Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fruits of the Spirit Series:Kindness

Kindness—Fruits of the Spirit Galatians 5 and Various Scriptures

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and… did you get the next one right? It was one of those books in the Bible that always got me in memorizing them as a child in Sunday school. After the book of Judges, a small, almost forgotten book is located called “Ruth.” Do you remember the story of Ruth? I wanted to revisit the first two chapters as a way to illustrate one of the fruits of the Spirit, kindness. Like gentleness, the fruit of kindness is somewhat overlooked in the “fruit bowl” but it has an authentic significance in describing the character of our Amazing God. Be sure to read the text for yourself, but I thought I would somewhat summarize it for the sake of bringing in other passages to define this word, kindness.

There was a famine in the land of Judah and so a man by the name of Elimelech, his wife, Naomi as well as his two sons, Mahlon and Kilon all traveled to Moab to live. Shortly after, Elimelech passed away and Naomi was left with her two sons. Mahlon and Kilon married two Moabite women named Oprah and Ruth. Ten years later, both of Naomi’s sons passed away—so she was left alone with her two widowed, daughter-in-laws. Naomi heard that the Lord had provided for his people in the land of Judah and so she was preparing to go back. She told her daughter-in-laws to return back to their mother’s homes because it was better for them. They must have been very close because they wept several times over the idea departing from one another. They both resisted at first and then Oprah left while Ruth remained or “clung” to Naomi. Ruth expressed her devotion to Naomi and said:

“"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

So they traveled back to Bethelham with one another and lived together. There Ruth began working in the fields to provide for Naomi and herself. A man named Boaz owned the field in which Ruth worked in. He was actually a relative of Naomi and was an upright man. He took notice to Ruth and said:

11 Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

Ruth didn’t have to stay with Naomi just like Boaz didn’t have to protect Ruth while she was in the fields and allow her to work, and later on—marry her; but they did. A close relative to the word kindness is grace in the sense that it goes against what is the natural, selfish reaction to a less than ideal situation. The Old Testament is littered with examples of God’s kindness to his people and in the New Testament, this kindness was ultimately manifested into grace and mercy of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

So why is it important to show kindness? In Romans 1, our identity as followers of Christ is explained in an analogy of grafted branches. We were given the choice to follow Christ and therefore were grafted in the family of God based off of the kindness that God bestowed on us through his Son Jesus Christ. It says in verse 22 however, that if we do not continue in his kindness, we will be cut off.

“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.” Romans 11:22

Seems like a pretty good reason to be kind doesn’t it? Another purpose behind this fruit and why it is a part of list of fruits of the Spirit, is found in 2 Peter:

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I love this passage of scripture because it explains that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness and that we GET to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world. The next few verses have this picture of building blocks of qualities that lead to a peak of love. One of these crucial building blocks that is actually right before the peak of love is “brotherly kindness.” And it says that “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Wow. Do you ever feel ineffective and unproductive in your walk with Christ? There is quite a bit of an overlap between the qualities listed here and in Galatians 5, so even the repetitiveness of these fruits reveal the importance of them to God. Do you have a desire to be effective and productive in the ministry God has placed you in? Maybe begin with this list in both Galatians and 2 Peter and pray through these qualities; asking God to reveal specific opportunities that you can practice them. It’s tough---so tough to show kindness to people who are more like our enemies but it says later on in that passage in 2 Peter that “ if you do these things, you will never fall, ‘and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ.” Your situation may be less than ideal right now and being kind is the last thing on your mind, but think of Ruth. She lost her husband, brother-in law and father-in law. She knew she had the freedom to go back to her home and possibly re-marry someone else but she saw that Naomi didn’t have anyone: she lost her husband and both her sons! Ruth understood the big picture in all of this and she was rewarded for it.

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