father. One of the porters had a limp and was obviously in pain. When they inquired about it, they learned he had an infected ingrown toenail. After breakfast Allen came back to his car and noticed the porter coming out of his parents room. He was crying, so Allen followed him to the men's lounge and sat down beside him. "Are you crying because your toe hurts?", he asked. "No," he said, " it is because of your daddy. Your daddy could see my toe was in pain and suggested that I let him lance it and clean it out." The porter explained what his father did, and he began to cry again. "Did it hurt that much?" Allen asked. "It didn't hurt at all and it feels fine now," he responded. "Then why are you crying?" Allen asked. Let me finish the story in Allen's own words. The porter made this reply-
Well, while he was dressing my toe, your daddy asked me if I
loved the Lord Jesus. I told him my mother did but that I did not
believe as she did. Then he told me that Jesus loved me and had
died for me. As I saw your daddy carefully bandaging my foot,
I saw a love that was Jesus' love and I knew I could believe it.
We got down on our knees and we prayed and, now, I know
I am important to Jesus and that He loves me.
With that he started crying again, happy and unashamed.
When his sobs subsided, he earnestly burst out, "you know,
boy, kindness can make you cry." I understood. I also
understood that a living illustration like this can never be
forgotten and the privilege of seeing such events is a
responsibility of life.
One father, by bearing the fruit of kindness, led a man into the kingdom of God, and gave his son a lesson in love that changed his life forever as well.
Kindness is no wimp among the virtues. The reason we tend to think so is because it is a virtue that even pagans can manifest in a strong way. Paul, who makes a great deal of the importance of kindness in the Christian life, recognizes just how kind pagans can be. In Acts 28 when the storm wrecked the ship, and all were forced to swim for their lives to the island of Malta, we read in verse 2, "The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold." In verse 7 we read, "there was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably." In verse 10 the story ends with these words, "they honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed."
These pagan people treated Paul and Dr. Luke as kindly as they were ever treated by their Christian friends, and far more kindly than what they received from some Christians. This kind of competition has, instead of challenging the Christian to a higher level of kindness, led them to minimize its importance. It is embarrassing when a non-Christian is more kind than a Christian, and so to save face the Christian says it is no big deal to be kind. Kindness is just a natural gift of some personalities, they say, and so, even though it is nice, it is of no credit to anyone, anymore than it is to have blue eyes. Kindness is just the luck of the draw, and a matter of genetics, and should not be given much value as a Christian virtue. If my pagan neighbor is kinder than me, it is due to his or her heritage, and does not make them better than me. With this kind of rationalizing, Christians have been able to send kindness back to the minor leagues. The only problem is that the New Testament stresses that kindness is a major league player. It has a contract with God to play on the highest level, and we can't fire it or push it out of the big leagues.
Paul settled this once and for all when he said in his great love song of I Cor.13, in verse 4, "love is kind." God-like love is kind. There is no escape from this fact, kindness is a primary virtue and part of the image of God in man. The fact that this image can still be reflected in non-Christians is no excuse to minimize it, but rather a reason to recognize that God's people should display it in its purest form. The non-Christian may beat you on the level of natural kindness of personality, but there is no kindness superior to that of the fruit of the Spirit kindness. This is not merely man produced, but it is God produced fruit.
Like all the other fruits this one too grows out of love. Jesus went about doing good and showing kindness to everyone in need because He loved people. It is hard to be kind if you do not love. It is easy if you do love, for love is kind by its very nature. This is where the Christian can compete and win, for the Christian filled with the Spirit can love his enemies and those who do not deserve love. This is not natural, but is the fruit of the Spirit.
If a Christian is not unusually kind he or she will not make much of an impression on the world, where people experience kindness from others whom they know are worldly. We need to make a commitment to magnify rather than minimize this fruit of kindness. Henry Frederic Amiel said, "Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind!"
The opportunities to be kind are very numerous we can show kindness almost every day, and often several times a day. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, whose brother Gallio set Paul free in Acts18, said, "Wherever there is a human being, there is a chance for kindness." Paul was shown great kindness by his brother, and Paul was fully aware just how kind pagans could be. That is why he stresses that Christians be kind, for if they are not, they are less than the pagans they are trying to reach. In Col.3:12 he urges Christians, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." When a Christian gets up in the morning to dress for the day they are to put on kindness along with all else they wear. Ask yourself before you head off to work or to school or to wherever, did I put on my kindness? To walk out of your home unprepared to be kind to people who cross your path is to be unprepared to be a Christian. We should be as embarrassed to leave our kindness at home as we would be to leave our shoes or shirt.
