Kindness – 2021 Vision
It’s great to be back this morning worshipping together! I trust everyone had a great Christmas and New Year’s! Isn’t it amazing-and I don’t think it’s accidental-how we go from celebrating the birth of Jesus into New Year’s. That we’re reminded once again about the incredible truth of the Incarnation that the eternal 2nd Person of the Trinity who took on human flesh and came to earth on a rescue mission for us. That Jesus is our Immanuel-God with us-our God who loves us and saves us who was born in a manger. That we celebrate that incredible truth at the end of December-and then right afterwards begin a new year in January. That on the heels of the most amazing truth we could ever hear we enter into a new beginning. So as you’ve begun 2021 is that truth firmly embedded in your heart? Have you entered this new year-a year we’ve all been eagerly anticipating-with the knowledge that our God is with us-your God is with you? Is the truth of Christmas dictating the start of this year-or is the fear and stress and worry of this new year and the turmoil in our world dictating the start of this year? Big difference-so I don’t think it’s accidental at all how we go from celebrating our Savior’s birth to beginning a new year.
And as we get started on this new year we want to begin with a new vision for 2021. We’re not changing or rewriting our church’s overall vision-we’re always about the saving grace and gospel of Jesus. Just as Starbuck is always about coffee so we are always about Christ-but we want to zero in this year on an aspect of Christ and a specific way to display His love to the world around us-and that’s Kindness: Because we have received it, we will show it. Eugene did a great job communicating this vision last week. If you weren’t here or didn’t get a chance to watch it-I encourage you to do so-you’ll be blessed and he opened up with a fantastic video about a bird and a dog. So check that out if you haven’t already-but Eugene connected this idea that because we’ve received the Lord’s kindness we are now called to show that kindness. And by kindness it doesn’t just mean the Lord was polite or did a few nice things for us. His kindness points us to the depth of His undeserved grace for us, it points us directly to heart and character of Jesus Himself who loves us. And that’s what we want to talk about and build on this morning.
So as I was thinking about this idea of kindness, I had a great reminder when we were back in IA visiting our families. It was so good to catch up with them-both Monica’s family and mine-especially as it had been over a year since we’d seen them. But as we were back in my hometown where I grew up near Des Moines there was a new coffee shop down the street called the Morning Grind. Now I’m always a fan of a new coffee shop-but what struck me about this one was that it was in the same building that used to have the video store I would go to as a kid. Home Video. Who remembers video stores-these things don’t even exist anymore. Streaming and Netflix are great and super convenient-but I still miss going to the video store and looking at all my choices for what to watch that night-picking up the movie case, reading the back. What will be my selection? It was an event-and at Home Video I rented lots of 80’s movies and Nintendo games as a kid. In fact, what I remember most about it was the plastic cases that held the VHS movies-I’m talking pre-dvd here! They were these plastic cases that would snap shut keeping the VCR tape safe-and what did the sticker say that was on the outside of the case-Be Kind Rewind. Who remembers this? And this was Blockbuster’s logo. Did anybody get hit with the rewind fee the next time you rented a movie-Sir, that’s an extra 50 cents since you didn’t rewind last time. And the people behind you in line immediately questioned your kindness-that guy didn’t rewind! In the 80’s and 90’s this was an important act of kindness-Be Kind Rewind. But when we come to this topic in our Bibles-is kindness something as simple as rewinding a VCR tape? Is that what we’re called to do? I believe the answer is that God’s kindness is of course far deeper than that-and yet showing His kindness can often be as simple and everyday as that.
