Monthly Archives: February 2015

Choosing Kindness

Aesop told a story of a lion startled by a mouse. The lion slapped a paw over the mouse and was about to lick it up when the mouse pleaded for her life, promising that someday she would repay the kindness. The lion was amused by the idea of the little mouse ever helping him but decided to be generous and let the mouse go on its way. Sometime later the lion was caught in a hunter’s net and all his strength and fury only resulted in the net drawing about him more tightly. The mouse heard the lion’s roars and came to see what had happened. Quickly she began to chew through the rope securing the lion, and soon the lion was free of the net. The mouse said to the freed lion, “You laughed when I said I would repay you, but now you see that even a lion may be helped by a mouse.” Aesop’s concluding moral, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Solomon observed, “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth. A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself” (Proverbs 11:16-17). Does kindness truly pay? Yes, there are “gains” and “benefits” that come from being unselfish and kind, even in everyday experiences. Reputation, personal satisfaction, better relationships, and potentially favors received for favors bestowed certainly come from choosing to be kind.

Even so, there are stronger reasons and greater incentives for kindness. Jesus said:

“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. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).

God shows kindness to all (see Acts 14:14-18, Matthew 5:43-48). Kindness to the undeserving is described as an exercise in mercy and a binding example for the children of God. God’s children must be kind to others, even when kindness is an act of mercy.

Someone has said, “Treat everyone with politeness. Even those who are rude to you. Not because they are nice, but because you are.” Paul wrote that he practiced this principle when treated badly. “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly” (1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a). Like Paul, every Christian should practice blessing, kindness, and congenial manners in all our dealings, and especially with one another! “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Tommy Lee Jones has said, “Kindness and politeness are not over rated at all. They are under used.” And again we are reminded in scripture that kindness and not being rude are characteristics of the love God’s people must practice.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

One everyday way to exercise love is to show kindness by being polite, even if others are not, while one of the most common ways to be unloving is to be unkind by being rude. Good manners, courtesy, calmness, patience and forgiveness are all companions of kindness, and commanded by God. Love is kind… it is not rude.

If it is sometimes hard to practice kindness in what we say and do, we know that we can learn, grow, and improve in our everyday practice of thoughtfulness. This calls for us to “take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of” (Jim Rohn). Blaming others, or blaming circumstances which we cannot control when we behave badly, is the surrender of our ability to change, and denial that we can in fact obey God who has commanded these things. Time and circumstance will not make us better people, but practicing the commands of Jesus will. Remember, God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” This is a commandment, not an inborn personality trait. Treat people as you would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), not because you like them, and no matter what you expect of them in return.

The Greek philosopher Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” To recognize that others also have their struggles facilitates everyday kindness. In fact everyone really is struggling and needs the blessing of being treated with kindness and its companion virtues, as Paul wrote:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

It may become easy in reviewing such instructions in scripture to slide past the injunctions to be kind, humble, gentle and patient, but these are dynamic instructions! These chosen behaviors need to be so consistently practiced that it is like wearing clothes, something you just do. Not without thought, but certainly without question or hesitation. Kindness or its synonyms, and its companion attitudes, turn up over and over again in the various lists of Christian virtues in the New Testament (see Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-8).

We know that the Lord has commanded kindness, and that kindness is regularly demonstrated in simple good manners toward others. We should take it for granted that the people we know and strangers we encounter need kindness, and that we need to be kind to them. Kindness, with its associated manners of speech and action, is part of everyday life with the Spirit of God, and a persistent need for growth and fellowship in the body of Christ, the church.

~ Charles Fry

Striving & Thriving

In striving against sin, it should help to remember that…

#1. You are not alone.

Your temptations are not so rare that no one can relate to them. Sometimes, a Christian may begin to believe that he’s all alone in his struggles, that no one could possibly understand. This pleases Satan, since it inclines us to isolate ourselves. But the Scriptures deny that we are alone in our struggles: “No temptation has taken you except such as is common to man…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). It doesn’t matter what your temptation is—laziness, sinful anger, pornography, gossip, lying, homosexuality, etc.—someone else has been down that road. And in most cases, someone you know. You are not alone. Other Christians have walked (and are walking) in your shoes.

#2. Your temptations do not define you.

Occasionally, a Christian may begin to grow discouraged, thinking that because he is tempted by a thing he must be outside of God’s favor. After all, how could a Christian ever have such thoughts?! But Christians are in the flesh. Yes, it is true that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14), but this does not mean that you and your temptations are one and the same. If it did, what would that say of the Lord Jesus, “who was in all points tempted as we are” (Hebrews 4:15)? That he was tempted proved only that he was in the flesh (as it does for you). You are not defined by your temptations; you are defined by what you do with your temptations. As the Scripture says: He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

#3. God will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength.

“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God does not facilitate failure. He is not out to get you. Rather, He wants to see you succeed (2 Peter 3:9) and so makes the test passable. That you are tempted by something is as much a sign of latent strength as it is of any weakness.

#4. You will not achieve perfection.

This is especially important for some to think about. Sin is going to exist in your life. It must never be excused, but we have been told to expect it. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17). Even as “we walk in the light,” says John, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). While we walk the earth, then, the Christian life is not about perfection but direction. The goal is not flawlessness but continual improvement: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, ESV; see also NAS/NIV/NRSV). We can take note of, and take heart at, every victory. Sin is not an occasion for debilitating despair, or a binge, but rather the signal to repent and recommit, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13). Even slow progress is real progress. God is pleased when we engage our whole hearts in seeking Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and as a result, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

#5. The battle is the LORD’s (1 Samuel 17:47).

We must do what we can, but we cannot successfully win against sin on our own power alone. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6; Ephesians 3:16; Romans 8:13). Israel tried to battle the Amalekites and Canaanites on their own power and failed (Numbers 15:40-45). Ahab tried to take Ramoth Gilead on his own, and failed (1 Kings 22:17-38). The Bible is replete with such examples. “Work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), yes, but only while simultaneously trusting “that it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

#6. You have died to sin (Romans 6:2, 10).

This is a powerful reality. Those who have died physically no longer respond to physical stimuli. Similarly, since you have died to sin, you no longer have to respond to sin’s stimulus. “For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:7).

#7. Jesus will reward for what you do.

“But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). Holiness and hope are companions. “Pursue…holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Diligent attention to purity of life will not go unnoticed by Him to whom we must give an account. The Lord will reward. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

~ John Morris