SIGNS AND DIRECTIONS

 When we were in England, we saw several “roundabouts” which delineated the proper route to take at, what we in the United States would call, an intersection.

Road signs in England with two roundabouts
Road sign in England showing connected Roundabouts.

It is important to follow the signs, and this one was one of the more clear-cut signs that we encountered. 

Society sets out these signs to dictate to us how to travel, how to negotiate from one place to another, how to get us where we want to go via the safest route available. 

It is clear that the land planners have concluded that it is appropriate for the proper flow of traffic that vehicles on the highway move in one direction on that part of the road, the vehicles exiting where appropriate to continue with their trip.  While some people may find it offensive to have their direction of travel dictated by “the government”, there can be no real opposition to the concept that the direction of travel at that spot on the highway must conform to the roundabout’s directive or there will be serious mishaps with property damage and potential loss of life. 

Steven Wright, the erudite American scientist and humorist described travel in this way:

“When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”

While this is certainly true on the highway, his statement could also be speaking of a wider application, such as a consideration of whether your positions and opinions are in the mainstream or in opposition to society.

In thinking about the Christian life, I would submit that Mr. Wright’s comment is spot on.  If we are following the crowd, if we are following the dictates of the culture, if we are joining in with society’s standards, values and positions, everything might be coming our way, but we are in the wrong lane – we are not on the road to righteousness, and we are not on the path of a life with Christ that leads to eternal life. 

Rather than following the crowd, the Christian would do well to remember what God says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In other words, as Christians we must not presuppose that our culture’s standards, ethics, values and morals are those of the Almighty God.  He is above our finite world and His ways are very different than ours. 

Mark Twain expressed this thought:

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority it’s time to pause and reflect.”

Jesus talked about the majority position and its popularity when He said:

Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14.

The fact that our ways are not those of God is highlighted by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus provides a glimpse into what God blesses, and illustrates that God’s ways are counter-cultural to be sure.  Here are just a few of the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 5, and I am using the Amplified Bible for this quotation:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever] [Luke 6:20-23]. 

Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they shall be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. [Isaiah 61:2]    

Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the meek (or humble, gentle) [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they shall inherit the earth. [Psalm 37:11] 

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they shall be [completely] satisfied.

Matthew 5:3-6.

So, what direction are you going?  What path are you following? 

Be counter—cultural.  Follow Jesus.  Take the roundabout that leads to the narrow path, and you will be blessed.  Jesus said it, so you can believe it.

Father, help me to follow You as I live in this world.  May my walk reflect Your ways even if that means it runs totally counter to society’s mandate.  May I have the strength and will to follow You, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – KINDNESS, part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 15

KINDNESS – A CONSTANT STATE OF READINESS TO HELP

PART ONE

 

This week we are looking at the fruit of the Spirit called Kindness.

 

There is some confusion about the terms gentleness, kindness and meekness as they appear in various translations of Galatians 5:22-23.  In the King James Version we read:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.” 

 

The English Standard Version translates these verses as follows:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

 

Note the words that are underlined  … they are the words that cause some confusion due to varying translations.  Here, we are looking at Kindness – translated Gentleness in the King James.  This will be a bit different than the discussion of “gentleness” we come to later in the English standard version since that in King James is translated as Meekness.  These words are all variations on a theme so don’t expect them to be blue verses red, but they have various nuances that are important for us to incorporate into our lives.  Remember:

 

If it was important enough for the Scripture writer to use different words through the leading of the Holy Spirit, it is important enough for us to understand and to put those nuanced words into effect in our life.

As we all know, kindness is not something that is spoken of only in Scripture … it is a topic, like the other fruit of the Spirit we have studied, that is copied in the world today, although as with the other fruit of the Spirit, the world’s version is a significantly deteriorated version of what the Holy Spirit produces.

Mark Twain said:

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

 

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: 

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

The English writer Samuel Johnson said:

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.   

 

Then of course there is the profound negative that “No act of kindness goes unpunished!”  Clearly, kindness is not looked upon favorably by everyone.  If we are honest, even the pagan sees that kindness carries with it a cost which they may not be willing to pay.  It may not be a cost in money, but it may cost time or effort, it may be inconvenient or it may interfere with long-held plans.  

 

What does Scripture say?

 

However, kindness, according to the Holy Spirit, is not an inconvenience to be avoided but a characteristic to be embraced – it is a way of life to be adopted so that it flows naturally from you under all conditions, at all times.  After all, remember that God is our example of loving kindness as He lavishly showers us with kindness through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In Scripture we see that kindness follows patience, just as patience follows peace, and it follows joy and all the fruit is based on love.  We might be nice and we might do good things, but the unregenerate man will not be kind in the way that the Holy Spirit would direct because the unregenerate person does not have love for Jesus Christ.

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul says

“Kindness is the manifestation of patience and it is born of the fact that we ourselves are objects of God’s kindness.” 

 

As with the other fruit of the Spirit, we are to imitate Christ and extend the fruit of kindness irrespective of whether the individual receiving it appreciates our efforts or even knows that we have done anything for him.  It is because of what Jesus did for us, not what the individual has done or could do for us, that we are kind.

The Greek word for kindness is Chrestotes.  It is the divine kindness out of which God acts toward men.  According to James Montgomery Boice, this kindness is what the Old Testament is referring to when it says “God is good” as it so frequently does.  (Boice, Commentary on Galatians, 5:22-26)

 

We can afford to be kind even if it makes us vulnerable because underneath it all, we are unshakably secure in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

 

The opposite of the fruit of the Spirit of kindness is envy and an inability to rejoice  with another person.  The counterfeit of kindness is manipulative good deeds.  That is, being kind for what you get out of it, not what you are giving to the other person. 

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

Kindness is not a random act of consideration.  Rather, it is a constant state of readiness to help, the extension of God’s grace to the people around us through practical actions of caring.   

 

In fact, it is similar to “goodness” which was a common term among the pagans in that day for complete moral excellence.  In the Galatians 5 list of fruit of the Spirit, goodness is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and it indicates a willingness to be generous.  (Rykers, Reformed Expository Commentary – Galatians) We will study goodness in the coming weeks.

 

Suffice it to say, kindness and goodness are similar, but different.

 

The great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:4  says “Love is patient and kind.”   This is no accident.    Last week we thought about longsuffering/ patience – that is, our remaining steadfast and enduring insults, false statements, physical or emotional injury without revenge or “getting even” no matter how long the injury lasts.  It is L O N G suffering. 

 

Kindness is the companion of longsuffering.  Longsuffering is our personal response of restraint regarding an injury received we do not take action against the wrongdoer.  Kindness is where we do take action – we are kind toward him or her.  We do good to those who hurt us – why?  Because that is what Love does!

 

Next week we will continue to look at kindness and how it is manifested in our lives through the Holy Spirit’s work. 

 

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.