Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fruit of The Holy Spirit (part 5): Kindness

Robert De Vincenzo, the great Argentine golfer, once won a tournament and, after receiving the check and smiling for the cameras, he went to the clubhouse and prepared to leave. Sometime later, he walked alone to his car in the parking lot and was approached by a young woman.

She congratulated him on his victory and then told him that her child was seriously ill and near death. She did not know how she could pay the doctor’s bills and hosp
ital expenses.

De Vincenzo was touched by her story, and he took out a pen and endorsed his winning check for payment to the woman. "Make some good days for the baby," he said as he pressed the check into her hand.

The next week he was having lunch in a country club when a Professional Golf As
sociation official came to his table. "Some of the boys in the parking lot last week told me you met a young woman there after you won that tournament." De Vincenzo nodded. "Well," said the official, "I have news for you. She’s a phony. She has no sick baby. She’s not even married. She fleeced you, my friend."

"You mean there is no baby who is dying?" said De Vincenzo.

"That’s right," said the official.

"That’s the best good news I’ve heard all week." De Vincenzo said.

In the book the fruit of the Holy Spirit the authors comment on this story by saying “ we should be concerned for the welfare of others and do all we can to be kind to them even if we are taken advantage of. “

We’ve working our way through a series looking at the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The virtues that Paul tells us grow in our lives when we allow ourselves to be lead by God’s spirit that dwells in all believers and to walk our lives in step with the Spirit. Today we are looking at the fifth fruit listed by Paul: kindness. In Corinthians 13:4 Paul says that love is kind and while we might think of things to do with the spiritual as mystical or spooky and even otherworldly the Holy Spirit is very practical and down to earth, leading us to put our knowing and being known by God into action through kindness.

The Greek word for kindness is Chrestos and it’s hard to understand its full meaning in scripture because in the New Testament it is a word that is unique to Paul and then almost exclusively used in the context of lists of Christian virtue like the Fruit of the Spirit and the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13..

In those list’s it’s always partnered with the word and virtue patience, the two describe two sides of love in action. Gordon Fee says “ if long suffering means ‘not to chew someone’s head off, ”kindness” means to find ways actively to show mercy to them, to take towel and wash basin in hand and wash their feet.

It’s also almost synonymous with the next Fruit of the Spirit ‘Goodness’. Goodness embraces the whole of one’s character and kindness is how that is expressed. Jack Hayford sums it up by saying kindness is goodness in action,... the word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience. ‘

Again like all the fruit the spirit produces in us Kindness is an attribute of God. The NIV translates Jeremiah 9:24 as saying ‘ as saying I am the LORD who exercises Kindness, justice and righteousness on earth for in these I delight.”

Kindness is at the heart of how God has chosen to relate to us. In Romans 2:4 Paul says that God has been kind and patient to us so that we may repent and turn towards him. The epitome of Gods kindness Paul goes on say in Roman’s 5:8 is that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God’s kindness is shown to us through grace. Gordon fee sums up this by saying “God’s kindness is to be found in his thousand fold acts of mercy toward people like ourselves who deserve his wrath.”

How then does Kindness manifest itself in our lives? How would it have its outworking? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is by looking at Jesus example and the parable Jesus told in answer to a similar question, ‘who is my neighbour?’ In the parable that has come to be known as the parable of the Good Samaritan. It does address being kind in to someone in need.

It tells us that kindness sees through the eyes of compassion.

Have you noticed in the gospel’s how Jesus always sees the people in need around him. Her sees the blind man by the side of the road, he hears him calling out, he spots the short outcast up the sycamore tree, he notices the women who hoping against hope will be healed as she touches the helm of her garment, he saw the funeral procession of the widow of Nain and it moved him to great sorrow, when he looked at the crowd in a busy city people going in all directions at the same time he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and hungry. On the cross he sees a repentant sinner while others simply saw a convicted terrorist. In the midst of his suffering and pain he sees his mother and his best friend and moves to comfort them.

