Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 39 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.
The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Kindness.” Kindness is the fifth of the nine fruits of the Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, and then Kindness.
As I was thinking about developing the content of this post a few days ago, for the first time I became aware of a natural progression in this list. I had never realized this before, so it was like opening a new window of understanding for me in my own spiritual journey.
What became suddenly apparent to me is that each of these individual “fruits” build on each of the other fruits preceding it.
For instance, the fruit of Love—agápe love—serves as the foundation for all the rest. Agápe love then produces Joy, which in turn provides us with Peace. When we have Peace, we can then have Patience, and Patience allows us to practice Kindness!
In fact, all of these first five fruits combine their influence to nurture the final four: Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. We will explore these in due time in this series of podcast/blog posts.
So today, may God bless you as we take a look into this important character quality: Kindness. I pray that you will experience the “patience of the saints” in your life today—and know the power it provides to live in kindness and mercy in every relationship of your life!
I was so moved by this meme I had to share it with you. May we never forget that *everyone* carries a heavy load of one kind or another. A simple word of care may make all the difference in someone’s life. A smile, or a friendly wave may just give the lift someone needs.
Our study today focuses on Kindness. It is something we can CHOOSE to do.
A Little Mission Story
Has God ever spoken to you through a friend’s comment—and the friend never knew the importance (to you) of what he/she said? It has happened to me several times, but one specific incident from long ago really made a long-term impact on my attitude.
It was sometime around 1972 or 1973. My wife Ruth and I—along with several other young couples—were invited as missionaries to Taiwan. Our first assignment was to spend two years in language school studying Mandarin Chinese. Three of these young families—including Ruth and myself—lived in Taichung, a large city about 100 miles south of Taipei. Our classes were held at a branch of the Taipei Language Institute there, and outside of language study itself we often shared common experiences of living in a foreign culture, worship, shared meals, and just life in general.
During that time we weren’t really engaged in the administrative—or any other functions of the church mission. None-the-less we held some strong opinions of how the mission aught to be run, what policies were antiquated and needed to be replaced, and just a lot of general criticism of the leaders.
The regional union mission headquarters for Taiwan and Hong Kong was in Taipei. We three “young Turks” decided to write a letter to the union president. Our purpose was basically to tell him what we thought about things and how bad we thought he was doing his job.
That was a stellar idea, right?
The three of us gathered in my living room. I brought out my portable typewriter, sat down, and typed in the president’s name and address.
“Dear Elder __,” I wrote on the salutation line.
I paused and asked, “Okay guys, how do we want to say this?”
That’s where my friend said to me these eight unforgettable words:
I guess it finally dawned on us at that moment that maybe our idea of writing that letter wasn’t such a good plan after all.
Thank God for friends who can sometimes speak truth to misguided friends and bring us back to our better selves! We decided to join in prayer about our concerns—taking them to the Lord alone, and much to our joy, He worked out His solutions in His own way and His own time!
Hallelujah! What a God we serve!
Kindness Comes from Love
In 1 Corinthians 13:4, the Apostle Paul writes, “Love is kind.”
As I thought about the little story I just shared, I realized that we three “conspirators” actually cared more about our own ideas than we did about the administrators of the Mission. We didn’t really love the people, we were far more in love with how we thought things aught to be done. Everything would work a lot better if we ever got a chance to be in charge!
Oh, my. Wasn’t that the same sentiment voiced by Absolom against his father David? And wasn’t that the same claim Lucifer made against God?
I’m afraid we didn’t realize the seriousness of our misplaced judgments.
Jesus called out the Pharisees for the same sinful attitudes. Twice. In Matthew 9:13, and again in 12:7, Jesus told them, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (NIV).
“Mercy, not sacrifice!”
These words of Jesus are a quotation from the Old Testament, Hosea 6:6. They apply directly to our focus today on the Spiritual fruit of Kindness.
Here’s the thing: If you do not care about someone—or his/her needs—you really cannot show mercy when a situation requires it. Caring comes from agápe love. And “love is kind,” as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth.
This level of caring—having a kind, compassionate, empathic heart—is at the very heart of true Christianity. Jesus modeled God’s love as a perfect example of how his followers should act. He taught that they should pray for their enemies, feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, visit prisoners, care for widows and orphans, and on, and on.
