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Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness & Gentleness

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Galatians 5:22–23 NIV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The fruit of the Spirit is....SLIDE kindness.
For those of us who were alive in the 80s and 90s, you remember these things called VHS tapes. These were popular back in the days before high-speed internet and streaming even existed. Blockbuster was a popular spot to rent what you planned to watch that evening. VHS tapes had to be rewound after they were watched . If you were to rent one of these tapes, there likely would be a sticker on the top advising: “Be kind. Rewind.”
Apparently people were so self-absorbed and self-centered that they could not be trusted with the common courtesy, decency and kindness to rewind their videotapes without admonishment. You see, if they were not returned rewound, someone at the video store would have to do it before it would be rented again. The humorous aspect of this whole thing is you actually felt good about yourself when you rewound these tapes. The profoundness of kindness was reduced to the simpleminded courtesy of rewinding a tape.
Kindness certainly includes simple courtesies such as rewinding your VHS tapes before returning them, but it is much more significant. The improv group Improv Everywhere understands this about kindness. Improv Everywhere does humorous, ridiculous and sometimes profound theatrical flash mobs designed to entertain and bring joy to the masses, as well as send meaningful messages. One of their purposeful improvisations, “Welcome Back,” included the random act of kindness of greeting complete strangers at the airport.
The group rallied at the JFK Airport and found taxi or limo drivers who had signs held up for their customers, and they made their own signs welcoming the person home and joined the driver for a greeting their customer would not soon forget. They told the drivers what they were up to. When the person arrived, a huge crowd holding banners and yelling, “Welcome back!” would welcome them home. They would give the unsuspecting recipient of this kindness flowers, chocolates and balloons making him or her feel welcomed and loved. At first, the recipients would be confused, not too sure of what to do with the extravagance, but then they would be grateful and appreciative of the kindness and grace they had experienced from their new friends.
British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes, whose fortune was used to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress—but apparently not at the expense of someone else’s feelings. A young man invited to dine with Rhodes arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes’s home in his travel-stained clothes. Once there he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had been dressed in evening clothes, but put on the old suit when he heard of his young guest’s dilemma. (Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 10)
In a sense, kindness almost has become a novelty in our culture today. We see so much rudeness and self-seeking self-promotion and self-centeredness. In fact, it is often pointed out when people do something kind, as most do not expect it. Many organizations have taken up the cause of kindness, and there is a kindness movement that seems to be sweeping the land. There is a kindness day and a push to practice random acts of kindness.
What is kindness? Do we know what kindness is? If we have ideas and assumptions of what kindness is, why are people not as kind as they could be or as kind as they know they should be? Why do we need to request kindness from others if we understand kindness? If we were kind people, why would it be unique and surprising for Improv Everywhere to be kind to strangers in an airport? How could a kindness espousing organization exist if everyone were naturally kind and compassionate to one another? The short answer is that kindness isn’t a natural response in today’s world for many.
So, what is kindness? According to the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, “Kindness is the state of being that includes the attributes of loving affection, sympathy, friendliness, patience, pleasantness, gentleness and goodness. Kindness is a quality shown in the way a person speaks and acts. It is more volitional than emotional.” This definition captures some of what kindness is, but kindness is still so much more than this. Kindness is not an emotion or feeling but a choice.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary translates the Hebrew word for kindness, chesed, as “compassion” and “faithfulness to one’s obligations, as well as to relatives, friends and to slaves.” According to The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the New Testament word for kindness is translated from the Greek word chrestotes. The dictionary says, “This word can describe gentleness, goodness, uprightness, generosity and graciousness. The New Testament [also] describes kindness as an attribute of God.
Titus 3:4–7 NIV
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Kindness is [also] a characteristic of true love.
1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
The fruit of the Spirit is SLIDE gentleness. What is gentleness? How is gentleness developed? What is the purpose of gentleness?
This Greek word used here has been translated as gentleness and meekness; however, sometimes it’s difficult to find just the right word to use when you are translating form one language to another.
For instance, how would you translate the word “pineapple” to an Eskimo who has never seen or tasted one before? An Eskimo would have no understanding of what a pineapple is or what the word means. Perhaps the best you could do for an Eskimo is call a pineapple “prickly sweet eatable blubber!” The same is true for the Greek word translated as gentleness and meekness. It just doesn’t fully communicate what it really means!
Aristotle described gentleness/meekness as a center between two extremes. For Aristotle gentleness meant finding the proper balance in life. Gentleness or meekness maintains a good equilibrium; it is to have a steadiness and stability that will not waver or be moved to extremes.
The Greek language is a precise and expressive language. When the Greeks developed a word, they not only gave it a careful definition, but they almost always illustrated it. Gentleness or meekness was best illustrated by an animal that had been tamed; the wild spirit and nature of an animal is brought under the control of its owner. A tamed horse has yielded or submitted it’s strength; the strength of the animal is no longer wasted wildly, but has been focused in order to fulfill a purpose. Gentleness then is power under control, submitted strength.
This morning, I want to look back to an example from the Old Testament as we think about these ideas of kindness and gentleness. Turn with me to:
1 Samuel 20:12–17 NIV
Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? But if my father intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
We see something very interesting here. David and Jonathan were best friends, but Jonathan’s father, King Saul was trying to kill David. David was anointed to be king, this was widely known and was why Saul wanted David dead. He was a threat. However, we see Jonathan extending a kindness to David and asking for it in return. They made a covenant, a promise. Now let’s jump to:
2 Samuel 9:1–13 NIV
David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.
King David remembered his promise to Jonathan. He asked for anyone who might still be left of the house of Saul, only Mephibosheth was left. Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s son who was lame. I want us to focus in on verse 7.
2 Samuel 9:7 NIV
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
David remembered his covenant of kindness with Jonathan and showed that to his son many years later. He gave him everything that had belonged to Saul including land and Mephibosheth ate at David’s table as one of his own sons.
I want us to recognize the significance in this. Typically, after the king died and a new king took the throne, he would have any remaining descendants of the previous king killed. Any remaining descendants could try to use that to take the throne. Instead, we see David do the opposite, he shows kindness by keeping his covenant with Jonathon, sparing the life of Mephibosheth and his family. David showed great kindness to
Wow. Talk about a lesson for us in kindness. Saul had had tried to kill David, but years later we see David show kindness to Saul’s grandson rather than vengeance.
We have also received kindness just like Mephibosheth did from David. God sent his Son Jesus to come to earth to bring about a new kingdom. He came as a sacrifice, dying on the cross for you and for me. He rose again three days later and now reigns at his father’s right hand. We have been invited to eat at the King’s table as a son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.
SONG - AMAZING GRACE MY CHAINS ARE GONE
If you do not have a relationship with Christ that has restored you to a place of being a son or daughter of the Most High God, I urge you to to pray this prayer with me. God, I’m a sinner. I believe that you sent your Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for my sin. I ask for your forgiveness and repent of my sin. I want to live life with you for the rest of my days. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer with me this morning, drop a note in the comments or send me a Facebook message or email me at pastortodd@hopeingreenbay.com. We want to connect with you and encourage you as you start this new life in Christ.
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son Jesus came not to be served but to serve, bless all who, following in His steps of kindness, give themselves to the service of others with compassion and kindness that with wisdom, patience and courage they may minister in His name to the suffering, the friendless and the needy for the love of Him, who in kindness and compassion, laid down His life for us, Your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer).
Benediction:
Numbers 6:24–26 NIV
“ ‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’
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