Today: Saturday, December 07, 2019

Fruit of the spirit #5: KINDNESS    (1/31/2016 )

On the subject of kindness, I'm going to begin with two things I often hear and which never fail to surprise me:

First is when someone insists they're a Christian—just after they've told me they don't believe in God, or that Jesus came as his son to save us. (I think what they really mean is that they believe they're a kind and good person.) But that's not what ‘Christian' means at all! The only thing that fundamentally makes you a Christian is believing that God sent his son to save us. 

So being a Christian is nothing to do with kindness… or is it?

Second is when I hear the expression ‘born-again Christian'. Jesus said (in the book of John [NT]): “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” That means you can't be a Christian if you aren't born again. Saying ‘born-again Christian' is like saying ‘feline cat'—as if there were other kinds! 

So being born again means starting afresh… doesn't it?

Actually, being a Christian has a lot to do with kindness, and it does mean starting afresh in a way which is more pleasing to God. But it doesn't mean that kindness always comes easily—we're human, after all!

The point is that God loves every one of us, believer or non-believer, and wants good things—including kindness—for all of us. Since he himself is compassionate, loving and kind, he wants to encourage those values in us, too.

Well, it's easy to be kind to people we like and love. But big hairy deal! That's easy. The Bible 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 own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" What about kindness to people who've been horrible to us in the past? What about people who are strangers to us? Still gotta be kind, says Jesus, in Matthew [NT]: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

Fortunately, Jesus knows from personal experience just how challenging this can be. Since he himself was human, often criticised by others and encountering strangers every day, he knows all about the difficulties involved.

Even more fortunately, he gives us a helping hand. After Jesus was resurrected, he promised he would send the Holy Spirit—and then he breathed the Spirit into the disciples. It still happens today to everyone who becomes a Christian. (Of course, the Holy Spirit had always been around, but following Jesus' resurrection was the first time that the Spirit actually dwelt within people.)

Receiving the Holy Spirit in this way is how we are ‘born again'. We're given a fresh start, and we're given a permanent source of inspiration and strength when it comes to showing fruits of the Spirit when we might prefer not to…! This is the work of the Spirit in us: to build up strengths, or ‘fruit', which are pleasing to God because they make us even more loving towards one another.

Christians don't have exclusivity on kindness. And you don't have to already be kind to become a Christian. But once you do, God's Holy Spirit will begin a work in you which will highlight the importance of kindness towards others, and which gives you a big helping hand when you might otherwise find it hard!

Pray: Lord God, you are the ultimate example of kindness. You were kind enough to send your son, and he was kind enough to love and welcome everyone, even the most seemingly unlovable. Please develop an even greater sense of kindness in me - the supernatural kind, which enables me to be kind to strangers and even those I don't like. Amen.

Think about: Many of the world's biggest and smallest charities began in churches or by Christians... from local youth centres and schemes for visiting the elderly to Oxfam, Amnesty International, Shelter, the Big Issue, the Samaritans, NCH, Christian Aid, WorldVision, The Children's Society, and countless more. In the UK, the Salvation Army is the second-largest provider of social welfare (only the government does more). Do these organisations only support other Christians, or anyone in need? When you hear religion blamed for conflict in the world, do you think faith can also demonstrate active compassion?

Challenge: Jesus showed compassion to those society looked down on - the disfigured, the sick, criminals, prostitutes and more. It's all too easy to practice kindness to those we love, so how can we follow Jesus' example? This week, consider whether you can spare a little of your time and care (and not just your money), on a regular basis, to help those in need - whoever and whatever they are.

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