BELIEVE - BE LIKE JESUS
KINDNESS AND GOODNESS
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
June 25, 2017
TEXT: Ephesians 4:30-32 and Titus 3:3-8
Have you ever had someone come into your life for just a moment but leave an impression on you that lasts a lifetime? Guadalupe was one of those people for me. I met Guadalupe at Rush University Hospital where I was a patient for 16 days back in 2014. I had been there, going through tests, to discover why my chronic daily headache had gotten to extreme high levels. I was going through a variety of tests to discover what was wrong. Various different transporters at the hospital would come to my room and put me in a wheelchair or a gurney and take me down for an MRI, a CAT scan or a spinal tap. Most of the time, I felt like I was just a piece of furniture being moved from one room to another. The transporters weren't always very friendly. That is until I met Guadalupe.
Guadalupe was different. She was friendly and talkative and seemed genuinely interested in me. As she took back to my room, I discovered what made her different. She was a Christian and she really loved the Lord. And what was so amazing was that before she left - she knelt down beside me, took my hands and prayed out loud for me. I was so touched by that gift of prayer.
But Guadalupe's kindness didn't end there on that day. During my visit with her, I had mentioned that I had been looming baby hats to keep myself busy while at the hospital. But my loom had broken. Imagine my complete surprise when the next day, Guadalupe made a special trip during her break time to come see me. As she walked into the room, she had this loom in her hand. She said, 'I wanted to make sure you had a new loom to replace your broken one!" I was so astonished that she would go out of her way to do that for a complete stranger. And so now, every time I sit down to loom, I think of Guadalupe - and her wonderful kindness.
The gift of kindness really can change everything, can't it?
We are on the home stretch for our sermon series on Believe - Living the story of the Bible to become like Jesus. We are on the 27th week of our 30 week series of Believe. These last few weeks we have been looking at those fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5. The Apostle Paul says we are to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives and produce character traits that are like Jesus. We've talked about many of them already: love, joy, peace, patience, self-control. Today we turn to kindness and goodness. Because of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, we can choose to be kind and good in our relationships with others.
To understand what it means to be kind and good, the best example we can see is in Jesus. Again and again, all throughout the gospels, we read of Jesus being kind and good to all sorts of people. He showed kindness to those who were untouchable - like the lepers he reached out to heal - and the people who society had rejected - like tax collectors and prostitutes. He showed kindness to a woman caught in the act of adultery and a wild man possessed with demons. He even showed kindness to those who were suffering like the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and the man whose daughter had died. Time and time again - Jesus would reach out and show the God's mercy and compassion - goodness and kindness to all.
And He has been kind to you and to me. In fact, our salvation comes from the kindness of God - and it is through continuing to trust in His kindness that we are saved. (Romans 11:22) Let's look at what the Apostle Paul says about God and kindness in our first reading today from the book of Titus. Titus is found near the back of the Bible, right after II Timothy. We are going to read Titus 3:3-7. Follow along with me as I read to you from the New Living Translation. Titus 3:3-7:
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But- When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
God knows we are sinners - BUT - He didn't withhold His kindness from us -rather He poured out His love on us and gave us new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. Because of His great kindness - we are saved and know for sure that we will have eternal life!
And now because He has been so kind and good to us - we are to be kind and good to others. Look at Titus 3:8 - "This is a trustworthy saying and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone."
Being kind and good is our job as a Christian. We are to devote ourselves to doing good and reflecting God's love and kindness. Mother Teresa described it this way: "Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile."1
When we are kind and good to others - we are living like Jesus and bringing glory to Him. And when we choose to NOT be kind and good - we bring great sadness and grief to God. Look at our 2nd text for today, found in the book of Ephesians - kind of in the middle of the New Testament, right after the book of Galatians. Follow along with me as I read Ephesians 4:30-32 -
30 And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Be kind to each other. Those are words take on so more meaning when we read them in the original language it was written. The Greek word for kind is "chrestos". The Greek word for Christ is "christos". Paul's readers would have surely picked up on the close connection. When we are chrestos (kind) we are most like christos (Christ).2 And the truth of the matter is - the world is not going to see and know Christ until they see our kindness. We are that reflection of Christ by the way we act and the way we react. And we can turn people away from Christ through our quarrelsome and hurtful words and actions.
In II Timothy 2:23, Paul says: "Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach and be patient with difficult people."
Our grumpy, complaining or quarrelsome attitudes can really harm and turn others away from Jesus - especially when those who are watching you know that you are a Christian. But if we are kind to others, especially in difficult situations, we can actually bring people to Christ.
A woman once told her pastor that she became a Christian because of him. The pastor was really curious. What sermon was it that helped her become a Christian? What Scripture had he used - what words had he said? She said it wasn't a sermon - but she said, "It was when I saw a woman criticize you to your face and I saw you react with kindness. I knew what you had was real and I gave my heart to Jesus."3
Our words and our actions have power! They can either bless and give life OR they can hurt and bring death. Proverbs 16:24 tells us that kind words are like honey - they are sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. There are hurting people everywhere that are in need of that kind word that will uplift their spirits and bring health and healing.
Jesus told about a man going along the road to Jericho and getting attacked by robbers. He was stripped and beaten and left beside the road. Two religious leaders saw the man beside the road but chose to walk on by. They were busy and had to get to their duties - so they couldn't take the time to be kind to this wounded man. But the Good Samaritan took the time. He went out of his way to show kindness to the man who was injured.
