Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Flow of the Spirit is Kindness: Becoming Kinder Persons

Top 12 Scripture Texts: Number 11C
Galatians 5:22, 23

Bob Rakestraw
November 30, 2008

How to Become Kind

I’ve had a huge privilege throughout my adult life—I’ve lived with a remarkably kind person for over 41 years. My wife, Judy, is also the most unselfish person I’ve ever known. One of the two most important ways to learn to be kind is to be around kind people. Observe how they speak and act in specific situations, and then attempt this way of life yourself. The second most important way to learn kindness—it actually precedes imitation—is to turn your life over to God in every respect.

According to the apostle Paul, “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23 New Living Translation). It is putting the cart before the horse if we try to be kind without first yielding our whole selves—body, heart, spirit, mind—to God. But when we commit ourselves to be radical disciples of Jesus, desiring to live all of our days according to his example and will, we will become more patient, more joyful, more self-controlled…and more kind. It’s the supernatural flow of the Spirit. And its also the in-the-moment direction of the Spirit: “If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Gal. 5:25, NLT).

In addition, I find it extremely motivating to call to mind why I need to be kind to others, even to those who are not kind: they are created in the image of God, and in some way represent God on earth. To be kind to “the least of these” is to be kind to God!

How to Show Kindness

There are a lot of ways you can show kindness. Hold the door open for the next person coming through. Say “Thank you” often. Say “You too” to the cashier after he or she gives the obligatory “Have a nice day.” Smile at people—looking into their eyes. Tell someone abut a flaw in his or her life. That’s right! This is a really tough one, and you should do this only after much thought and prayer, and after you have come to know the person well. After agonizing for many months, I finally mentioned to a student his consistently bad breath. He received it well, but I hated to do it. I know I would want someone to tell me. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).

Introduce yourself to your neighbors, and make attempts to know them. Most likely, they will not do it first. Pray about this, and pray for them, before you knock on their apartment or house door. Bring them a tin of cookies or a calendar. Invite them into your home. Yes, these things take time and boldness, but you will be amazed at how God gives you the courage and the words when you take the first step. As a chronically ill person, I have had to ask God to help me be kind to the doctors who come into my hospital room. Their often-repeated, seemingly endless rounds of questions surely do not prompt me to be kind. I have sometimes become irritated at them, because talking is so exhausting for me, and I have regretted this afterward. I have often had to repent of unkindness throughout my life—especially in words and thoughts—and God always forgives me through his kindness.

My Greatest Struggle

As a college and graduate school professor I have had the most difficulty grading papers and assigning grades for the course. I will never know how some students were accepted into one of the schools where I taught—they were so unprepared intellectually. I tried always to be kind to them and help them, but I could not in good conscience give them good grades, or even passing grades, at times. They simply did not know the material, nor did they know how to learn. They were greatly distressed over their poor grades, and I felt distress as well. Some students are not equipped to be in college or graduate school, and it is actually unkind (and dishonest) to push them through the courses. They should not be led to believe they are something they are not. God will still use them to serve him according to the way he has gifted them.

Over the length of your lifetime you will make many thousands of decisions. Often these decisions are made on-the-spot. Ask God to control your whole life—yield yourself to him totally—and you will be led at the time with what to say or do, or not say or do. Once you’ve made the big decision to follow Christ all of your days, you will experience more and more wisdom, insight, patience,…and kindness in your everyday decisions. You will be increasingly joyful and peaceful in yourself, and increasingly kind to others. Many will be richly blessed through you—more than you will ever know!

John Wesley offers us some valuable words:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

A Personal Note

I offer thanks to God today for directing one-and-a-half years of “The Benediction Project” blog. There have been times when, due to my poor health, I have thought of suspending or even ending the project, but I am grateful that God has enabled me to continue. Thank you for walking with me during this journey. I value your participation greatly.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

Bob, I am so thankful that you have kept this blog going. You and Judy have the flow of the spirit coming from you. In this world the way God often talks to us is thru the words and insight of another believer and you and Judy have been used greatly. I have often said that Judy is my spiritual mentor. Thanks for taking the time to keep this going. Love, Rosemary