In the parable, the three men walking the dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho see the man who had just been robbed. They see him beside the side of the road stripped bare and bleeding and the story tells us that only one the despised Samaritan saw him with the eyes of compassion.

We are not told what made the Priest and Levite, people that Jesus listeners would have expected to enshrine godly virtue, pass by on the other side.

Perhaps they looked with compassion but with one eye on the time. They were busy people, maybe with good places to be and needing to make good time. But kindness and compassion don’t often fit nicely into a tight schedule, kindness take time.

Perhaps they looked with eyes that were more concerned about their own safety and needs rather than the needs that they saw. The road was dangerous, even well into our won century it has had the reputation of being an unsafe place. Robbers used such people as bait for trapping the compassionate and kind. Compassion can be risky. The priest and Levite were on their way to Jerusalem both served in the temple and it is often suggested that they didn’t want to risk becoming ritually unclean by touching a dead body. But kindness and compassion can be messy things, they involve getting our hands dirty with the realities of life.

When you are travelling do you allow your travel partner the Holy spirit who we walk with to show you things through the eyes of compassion, in your everyday routine and outside the square, maybe even outside in the square.

The second thing is that kindness responds with compassionate action.

Jesus not only sees the needs of others he responded to them and compassionately meet those needs. He healed the blind man, he restored the women whose bleeding had made her an outcast for decades, he dined with Zacchaeus and made a way for him to come to repentance, he raised the widows son saving her from extreme poverty, he called and sent out his disciples into the harvest field with the good news, he invited the repentant thief on the cross to be with him in paradise, he gave his best friend and mother someone to care for and to care for them in the darkest of hours.

He was prepared to get his hands dirty with the stuff of our lives. Eusebius the father of church history said of Jesus “he was the excellent physician who in order to cure the sick, examines what is repulsive, handles sores, and reaps pain himself from the suffering of others. Jesus never regarded the suffering with indifference still less with loathing and disgust. He regarded the needy with a pity which issued in help.”

The Samaritan shows kindness by acting out of compassion, the other two had responded by going across to the other side of the road, but he goes to the man. He goes and sees what’s needed. He meets the man’s immediate needs, he bandages his wounds, pouring oil and wine on the wounds. He makes certain the man’s long term needs are met. He puts him on his donkey. Takes him to an inn where he can be looked after and feed and convalesce. He then anticipates the man’s future needs, offering to pay any outstanding bill he might incur.

Showing Kindness calls us to be willing to cross over. Be it from one side of the road to the other, or across to the other side of the tracks, or the other side of the fence or even the other side of cultural divide or to the other side (full stop) to love our enemies. It’s also a crossing over that starts with the smallest of distances with our families both natural and church.

Showing kindness calls us to listen and observe and find out what the need is. Jesus often asked “What do you want me to do for you?’

Showing kindness calls us to meet people immediate need and to be prepared to stay involved so that long term and even possible future needs can be meet.

Showing kindness calls us to use our own resources and to be willing to gather the resources of others. Pioneering missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, tells the story of being invited to pray for a very poor woman who was sick. In her culture religious people usually required payment to come and pray, they asked Hudson not out of Christian convictions but economic necessity. He felt the spirit prompt him to do more than pray. He had a coin in his pocket and felt he should give it to the women and her family. He also remembered that in his house there was enough for only two more meals then well there was nothing. He hesitated but then decided to give what he had to the women.

The logo for The Presbyterian Church of Aeotearoa New Zealand  church is the burning bush and in Moses encounter with God at the burning bush we are told that God’s kindness is shown in that he hears the cry of his people and he sees the suffering and oppression they were being subjected to in Egypt, the place he had sent them for their safety in a time of famine, and he has compassion, compassion that leads to action. He is sending Moses to be the agent of his salvation and compassion to his people. Moses with all his faults and reservations, Moses who while he has the royal connections has stuffed it up in the past, Moses who has family responsibilities and time commitments, Moses is the sign of God’s Kindness and compassion. What a great logo for our church, we are people who have been shown kindness and grace by God and are called to show that kindness and compassion as we walk each day with the spirit.

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