FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, KINDNESS, part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 16

 KINDNESS – A CONSTANT STATE OF READINESS TO HELP

PART TWO

So how do we show kindness to others – to whom should we be kind – what is kindness, after all?  What does the scripture tell us about these questions?

The greatest kindness we can do for another person is to witness to them of the Great King Jesus and lead them as the Holy Spirit directs toward their salvation and spiritual growth.  Most often, we do this by setting a good example as this is frequently the most effective witness of all, especially if, at the appropriate time, it is accompanied by our words telling of the gospel of the Lord Jesus as the Source of our life in Him.

For our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we help each other in faith and obedience and encourage each other when in trial or temptations.  We can bring spiritual joy and strength to each other as we seek to live for Christ before meeting Him in heaven.

What does Scripture say?

We as Christians are to be kind, not only in a spiritual context but also physically, to both individuals and the world, whether or not they claim Christ as their Savior.

We are told to help others in their difficulties and calamities.  See Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 35-36.

Kindness for the Christian can be summed up as being kind in three specific ways:

  • By giving to them of those things that they need and we possess.

“Give and it shall be given unto you.”

Luke 6:38

  • By doing for them and making an effort to help them to improve their situation.

“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

I Thessalonians 2: 9

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do;”

Hebrews 6: 10

  • By suffering for them and assisting them in bearing their burdens and in doing everything that we can to lighten those burdens.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”

1 John 3: 16

Now that we know that we are to be kind to others, who are the “others”? Or, another way to put it is, “to whom should we be kind?”

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to be kind to our neighbors, and it expands the definition of neighbor to anyone we meet along life’s way.  Luke 10:29 and following.

That parable, however begs the question: what kind of people are our neighbors so that we can be kind to them?

We are to be kind both to the good and to the bad.  Remember, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … we are to imitate God.  We should be kind not just those who we consider good in our own eyes.

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5: 45

In this regard, Jonathan Edwards has said:

“Some are proud, some immoral, some covetous, some profane, some unjust or severe, and some despisers of God.  But any or all of these bad qualities should not hinder our beneficence [kindness], nor prevent our doing them good as we have opportunity.  On this very account, we should the rather be diligent to benefit them, that we may win them to Christ; and especially should we be diligent to benefit them in spiritual things.”

It also goes without need for elaboration that we should be kind to our friends. But this duty of kindness also extends to our enemies!

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5: 44

And, we should be kind to the thankful as well as to the unthankful.   Again, this follows the example of Jesus.  Luke 6: 35 says He “is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil;” It is also consistent with the command that we should be merciful as He is merciful.  Luke 6:36.

How does this apply to my daily life?

We do not deserve God’s kindness and yet He is kind every moment of every day –as He showers us with His blessing and love in Christ Jesus, as He provides for our salvation and eternal life with Him, as He has given His grace and mercy in forgiveness of our sins, even the ones that we keep on doing and which He knows we will continue to do, yet in His infinite love, mercy and kindness He continues to forgive when we come to Him.

Please remember that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … and one of Jesus’ attributes was kindness that was extended to those he encountered throughout his life, even to his executioners, including you and me.  He died on the cross because of our sins, and we put him there as surely as any Roman spear or nail.  Such kindness freely given to us should result in an outpouring of love and kindness by us to others, not in our human power as just one more thing we have to do but through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Kindness – it is such a common term, so flippantly used, and yet such a profound witness when it comes from a heart prompted by the Holy Spirit.  It is not a last minute thought or a flippant act of little consequence as the world describes; it is a life style of placing others first, of putting yourself in subservience to others so that their needs are met; it is going the extra mile and then some, because Jesus went all the way from heaven, to earth and then to the cross for you, and for me.  Such kindness cannot be repaid by any action on our part, but we can illustrate it to others as best we can, with prayerful praise and as a thankful witness for Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

FLAT STANLEY

Several years ago we received an envelope in the mail box from our granddaughter who, at the time, lived in Louisiana.  It contained a cut out picture figure of a young boy, smiling and ready for adventure along with a letter advising that we were the ones to provide him with that adventure!  We were told that this was Flat Stanley and she was asking us to take him with us and to take pictures of him as we went about our day.  She then asked that we send the pictures to her for a project at school.

Being the accommodating grandparents that we are, we took many pictures of Flat Stanley, at home, in the car, at a restaurant, in the RV, at a meeting, at the church soundboard, even at a basketball game and later playing cards with us.  We had a good time thinking about where we could position Flat Stanley for another shot.  When we were done, we emailed the pictures to our daughter‐in-love so she could do whatever next was necessary for our granddaughter to finish her project.

