Have you noticed that our world seems to thrive on the actions and statements of mean people? The entertainment industry is built on conflict, and while you can’t have a good story without conflict, you won’t have a good message without resolution. And I think we tend to forget that part and just focus on the conflict.
When I think of conflict anymore, I think of “reality” TV shows. I don’t watch them, but I hear about them. And honestly I don’t understand the allure of watching a group of people (whether they are stranded on an island, locked in a house, or trying to find a wife) act like idiots and treat each other like dirt. It’s been said that entertainment is the mirror of a society. What we like to watch is a statement about what kind of people we are. That’s been true since Rome was in charge.
So if we spend all our time watching or listening to mean people being mean to each other, what does that say about us?
Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
This month I’m studying the Fruit of the Spirit, the nine character qualities or life responses that are evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, and the focus for today is kindness. I grew up in church with the King James Version, and that translation uses the word gentleness instead of kindness. And I don’t suppose there’s too much difference between those two words, but they aren’t the same. And I recently discovered something that makes me very happy: an online Strong’s concordance (http://www.equipgodspeople.com).
If you’ve never used a Strong’s concordance, they’re awesome. It’s a Bible study tool that assigns numbers to Greek words for easy cross referencing. Let’s take kindness for example. In Greek, it looks like this: χρηστοτης. This word is assigned a number (5544), and if you look up this number in this online concordance, it will list all the times the same word appears so you can cross reference the specific context of the word in more than one situation.
Like χρηστοτης, it’s used only 10 times in the entire New Testament and in most instances it’s used in the context of how God relates to us in His goodness. It’s translated as both kind and good, like gentleness that stems from moral integrity. Do you know anyone like that? Do you know a person who responds to others with that sort of kindness?
This is the kindness that sees and understands that people aren’t perfect and chooses to be nice to them anyway. This is the kindness that God shows us because He is good 100%, and even though we don’t deserve it, He does it anyway. That’s the sort of kindness we need in our lives, and that’s what the Holy Spirit will produce if we allow Him to.
I want to be a good person, yes. I want to be the sort of Christ follower that stands out, who others know is different, but not at the expense of how I treat people. I know Christ followers who are unkind. I’m sure everyone does. But, boy, are they are good Christians! Those types of Christians have the kind of knowledge of Scripture that would take me a lifetime to obtain. They know so much about the Bible. They know references and definitions and everything.
But how does that person treat the people around them? Do they think they’re better? Do they have to condescend to speak to people who don’t know as much as they do? Do they look down their noses at people who don’t know the Bible as well?
That’s been my experience. I can tell you that the people in my life who have hurt me the most are the ones who spend most of their time buried in the Bible, but it’s one thing to know Scripture. It’s something else to live it, to integrate it into your thoughts and your life, to let it change you from the inside out and to listen to the Spirit when He’s talking to you. That’s how the Bible changes you. That’s what makes it a Living Book.
And I would rather understand who God is and understand the context of how we’re supposed to live than to be able to quote references and parse Greek. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be able to do that, but to learn to do that would take so much of my life at this point that I would have to drop the other things I’m doing–like reaching out to people.
I don’t believe the Holy Spirit would call us to kindness at the expense of our relationships. Moral integrity is great, yes, but personally I don’t think it’s true moral integrity if you treat others poorly. I don’t think it’s honoring to God if you withhold kindness from anyone.
Yes, if it’s a horrible person who is only going to hurt you, don’t invite them into a close relationship with you. Be wise about your friendships. But you can still be kind, and the Holy Spirit will tell you how. He’ll give you the strength to be kind.
So as we venture out into a world of reality TV shows where cruelty is glorified, let’s be kind. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us the way to show kindness to people. We don’t have to compromise what we know is right to be kind to others. But if we don’t start showing kindness to people, I’m not sure that we’ll ever really make a difference.