You have seen the signs on the doors of many stores that say, no shirt, no shoes, no service. If Paul ran a restaurant his sign would say, no love, no kindness, no service. He would be embarrassed to see Christians running around with no kindness on. He sees kindness as one of the undergarments, for in Col.3:14 he sees love as the outer garment that covers all. He writes, "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Paul is saying if you take off into your day not clothed with love and kindness you are practically naked, and will probably be a spiritual embarrassment before the day is over. Paul is not worried about you leaving home without your credit card, but he is saying of kindness, don't leave home without it.
How does a Christian dress? With the fruits of the Spirit. We are to cover the flesh with these fruits, so that, just as the defects of the body are covered by clothing, so the defects of our fleshly nature are covered by these beautiful garments of the Spirit. You are what you wear in the spiritual life. If you wear these fruits you are Christ like.
The Greek word for kindness even sounds like Christ. The noun is Chrestotes, and the adjective is Chrestos. We are to wear Chrestotes to be Christ like. If we wear this garment we will be conspicuous for our courtesy in a world where rudeness is often the norm. Courteous language and behavior should characterize the Christian in the daily walk. Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is chrestos..." Jesus is saying my yoke is kind. He does not make a yoke that is rough so that is cuts into the neck of the oxen as it plows. He makes His yokes smooth so they do not irritate. They are easy to wear and make the job easy. This is being kind and considerate, and that is the way Christians are to treat other people. We are to make life easier and more pleasant for all who cross our path.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is in such radical language that we seldom see the relevance of it for our daily living. We seldom to never see anyone laying in the road beaten, and so the message is lost on us. The point of the parable is not to be on the lookout for victims of robbers, but to recognize that anyone who is in need is your neighbor, and you are to love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, anyone God puts in your path is to be treated with kindness. Everyone has burdens, and they need encouragement. Do not add to their load by being inconsiderate and thoughtless. They get plenty of that in a day. The Christian is to be different, and to, by being kind, make an impression on them that somebody does care.
Many people who have troubles have brought them on themselves. There anti-Christian life style has made their lives a mess. It is hard to be kind to people like this. That is why we need the fruit of the Spirit kindness that goes beyond the natural kindness of the human spirit. This natural kindness is precious, but it will not enable you to be Christ like when you confront those who do not deserve kindness. Listen to Jesus commanding the impossible 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 sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
When someone cuts you off, or grabs your parking place which you are waiting for, that is your opportunity to be a Christian. Anybody can say thanks and be kind when people are being nice. But the Christian is to be kind when others are being jerks and treating you badly. This does not mean you do not fight injustice and discrimination, but you do it with kindness toward your foes, even when they will reject that kindness, and respond with more negative behavior. This is a step up from the previous fruit of patience. Patience is passive and puts up with a lot, but kindness is more active and goes out of its way to return good for evil. Many Christians will endure those who wrong them, but they will not go the next step and be kind to them.
Peter Ainslie III, in his book, Cultivating The Fruit Of The Spirit, tells this historical example of the power of kindness.
When Robert Southey, once poet laureate of England, was a
small boy, there was a Negro boy in the same neighborhood by
the name of Jim. The white boys took great pleasure in calling him
"nigger" and other degrading epithets, which always grieved Jim.
One winter morning when the white boys had planned to go skating,
Southey found one of his skates broken. Remembering that Jim
had a new pair of skates, he hurried over to Jim's house and asked
him to loan him his skates, to which Jim readily agreed, saying,
"Oh, yes, Robert, you can have them and welcome." After several
hours he returned them and found Jim seated by the fire in the
kitchen reading his Bible. Southey thanked him kindly, and as
Jim took the skates from his hands, with tears in his eyes he said,
"Robert, don't call me 'nigger' anymore." Southey burst into tears.
Years afterward in telling the story he said that after that he never
dropped into the practice of calling people uncomplimentary nick-
names. Kindness in the heart of the Negro boy had conquered
one who became foremost in English literature.
An angry unkind response to prejudice could have led Southey to become a bigot for the rest of his life, and to have influenced many others to follow. Kindness is no wimp in the arsenal of Christian weapons to fight evil. It is one of the big guns. Beth Robertson, in poetry says,
When I think of the charming people I know,
It's surprising how often I find
The chief of the qualities that make them so
Is just that they are kind.
Being kind is a matter of being aware of other people's feelings and needs. We get so self-centered that we are unaware of others needs, and so we fail to be kind. We are often unkind to those closest to us. We need to see that kindness is not just for our enemies, but for our loved ones as well. Paul stresses this in Eph.4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." The implication is, Christian people will rub each other the wrong way at times, and they will be rude and offensive. This is when it is a great temptation to respond in like manner. We need the fruit of the Spirit to overcome such temptation, and instead, be kind. When Christians act natural they are quenching the Spirit.
