Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kindling Kindness

Kindness is associated with being tenderhearted, forbearing, and forgiving (Ephesians 4:31,32; Colossians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4). It is related to long-suffering, but it is not quite the same thing. Long-suffering is more the negative, the bearing with others. Kindness is more the positive, being concerned about those in need. Long-suffering is more of an encounter of equals, letting go of the daily rubs that come from being human. Kindness looks to those struggling and in need and seeks to help. It is the attitude God has toward us as sinners in need of rescue (Titus 3:4; Romans 2:4; Isaiah 54:8). It is, I fear, a fruit that can be somewhat rare in the modern American church. We have, I fear, too often adopted the ethic of the stoics, with its hard imperviousness. We can, in many cases, maintain an attitude of restraint, of some degree of long-suffering. But we can lack real kindness for those who fall, even though we are told to act to restore them (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). In this it helps to remember that we ourselves are sinners who require kindness (Romans 7:18,19; Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:17). Now there is a danger here, as with other fruits of the spirit (for example, self-control), of taking it in isolation and pushing it to the extreme. The result can be a refusal to correct sinful behavior. But we must not let fear of the extreme discourage us from trusting the Holy Spirit to cultivate in us the fruit of kindness (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13).  

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