Summary: God's kindness to us sinners motivates and empowers us to be kind to others.
Well, we’re just about halfway through our sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit. The fruit that we want to consider today is kindness. What kind of fruit would you compare kindness to? An apple? Nah, an apple is too hard and looks like a baseball that you could whip at someone. A lemon? No. Lemons are sour and kindness is sweet. What about kiwi? Kiwi is soft and fuzzy on the outside and has a nice tart sweetness on the inside. Isn’t that a good way to think of kindness? Of course the thing with kiwi is that it’s easy to squish. Don’t we feel that way about people who are kind? We tend to think of them as softies—as people that you could easily run over and take advantage of. Perhaps that’s why we don’t practice kindness more often. We don’t want others to think that we’re pushovers. But as we take a close look at our sermon text this morning, we’re going to learn that kindness is tough. It endures ridicule and rejection to deliver loving actions and words. Listen to our text from Titus 3:3-8.
So how exactly would you define kindness? Is it being nice, polite, caring, good-hearted? Kindness is all of those things. The opposite of kindness is sternness—a smile versus a frown. If you had to draw another picture of kindness, what would it look like? Someone helping pick up items that have spilled out of the cart of another shopper? A grandmother laughing at the antics of her grandchildren as she hands them freshly-baked cookies? The Apostle Paul drew a picture of kindness in our text. Did you see it? Look again. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:3-5).
Like a beautiful flower that pokes out of a manure pile, God’s kindness appeared in the midst of sin—our sin. Paul did not say that “others” were once disobedient and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. No, he said that this is true for each one of us.
God’s kindness to sinners like us is truly marvelous. To put that kindness into perspective, think of how robots will soon be employed to stock our grocery shelves, fix our cars, and even give us medical care. But what would you do with a robot that ruined your car instead of fixing it, or made fun of your health when you went in for a checkup? Would you put up with such a machine? Would you pat it on the back and say nice things to it? I don’t think so. And yet that’s what God did when he put up with our sin. Instead of throwing us on the junk heap of humanity, he showed us kindness.
And what exactly does God’s kindness look like? The Greek word for kindness is chrestós. Does that sound like any other Greek word you know? What about Christos? Christos means the “anointed one” and it refers to Jesus who is the Christ—the one anointed to save us from our sins by giving his life up on the cross. The Greek words chrestós and Christos aren’t related to each other any more than the English words “love” and “live” are related. But it was not uncommon for the pagans in the 1st century AD to say that Christians worshipped Chrestós—kindness. They weren’t far off the mark were they? For Jesus Christos (Christ) is God’s chrestós (kindness) personified.
In Jesus we see that kindness is more than a smile, it’s doing something to benefit another. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan showed kindness when he stopped to take care of that stranger who had been robbed and beaten. The Levite and the priest, on the other hand, showed indifference when they walked on by with their heads held high!
We are, of course, to show kindness as the Good Samaritan had. Paul emphasized that truth in our text when he wrote: “I want you to stress these things [that God showed kindness to us sinners], so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (Titus 3:8).
It should be obvious that being kind is excellent and profitable for everyone, but perhaps this story will highlight that truth. An elderly lady enjoyed going to the local post office because the employees there were so friendly. Once she was waiting in a long line to buy stamps just prior to Christmas. The man in line behind her said, “Ma’am there’s no need for you to wait in line; you can buy your stamps at the machine in the lobby.” The woman said, “I know, but the machine won’t smile or ask about my arthritis.” Sure the machine could dispense stamps, but it wouldn’t dispense kindness like the postal employees were doing and that made a difference in that woman’s life.