            Ober+Gatlinburg Stanley in VanStanly helping on board  Stanly in truck UT basketball game                                 

When we were done, we were looking at the pictures and chuckling at how we had gotten Flat Stanley in so many different positions, activities, etc.  Then I began actually thinking about Flat Stanley.  Now, I know that this was a school project for our granddaughter.  But, who is Flat Stanley?

I saw Flat Stanley as a cute, paper cut‐out boy who we hand‐positioned in various scenes for use in a school project.  We were careful with Flat Stanley: we did not hurt him or put him in peril.  But we did not really care if he wanted to participate in playing cards or going to the arena for basketball  – we never asked.  (I realize that he could not have responded to our inquiry, but that is beside the point I am trying to make.)  He was someone to be used for a specific purpose, not someone to get to know for his own sake.

Now, it has been awhile since we had children in elementarFlat-Stanley_edited-2y school and I, quite frankly, had not heard of Flat Stanley, at least not to my memory.  So, after the pictures were taken and we had sent them on their merry way, I did some research about just who in the world was Flat Stanley.  It turns out that Flat Stanley is a children’s book written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer in 1964.  The premise of the original storyi is that Stanley Lambchop was flattened during his sleep when a bulletin board that was hung over his bed fell on him.  Thus, he became Flat Stanley.  One of the advantages of being flat is that he can be mailed in an envelope to his friends and so he can share adventures all over the world.  Ultimately Flat Stanley is pumped up back into his original shape but not until he has had quite some exciting times while he was flat.  So, now I know about Flat Stanley.

But this effort involving this little guy prompted me to wonder – do I see other people as Flat Stanleys,  Flat Sandys, Flat Sams or Flat Susans?   Do I see them as two‐dimensional people to be used for my own purpose and nothing more?  What is my first thought when I meet someone new ‐‐ “will this person be of benefit or help to me?” or “how can I make this person’s day brighter?”

Think about our interactions with people in our neighborhood, office, store, school, church.  Are we taking the opportunity and/or making the effort to get behind the surface of Flat Sam or Flat Susan to see the whole person, or at least as much of the whole person that they will allow us to see.  Are we trying to put ourselves in the visitor’s position and welcome them, not only with open arms (of course that is a very good start) but also by missing them if they are absent, and letting them know that they are missed? Or by calling during the week to see how they are doing, or just to lend a friendly ear?  Do we limit our friendship to the two dimensions we see in public or do we make the effort to get behind the façade and so that we can know them personally?  Are we friends‐in‐fact or simply friendly?

Of course, Jesus Christ speaks to our dealings with the Flat Stanleys in our world.   He describes one who learns about others and who helps them even to the detriment of himself in the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10.  The Samaritan stopped and helped a Jew ‐‐ he saw Flat Stanley on the side of the road but he did not leave him there, unlike the two earlier passers‐by.  The Samaritan went out of his way to help, even at his own personal expense, for this complete stranger of a hated people.  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  Jesus asked. (Luke 10:36)  The reply was that it was the man who had mercy on the injured traveler, at which point Jesus said “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

The Christians in the early church were described in Acts 9:36 as always doing good and helping the poor.  Apparently, these early Christians did not ignore the Flat Stanleys in their world.  They looked at people, saw the need and responded to it as best they could.

I am quite certain that my granddaughter did not think about Flat Stanley in this light.  But the thought stuck in my head.  Do I see others merely as Flat Stanleys, Flat Sandys, Flat Sams or Flat Susans?   If so, perhaps I should spend time with the Lord and see how He would guide me to open my eyes and see that what appears to be only a two‐dimensional “flat” person actually is someone who has had many experiences that combine to create the individual I see.  The person is someone who has had trials and tribulations, hurts and histories that form a lens through which she views the world, and me.  Quite possibly, those hurts, trials and difficulties are not all in the past, and they are being hidden behind the façade of “okayness” while the individual is aching for someone just to care or show an interest.

In other words, the person I am looking at is just like me.   Do I want to be treated as if I am a Flat Linda, without substance, two‐dimensional who is of no import to anyone?  The answer to that question is a resounding, “No, of course not.”   If that is true, then I am above all a hypocrite if I treat others in such manner.   Each person is important to the Lord – thus, each person should be important to me as a child of His.

Flat Stanley might be out of sight and in his envelope resting at home now (perhaps he is on the floor under the laundry, or maybe even thrown away due to various moves the family has made), but the impression he made on me is much deeper than two‐dimensional.  I am thankful for the way the Holy Spirit used this little paper guy in my own heart and mind.  Now, to put the lessons of Flat Stanley into practice!

Here is where the “rubber meets the road!”

                                                        

i There are multiple books in this series and there are numerous other books being written to chronicle Flat Stanley’s exploits.  See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Stanley