You know, as Pastor Adrian Rogers says, the chief enemy of kindness is busyness.4 We become self-focused and in a hurry and we just don't have the time to stop and offer kindness. But there are people all around us who are hurting - beaten and bruised by life - emotionally, spiritually, financially. In fact, it has been said that we should be kind for everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle.5 We need to take every opportunity to do good and to share the compassion of Jesus with people we come in contact with - including our family! Galatians 6:9 & 10 says, "So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone - especially to those in the family of faith."
And there are all sorts of opportunities around us. We need to open our eyes and look. Be sensitive to the needs around us. Sometimes those opportunities can come disguised as interruptions.
That's what one of my devotionals, written by Jim Daly of Focus on the Family shared this past week.6 He talked about how he ran a short errand at a store before hurrying off to an important meeting he had across town. As he hustled to his car, he noticed a young mother struggling to corral 2 active toddlers while pushing a grocery cart across the parking lot. She looked tired and overwhelmed. He was backing out when he looked and saw this young mother reach her own car and break into tears. She had discovered that her tire was flat.
He didn't have time to stop - and he wasn't exactly dressed to be wrestling with a flat tire. But he stopped anyway, rolled up his sleeves and started to help this overwrought mother. Turns out she was really stressed for a good reason. Her husband had just deployed overseas and she was new to the area and had no family or friends nearby. She was alone with 2 young children in a new and unfamiliar city. Jim Daly's small act of kindness made all the difference in the world to her.
There are people in need - hurting and suffering - all around us and the opportunity to show kindness to them doesn't always come at a convenient time to us. We have to grab the opportunity to show God's kindness - even in the interruptions of life.
But you know it is one thing to do something kind for someone you know OR for someone you see that is carrying a big burden. But what about showing kindness to those people who irritate you or someone you would consider an enemy? Well, Jesus had something to say about that too. In Luke 6:32-36, Jesus says:
"If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 "Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate."
We are never more like Christ - Christos - than when we are kind (chrestos) even to our enemies.
What about that family member - that brother or sister or cousin that just rubs you the wrong way? Show them the kindness of Jesus by treating them the same way you want them to treat you.
What about that spouse who you are in conflict with? What about putting aside your own demands and selfishness and try a little kindness and see if that coldness and bitterness might just melt away.
Or what about that cranky boss or the co-worker who just irritates you? Hasn't Christ been loving and kind to you when you were unloveable? What a difference kindness would make in the workplace.
We live in a very unkind world. There seems to be unkindness everywhere we look. There is unkindness in the news - in the political realm - on social media and on television shows. And yes - there is even unkindness oftentimes in the way we think or treat ourselves. We end up beating ourselves up - not letting go of guilt or pain in our life. What would happen if, instead of joining in that unkindness, we started a kindness movement? What if we showed kindness - true caring and compassion - and lived more like Jesus? I really think it could be contagious - hearts would be softened and minds would be opened and love would abound.
Max Lucado ended his sermon about kindness and goodness by telling the story from his congregation in San Antonio, Texas.7 A woman named Ann emailed Max and shared with him a wonderful story about her father. And the story goes like this.
One morning in February last year, it was a cold, freezing day of 32 degrees in San Antonio. Ann's Dad got up and went to his cross street post, like he does every morning at 7:45 in the morning. When he arrived, he heard a lot of cars honking profusely. He turned to see what all the commotion was and saw an elderly man walking in the middle of the street toward oncoming traffic.
Ann's Dad, himself 74 years old, walked over to the man and assisted him over to the other street and safety. He noticed that this elderly man was shivering. He was wearing only a thin jacket and an Astros baseball cap. Ann's Dad said, "You must be cold. Where are you going?" The man replied, "I am going to La Bandera Molino to buy tacos." That was a restaurant somewhere near where they were standing.
Ann's Dad said to the man, "It is very cold. Let me give you my scarf and my beanie so you can cover your ears." It was his favorite scarf - a gift given him by his sister. But he knew this man needed it for warmth. He asked the man, "A little better, right?" The man replied, "Yes, thank you" and then asked "What is your name." "My name is Hernandez," Ann's Dad said. "I don't want to know your last name. What is your first name?" "Fernando", Ann's Dad said. "Fernando - I will remember you."
Ann's Dad asked, "And what is your name?" "Jesus. My name is Jesus - and I will remember you." And with that he walked away.
I think that our acts of kindness and goodness are remembered by Jesus as well. Jesus said, "Whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters- you are doing it to me." When we show kindness - we are doing it to Jesus.
Who is it that you need to show kindness to?
1Love Quotes from Mother Teresa. http://indihope.com/2016/03/16/25-kindness-and-love-quotes-from-mother-teresa/
2"Believe 27 - Kindness and Goodness" by Jeff Gauss. Epiphany Station, Thief River Falls, MN. www.believethestory.com
3 Adrian Rogers - "Try a little Kindness"
5Quote from Ian Maclaren, as found on Wikipedia.
6Jim Daly, Focus on the Family. Devotional: Expressing Love to Those Around You. YouVersion App. June 23, 2017.
7MaxLucado. Oak Hills Church Sermons. Believe. Chapter 27: Kindness/Goodness. March 20, 2016.
Open my eyes Lord, that I can see your face
Open my eyes Lord, that I can hear your voice
Open my eyes, Lord, that I might love as you love.