A Christian mother was shocked, when after a day of irritability, she heard her child pray at bedtime, "Dear God, make mommy be kind to us like she is to people we visit." Parents often forget the importance of kindness in raising their children. John Drescher in his book, Spirit Fruit, which is the best book available on the fruits of the Spirit, quotes many authorities. One is Dr. William Bede McGrath, Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association who said, "Ninety percent of all mental illness that comes before me could have been prevented, or could yet be cured, by simple kindness." Then he quotes Amy R. Raabe-
Scattered seeds of kindness
Everywhere you go;
Scatter bit of courtesy-
Watch them grow and grow.
Gather buds of friendship;
Keep them till full-blown.
You will find more happiness
Than you have ever known.
Your own happiness, as well as that of others, is wrapped up in this fruit of kindness. Fruit is not only good for physical health, it is also essential for spiritual health.
Charlie Shedd, in his marriage enrichment material, has been telling couples for decades that one of the keys to a happy marriage is the kindness of complimenting your mate every day. John Drescher saw this strategy work even in the work place. He tells of the secretary who went to work for an executive who was notorious for his critical spirit. He kept a secretary for about two months at best. She needed this job bad, and though it was torture to endure him, she decided to move up the next step from patience to kindness. She decided she would pay the old goat a compliment every day. It was not easy, but every day she found some little thing to compliment him about. They were simple things like, "That is nice material in your suit sir." It took time, but his hard heart softened, and this secretary by kindness made him a lovable enough man to marry. He became her husband, not just her boss, by the power of kindness.
Frederick William Faber, author of many hymns like, Faith Of Our Fathers and There's A Wideness In God's Mercy, made this powerful statement-
Kind words are the music of this world. They have a power
which seems to be beyond natural causes, as if they were
some angel's song which had lost its way and come to earth.
It seems as if they could almost do what in reality God alone
can do-soften the hard and angry hearts of men. No one was
ever directed by a sarcasm-crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm
was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.....
Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.
Not every one can be eloquent or learned, but everyone can be kind, and by kindness change lives. You will experience a lot of failure in life, but none will revolve around kindness. C. R. Gibben wrote-
I have wept in the night for the shortness
That to somebody's need made me blind;
But I never have yet felt a twinge of
For being a little too kind.
Someone defined a Christian as one who makes it easy for others to believe in God. The most likely way to do this is by displaying the fruit of kindness.
Is anybody happier
Because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember
That you spoke to him today?
This day is almost over,
And its toiling time is through;
Is there anyone to utter now,
A friendly word for you?
Can you say tonight in passing,
With the day the slipped so fast,
That you helped a single person
Of the many that you passed?
Is a single heart rejoicing,
Of what you did or said?
Does one whose hopes were fading
Now with courage look ahead?
Did you waste the day or lose it?
Was it well or poorly spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness,
Or a scar of discontent?
Mr. and Mrs. Grayson are missionaries in Nigeria, Africa. One day he lost control of his car and went into the ditch. It was up to the hub caps in mud. He knew he would have walk eight miles to the nearest town to get help, and Mrs. Grayson would have to wait in the car. She said it would be okay, but she was fearful. Darkness was coming, and she was soon hearing all kinds of strange noises. Then she heard voices. She flicked on the headlights and saw two men coming toward the car. They asked her who she was. She told them and they left. But shortly she heard voices again. The two men had come back with two women caring blankets and bundles of wood. They spread the blankets out, and started a fire. They invited her to join them. They were so friendly she got out and sat with them. They talked of all kinds of things, and then she asked them why they came to keep her company.
One of the men smiled and said, "we have been waiting three years to do something for you. Three years ago your husband drove through our village, and when he saw that my little daughter was ill he took her to the mission hospital. She was there a long time, but they saved her life. We have waited three years to thank him. We would be happy to sit with that good man's wife, and keep her company all night if necessary." They were showing kindness because they had been deeply touched by an act of kindness.
People who do not grasp the theology of Christianity can easily grasp its love when they see it displayed in acts of kindness. Instead of thinking of kindness as a minor virtue, we need to exalt it to the level where the Bible puts it-a vital ingredient to being Christ like. William Penn, the Christian founder of Pennsylvania, has been quoted often for these words of wisdom, "I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." Let this be your daily prayer as you dress each morning, Lord, help me put on this day, and for your glory display the fruit of kindness.