In his early years, Saul of Tarsus was anything but kind! All that mattered to him was perfection by his own obedience to the law, and his reputation with the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin. To gain their approval, Saul had no hesitation in persecuting the nascent Christian church. He gladly threw believers in jail, caused them to be punished unmercifully, and even participated in putting some to death!
But then, he met the glorified Christ on the Damascus road. You can read about it in Acts 9. That encounter changed everything for Saul—later to be know as Paul, the great Apostle who wrote much of the New Testament.
Without doubt, Paul went through several years of growing in grace, but following God’s lead he went on to establish churches, inspire thousands, write letters of encouragement and instruction, and eventually died a martyr for the cause of Christ. The influence of this one man is truly beyond calculation!
Paul’s letters are filled with messages of God’s love and every fruit of Spirit.
Repeatedly, Paul urges his readers to practice kindness. Here are just a few:
- 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is kind.”
- Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “Always try to be kind to each other.”
- 2 Timothy 2:24, “The Lord’s servant . . . must be kind to everyone.”
There’s an old hymn we used to sing that beautifully captures the true spirit of love and kindness. It goes like this:
“God is love; we’re His little children.
God is love; we would be like Him.
’Tis love that makes us happy,
’Tis love that smooths the way;
It helps us mind, it makes us kind
To others every day.”
So, here’s a question—the answer to which reveals real insight into our character:
“How do you treat your animals?”
The answer to this question is important because the spiritual gift of kindness does not limit itself to our human relationships, but actually extends to everything around us! I’ll explain more in just a moment, but first I want to share a glimpse into my own mother’s heart. This story might seem a little quaint, but to me it is quite precious.
After my father died in 1972, Mother continued living in the old family farmhouse for the next 13 years, except for a 10-month break when she visited Taiwan where my family and I were living.
While she lived at home, she continued to plant and tend a vegetable garden just as she had done for many years.
When I asked above, “How do you treat your animals,” I imagine most of us would think of our pets, like dogs, cats, birds, etc. As a farm kid my mind immediately goes to our cows, horses, lambs, and chickens.
But my mother was one-of-a-kind.
She loved growing tomatoes—big red beautiful delicious fruit you could eat right out in the garden or bring into the kitchen for a wonderful fresh tomato sandwich.
The problem was that there were some garden pests that loved her tomato vines, too. We called them “tomato worms,” but the actual name was “tomato hornworms.” That’s because a large horn-like spike stuck nearly straight up on the creature’s tail end.
These were BIG worms! They were probably 3 inches long and as big around as a grown man’s thumb. They were bright green (the same color as the tomato vines) and had several pairs of legs they used for crawling around on the tomato vines—which they loved to eat.
To say the least, Mother did not want these pests to destroy her tomato vines. She would pick each one she saw off the vines and put it into a metal can along with several others she had already collected. Later, she would destroy the worms with her garden hoe, but until she could finish her other work in the garden she would place the metal can of worms in a shady spot (these are her words), “so they won’t suffer with the heat from the sun.”
“Oh, Mother! They’re just worms!”
“Yes, I know,” she would answer, “but even though I’m going to kill them later I don’t want them to suffer. I don’t know if they have feelings or not, but God want’s us to treat everything with kindness. I think they’re happier in the shade than out in the hot sun.”
Then she would add, “But, also know I don’t want them in my garden!”
Kindness Reveals God to the World
Well, again, that may be just a quaint little story of my mother’s way of thinking, but as I said, to me it is precious. I truly believe she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and desired nothing more than to let her life in every relationship—human or otherwise—be a testimony of God’s love.
The following two quotations rather nicely sum up the purposes God has for us as believers and subjects of His Kingdom. They come from a little book (written in the 19th century) which has impacted literally millions of people in their spiritual journeys.
“In every one of his children, Jesus sends a letter to the world. If you are Christ’s follower He sends in you a letter to the family, the village, the street, where you live. Jesus, dwelling in you, desires to speak to the hearts of those who are not acquainted with him.”(Steps to Christ, p. 115)
“The children of God are called to be representatives of Christ, showing forth the goodness and mercy of the Lord. As Jesus has revealed to us the true character of the father, so we are to reveal Christ to a world that does not know his tender, pitying love.”(Steps to Christ, p. 115)
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Goodness.” Watch for it on June 27!
Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
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