If you have your Bibles, you can begin by opening up to Matthew-or we’ll have it up on the screen-Matt 5:14-15. Jesus is saying it’s ridiculous to put a lamp under a basket to block its light. No one does that-it would be a strange way of decorating. Anybody have any lamps underneath a basket at your house? Probably not-it’s not what lamps do. So the implication for us is-Matt 5:16. Jesus is saying to us as His followers that we’re like this lamp, we have a light to shine-and it’s one that shouldn’t be hidden by the basket. It’s a light that can’t be blocked by anything-instead it needs to shine forth. Why? So that through you people see the goodness of God and glorify Him. Big question this morning-do people see God’s goodness through you? When people look at your life do they come away glorifying God and seeing a glimpse of Him? Or do they see something quite opposite or even something hypocritical? This is a convicting question-is God’s goodness and His kindness of full display in your life? But this is where Paul builds on what Jesus is saying here in Gal 5:22-23. Kindness and goodness are two peas in a pod, two sides of the same coin. Two realities that need to be evident in your life. One commentary said that kindness is tender concern for others reflected in a desire to treat them just as the Lord does and goodness is the moral and spiritual excellence manifested in active kindness. What that’s saying is that kindness is the concern-the desire to treat others a certain way-while goodness is the outworking of it, the result. Or as Jerry Bridges says in his book The Fruitful Life-kindness is a sincere desire for the happiness of others; and goodness is the activity calculated to advance that happiness; that goodness is kindness in action, both words and deeds.
Now maybe you’ve never thought about it like that before-or never really taken much time to ponder the ideas of kindness or goodness. I think for many of us-we already assume that we’re good people; that goodness just naturally flows out of us and kindness is something that happens when things are going well and we’re in a good mood. But we tend to logically reason that if we wake up on the wrong side of the bed or find ourselves in a bad mood or had a bad day at work then not showing kindness is acceptable. Did anybody wake up in a bad mood this morning? I suppose you can’t answer that in church-but haven’t you found yourself thinking that waking up in a bad mood automatically negates kindness? I’m in a bad mood today so don’t cross me or get in my way. I’m grumpy and ornery-woke up in a bad mood so I’m not feeling too kind. As if that’s a valid excuse that ought to be accepted. As if waking up in a bad mood is equally as unpredictable and uncontrollable as the weather. I guess it’s cloudy today-nothing we can do about it. I guess I’m in a bad mood today-nothing I can do about it. But when I read this command in Galatians to display the fruit of kindness and goodness I don’t see it contingent on what sort of mood we’re in or how the day’s going. Look at Col 3:12-this was a verse Eugene spoke about last week and he said that our kindness is expressed in relationships. It’s easy to think ourselves as kind people-we all assume we’re kind people, that we have kind intentions, a kind heart-and maybe we do. But the mark of our kindness, the genuineness of our kindness is only displayed in how we interact with others, in our relationships and how we express that kindness. And this verse is saying that we are to clothe ourselves in kindness everyday just as we clothe ourselves in clothes. We wake up, put on a shirt and pants, and head out the door. Putting on clothes isn’t contingent on your mood-I’m grumpy today so I’m not getting dressed! You might feel like that-but you still get dressed-it’s what we do. And it ought to be the same with kindness. Irregardless of mood, irregardless of the day or what we’re going through, we need to put on kindness as we wake up and head out the door. So what does that look like?
Def:Kindness: being aware of those around us and sensitive to their needs. Kindness is anything but an activity centered around self-it’s about others. Kindness isn’t just being nice to people or acting polite and using good manners. Kindness is not something for sensitive people and if you’re someone with a tough exterior you don’t have to be kind-because you’re blunt and short with people. It goes much deeper than that because kindness begins by thinking outside of yourself, by not dwelling on you and your needs and what will make you happy (which we all do!) Kindness is about considering the needs of others and what will bless them. Now I think a lot of us agree with that and desire to bless others and help them out, but do we take the first step of being aware of others and knowing their needs? Do we take the time to not just worry how our needs will be met, but think about how we can meet the needs of those around us? Kindness is the opposite of self-absorption (which we’re all good at!) because we live in a culture that’s very self-absorbed. We’re mostly worried about our interests, our problems, our plans, our comfort, our happiness-what’s best for me. So much so that we’re not all that worried about the needs of others-what’s bests for them-that’s a question we seldom ask. As long as our life is good, we’re fine. We say things like-Have you done what I’ve asked for? Am I getting what I deserve? Are my rights being protected? Am I being treated fairly? Have I gotten what I want? Think about social media-there’s plenty of good aspects to it, but one of the big negatives is that it caters to this self-absorption problem-look at me and see what I’m doing, applaud me, be amazed at me, think about me, be jealous of me! That’s what drives much of social media-instead of seeking to be aware of others, we want them to be aware of us and how great we are. We want to make sure that people see us and praise us. Or even if we are attending to the needs of others and doing something kind we quickly post pictures of it on social media-look at the way I helped out today-#selfless, #randomactsofkindness. We live in a self-absorbed, me-centered culture trying to one each other-and God’s Word said this would be the case-2 Tim 3:1-4. It’s hard to argue against that description of today’s world-especially at the end-swollen, bloated, over weight with conceit. And that doesn’t mean we’re boasting all the time or bragging about stuff (which we love to do)-but it means we’re thinking about ourselves most of the time-priority #1 is me. So kindness like Def truly is a counter-cultural concept, and in fact this sort of kindness is a gospel-centered truth.
