It’s Saturday, yay! So unlike the past five mornings where you stumbled out of bed and in automatic pilot mode reached for your school uniform, today a little thought had to go into what you would put on. Perhaps it’s been a “jammies-to-lunchtime” kinda day, or maybe the only process involved was lifting your favourite cosy hoodie from your “floor-drobe”. (This would be a fitting moment for me to upload a photo I found this week of my teenage bedroom, but my parents would not be amused!). However, I imagine if Saturday night involves an outing to Youth Club or meeting up with friends there may be a little bit more thought and effort applied!
We’ve already looked this week at Colossians 3 v 12 which tells us how to get dressed…spiritually! Paul chooses five characteristics which we as Christians should dress ourselves in every day; we look today at the clothing of kindness. We all like to think of ourselves as being kind, but let’s explore what this fruit really looks like in action.
Timothy Keller has given some really helpful explanations of each of the Greek words Paul uses in Galatians to describe the fruits of the Spirit. This is how he defines kindness:
Before we look at the scripture passages today you may want to copy out this definition and break down the different phrases. Then we will see how the stories highlight these different points.
… is about serving.
We have already met the idea of serving others in Jesus’ words in Matthew 20 v 28 “…the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve…”
It is a fruit of doing. Yesterday we thought about waiting, being still and just sitting tight while we trust God with the ‘doing’. For many situations in our own lives that is what’s required. But this is a different fruit. It is an active fruit and involves other people. How often do we only get as far as having kind thoughts or good ideas with good intentions, but through busyness or distractions we never actually get to the ‘doing’? All too true of me! Kindness doesn’t just intend to…kindness does it!
…makes me vulnerable.
This is an added characteristic of kindness that our English translation doesn’t quite emphasise. It’s a useful exercise to look up “vulnerable” in the dictionary.
So being kind may come with risks, such as the risk of being taken advantage of, the risk of being unappreciated, the risk of going without ourselves, the risk of being criticised (sometimes we even hear the comment said of kind people “She’s too nice, I don’t trust her. What’s she looking for in return?”)
So as we explore this fruit further (remembering the seeds of this true and special kindness are planted in our lives already) we ask ourselves “Am I willing to become vulnerable to please the Lord?”
Let’s explore two characters in the Old Testament who were!
2 Samuel 9 v 1-13
2 Kings 4 v 8-10
Background to 2 Samuel 9.
Yesterday we thought of David as an example of someone in the Bible who spent years waiting on God. There were some very difficult times for him while Saul was still King of Israel but during these years one of the joys in David’s life was his friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son. David was broken hearted when Jonathan was killed in battle; we join his story when he is now King.
Some ideas for O& A:
V1 David looked for someone to be kind to: “Is there anyone….?” He didn’t just wait to see what needs would show up at his palace. Isn’t this a picture of how we can put on the clothes of kindness? Each day as we get dressed physically we can ask ourselves “Is there anyone…in my class…in my work…..in my family….who I can show kindness to today?” As we pray God will show us the people who need His love today and we can be the instrument!
V3 David was making himself vulnerable. He didn’t realise that the only relative of Jonathan’s left was a cripple with no intention of trying to regain the throne. David could have been risking showing kindness to someone who would then form a rebellion against him and try to take the throne back for Saul’s family. We can be very good at talking ourselves out of showing kindness, David certainly could have come up with excuses in this case, but didn’t! Think now of some of the excuses we often make.
V 7-10 David was practical. He didn’t just go to visit Mephibosheth and tell him old stories about the fun times he’d had with Jonathan. No, David gave him practical help and just note how many times it is emphasised that Mephibosheth ate at the King’s table. The Bible mentions showing hospitality as important behaviour that Christians should demonstrate. We all can enjoy having our close friends over to stay, but do we ever consider including those people in our classes who perhaps are not as popular? Do you ever notice girls in your class who are on their own at lunchtime? Perhaps as you pray and put on kindness, God will put it in your heart to spend time having lunch with someone new!
V8 This is a really sad verse. Mephibosheth referred to himself as a “dead dog”. He obviously felt really useless in life because of his disability and so it meant so much to him that someone (especially the King!) would notice him and care about him. In today’s world we would say he had “low self-esteem.” There are people all around us who feel like this and they desperately need to know how much God loves them. He wants us to reach out to them and through our acts of kindness they will feel His love. Sometimes, however, these people are not naturally easy to get along with. They may be unpopular, grumpy, or very quiet and hard to talk to; when we make attempts to befriend them we may feel hurt by their reaction if they don’t respond as we’d hoped. Do you ever stop to think what it feels like for people in your class when a teacher says “get into groups” and there’s a pupil who knows that no-one will choose to have them in their group? As representatives of Christ shouldn’t we be the people who notice this? Shouldn’t we be the ones who make sure that person is always included? What about birthday parties? Perhaps there’s someone in your class who will always be overlooked? Maybe there seem to be valid reasons…”she’s annoying; he’s immature; she’s no fun; she’ll tell people all the stuff we talk about.”….but true kindness will take those risks in order to show the other person love.
Let’s remember today that there are people currently in our lives (in our classes, at our work, living beside us….) who God has placed in our lives for a reason. They may only be in our lives for a short time and we may be the only Christian that they currently know, or may even ever know! We have an assignment to show God’s kindness to them, even when it costs us!
2 Kings 4 v 8-10
Again apply some SOAP to these verses.
Note how practical this lady was. She first of all noticed Elisha, then she clearly put a lot of thought into what his needs would be. I imagine she tried to put herself in his shoes and think carefully what would be most helpful to him. Perhaps God has been putting some people in your heart that he would like you to show kindness to. Pray that He will help you to be creative and practical in what you could do.
This lady used her resources (we are told she was rich) to meet someone else’s needs. You maybe don’t feel that you’re in a position to use your money to show kindness if you have no income, but you may have the resource of being young, fit and energetic! Are there elderly people in your life who would really benefit from those resources, especially in these cold months and long dark nights? Pray that God will help us notice, then be creative and practical!
The story of David and Mephibosheth is a lovely picture of how God shows loving-kindness to us.
Song of Solomon 2 v 4 reads
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”
Write down some points that we have in common with Mephibosheth and try to imagine what it really meant to the young man to have this undeserved kindness given to him, changing his whole life. We should allow this to give us a whole new appreciation of the kindness that God has shown to us. God gives us the ultimate picture of kindness which becomes vulnerable, when He became a man and allowed other men, who He had created, to abuse Him and nail Him to a cross.