From The Pastor's Heart

Each situation that stretches your patience is a God-given opportunity to choose kindness rather than harshness.

By Charles F. Stanley

Our society is very focused on outward appearances, which can make it easy to overlook or undervalue inner character qualities. However, outer beauty fades with age, but a godly character becomes more attractive over time. Although we’ve all heard the saying “Beauty is only skin deep,” in actuality, genuine beauty goes much deeper than the skin because it’s the inner quality of a Christlike character produced by God in the lives of His people.

Kindness is one of those characteristics every believer should have because it reflects God. That’s why He tells us, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:3-4). Showing kindness is important in all relationships, and when it comes to the church being an example in a community, it has a special role—leading others to Christ, since “they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Kindness is God’s will for us, so we must first understand what it is. Kindness includes gentleness, tenderness, consideration, patience, and compassion, and is displayed in sensitivity and helpfulness to others. It is not self-seeking and expects nothing in return. Kindness is the opposite of being harsh, bitter, impatient, rude, demanding, unforgiving, or easily angered.

The contrast is striking, isn’t it? Which description most closely describes your interactions with family members, coworkers, neighbors, wait staff, store clerks, or strangers? That’s a challenging and sobering question, but one every believer must seriously consider.

Although some people today think kindness is a sign of weakness, it often requires great strength and self-restraint. For instance, is it easier for you to be kind or to lash out at someone who mistreats you? I think the answer is obvious. That’s why it’s always a good thing to remember Jesus’ words when facing difficult people, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you,” and “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:31, 35). Why would God require this? “For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men,” and as His children, we are to emulate Him (v. 35).

Kindness is God’s will for us, so we must first understand what it is.

Therefore, our second step should be to look at God’s kindness as an example to follow. Salvation is the greatest display of His kindness to us who believe, but Psalm 145:17 says, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds”—even to those who don’t know Him. The riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience are meant to lead people to repentance, but those who remain stubbornly unrepentant forfeit His kindness and store up wrath for themselves in the day of judgment (Rom. 2:4-5).

Unlike God, we are never called to deal out retribution. Not only are we to love each other in the church but those outside as well. These people need the gospel, and the church should be a place of welcoming kindness for them. Our responsibility is not only to tell them about Christ but to demonstrate Christlike behavior. Our speech should always be sensitive and gracious (Col. 4:5-6).

Third, we need to learn how to express kindness. When I was five years old I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of kind words after saying something mean to my mother. Instead of being harsh with me, which is what I deserved, she calmly quoted the verse Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV), saying, “Charles, a soft answer turns away wrath.” That’s a truth we all need to learn in our communications with others, whether in the home, work place, or society in general.

The other way we express kindness is through our actions by being alert for ways to help others, even if we have to sacrifice time or convenience. In addition to individual acts of kindness, when local churches serve surrounding neighborhoods or schools by fulfilling some need, they show Christ’s love. There are a myriad of ways we can show both small and large acts of kindness.

Fourth, it’s essential we understand how Christlike kindness is produced in us. Since this is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, it’s obviously something we can’t manufacture on our own (Gal. 5:22-23). However, we are responsible to lay aside attitudes from our old way of life and put on Christlike characteristics through the power of the Spirit (Eph. 4:22-24). We can’t excuse ourselves, saying, “Well, kindness doesn’t come naturally to me.” Of course it doesn’t. We aren’t called to do what comes naturally but to be transformed into a person who reflects Christ’s nature (Col. 3:12-13).

If you are struggling to be kind, whether to a fellow believer or an acquaintance who doesn’t know Jesus, ask the Lord to change how you respond. Each situation that stretches your patience is a God-given opportunity to choose kindness rather than harshness. Pay attention not only to what you say but how you say it. And remember that being kind is not just a good option but a command from the Lord who has demonstrated amazing kindness to you.

Charles F. Stanley

P.S Have you ever tried to list all the ways God has been kind to you? As big as the list is, I can assure you that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. What a joy it will be to be joined together in heaven as the whole church to praise and thank the Lord for His infinite lovingkindness toward all of us who have believed in Jesus Christ for salvation. But why wait? Let’s begin today.

3 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.

4 So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.

16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.

4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.

6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

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