Look at what it says in-Titus 3:3. That’s not all that different from 2 Tim-and it’s not the most flattering description of the human race-but it sure is accurate. When God looks down on plenty earth He sees this selfish, disobedient, hateful group of people-can you imagine His reaction scrolling through our social media feeds! But if you were in His shoes what would you do? Probably move on to another planet and start over by creating a new human race. These people on earth-humanity 1.0-rebelled and lost their chance, let’s go with humanity 2.0 on Jupiter. That’s probably what we’d do if we were in God’s shoes-but look at what He does instead-v. 4-5a-and that’s because our works will never measure up. Sure we can try hard as people to do a lot of good deeds and random acts of kindness-but they’ll never be enough, they’ll never measure up or cancel out our disobedience and sinfulness. If left to ourselves we’re lost and unable to earn our way back to God-we’re stuck as sinful people. But this is where His kindness and goodness is so crucial-v. 4-7. That’s the gospel message. We can be saved because of what God has done for us through Jesus our Savior-and it all stems from His undeserved kindness and goodness. Think about that-God didn’t write us off as a lost cause or say that we were beyond help or not worth saving or start over with humanity 2.0-instead He was intimately aware of our great need as sinners and did something about it. God’s thinking goes beyond Himself. The One who’s in control of everything wasn’t too busy or distracted or self-absorbed from His job of running the universe to reach down and care for us. If there’s anyone who displays an awareness of others needs it’s the Lord. And that’s what brings us back to our vision statement-Kindness: Because we have received it, we will show it. If you’ve turned to the Lord in saving faith, then you have been the recipient of the greatest, most essential kindness ever-a kindness that has transformed your life and impacted your eternal destiny. So in light of that-will you show it?
That’s our challenge! Here’s the first of a series of followup questions we should be asking ourselves-How aware am I of other’s needs? Do you have an idea or awareness of the people around you? Do you know the challenges and struggles they’re facing? Are you thinking about ways you can help them or bless them? Are you looking to their interests and needs and wondering if there’s something you can do? Or are you too tunnel-visioned on yourself and your needs? Do you live in a self-absorbed bubble of you, where all you think about and talk about is yourself? Is your life and your priorities solely directed by your concerns? Or have you expanded your thinking outside of yourself to include other people, even those you’d normally tend to ignore or bypass or withhold kindness from? Eugene posed that question last week-and it’s so convicting-who are you withholding kindness from? Or to ask it another way-Who am I willing to show kindness to? Who would make your list? Does that include people you don’t like, people who annoy you and drive you crazy, people who’ve wronged you and offended you? Do they deserve your kindness-and I’m sure we’re all picturing people in our minds who don’t deserve our kindness! And the truth is-they probably don’t deserve it. I’m sure there are people in your life who don’t deserve your kindness after the way they’ve treated you and hurt you-but we didn’t deserve the kindness of God either-and yet He showed it to us abundantly! Luke 6:35-36. Eugene included this verse-and it’s saying the reason we’re to do good to those who aren’t good to us is because that’s exactly what God has done for us. As our good Father He’s reached out and saved us while we were still sinners, He’s been kind to us when we were ungrateful. And so now as His son or daughter, saved by the blood of Jesus, we’re called to bear the family resemblance of being kind to those who are ungrateful and undeserving. Think about it this way-the command to be kind isn’t negated by the way people wrongly treat us, the command to be kind is reinforced by the God who deeply loves us!
This book commentated on that and asked the question-Have you ever tried to be kind to someone who was ungrateful? As if who does that-and it made me think-sort of, maybe, I tried it once and it didn’t go so well. What’s your answer? Have you ever tried to be kind to someone who was ungrateful to you? Moms might say-yes, to my kids everyday! Parenting is where this concept is definitely put to practice. But have you ever tried to do good to someone who wasn’t good to you? Do you even think that’s possible? Is this kind of behavior something we’re capable of or is Jesus raising the bar too high, creating an unrealistic standard? Be honest with yourself, when you read a passage like this in Luke can you see yourself living this way-loving your enemies and being kind to them-or do you think it’s just wishful thinking and basically impossible? My gut reaction is that it does feel impossible, something far beyond my capabilities-which is true. What Jesus is describing here isn’t something you’re going to be able to do in your own power and strength. Kindness and goodness at this level exceeds all of our abilities-but the good news is that we’re not the ones who have to dig deep and try hard to make it happen. Instead, look at what it says in Eph 2:10 NIV. He’s the one at work in you. You’re like a woodcarving in His shop, a canvas in His studio, a character in His story-and He’s created you in Christ Jesus to go and do the good works He’s already planned and prepared for you to do. Now these good works aren’t the reason why He’s saved you, you’re saved by His grace alone, but these good works are the result of being saved; they’re the byproduct in your life as a follower of Christ. To wake up each day saying-Lord, this is another day to serve you, another day to do the good works you’ve called me to do, to show kindness to whoever you bring in my life. Knowing that no matter how far you’re stretched you can handle it because God’s prepared you for it-Eph 2:10. What a great comfort! I don’t know about you-but I need to remember this verse in the moment when doing good and showing kindness seems really hard and almost impossible-that I can do it because God’s prepared me for it. And that means there’s no such thing as random acts of kindness because all of these opportunities to show kindness have been sovereignly orchestrated by God in your life! Have you ever thought about that? They’re not random but completely intentional! He’s put these opportunities and these people in your life for the very purpose of displaying His kindness and goodness. He’s prepared it in advance for you-He’s thought about it, written up the draft, put the circumstances together so that today, tomorrow, this week-you and I would do the good works to the people around us that He’s created us to do. Will I go from random acts of kindness to intentional acts of kindness? That’s what this verse is telling us. I like how Bridges says it-Fruitful, 120-21. Be kind and rewind!
But have you ever thought of your job like that before? How would your outlook change on Monday morning if you went into the office or into the classroom or into the shop or even downstairs if you’re working from home with this perspective? What if you saw your job, not as a necessary evil to endure, but as your primary pathway for doing the good works God has called you to do? You’d look at your co-workers a whole lot differently; you’d respond to your boss in a whole new way or react to your workload with a changed attitude. Instead of those things being something to grumble and complain about, they become opportunities for kindness and goodness. The reality is that this call for goodness isn’t in those rare moments when you’re pulling someone out of a burning car or single-handedly taking down a bank robber. I’m sure we’d all rise to the occasion but it’s in the everyday, routine moments of life when we reveal the kindness and goodness of God. Listen to how Paul phrases this just after experiencing a shipwreck-Acts 28:1-2. Something so simple and normal-a fire and a warm welcome-but it became a noteworthy and unusual kindness! And doesn’t our world need some unusual kindness in 2021? Don’t you need some unusual kindness from someone in your life? Wouldn’t unusual kindness stand out like that bright lamp that Jesus was saying shouldn’t be hidden but lit up for all to see? What does that look like? Will unusual kindness describe your life? Will unusual kindness be your priority? Will unusual kindness be the way you treat others? Or will it be your usual cranky self? Your usual grumbling and complaining? Your usual lack of wanting to reach out and help others? Your usual avoidance of others because you’re too focused on your needs? Here’s our Mission statement this year-Through an unusual kindness we will display the Love of our Father, the Sacrifice of our Savior and the Fruit of the Spirit. That’s what we as a church want to do this year-it’s what we’re called to do this year. Will that be true of you? Will you go from the undeserved kindness of God that you’ve richly received to the unusual kindness you’re called to reveal? And nowhere is that unusual kindness better revealed than in the sacrifice of our Savior! One last verse-Phil 2:3-8. The most unusual but essential kindness ever!