Read – Ephesians 4:25-32
Key Verse – And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV).
Key Thought – Christians can, should, and must, ALWAYS be kind.
May I share a story with you? It is the story of three young women, Sara Tucholsky, Mallory Holtman, and Liz Wallace.
In the last college game she ever played, Sara was in a slump. She had three hits in her last 34 at-bats. She was frustrated. With two runners on base, Sara came to bat in the second inning of a 0-0 game that would decide which team would go to the NCAA Division II playoffs. The loser would go home. She took the first pitch for a strike. The next pitch would have caught the outside corner. It would have been strike two. But Sara crushed it. The ball sailed over the fence in left-center field. Sara had never had that sweet feeling before. She had never hit a home run — not in practice, not in a game, never. In her excitement, never having hit a ball far enough to which they allow you to jog around the bases, Sara missed first base. That’s fine. It happens all the time. She was only a couple of feet past the bag when she realized her mistake. All she need to do was calmly turn, take a couple of steps back, touch first and continue on her way to glory. But Sara panicked. She planted hard to make a mad dash back to first. Suddenly, she went down. She crawled and reached for first base. When she got there, she hugged it like it was a life preserver. She didn’t know it at the time, but she had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She couldn’t move. The first words Sara heard were “Don’t touch her.” The fear was that if her first base coach or a teammate had gone onto the field to help her, she would have been called out. Coaches and umpires met quickly, with Sara still lying in the dirt. If Sara was replaced by a pinch runner, that runner would remain at first base. Here three-run home run would have been recorded as a two-run single. While this discussion was happening, Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman asked a simple question. “Can I help her?” Mallory asked if she could help Sara. She called for shortstop Liz Wallace. “Is it all right if we pick you up?” Mallory asked Sara. When Sara agreed, they hoisted Sara and began to carry her toward second base. Just as Sara was being lowered so she could touch second base, the cheering started. People must have realized they were seeing the rarest of moments, competitors helping a fallen opponent even when helping her would hurt their chances to win the game. By the time they made their way around third, some people in the crowd were crying. When they lowered her to touch home, Sara said, “Thank you.” In the years since that happened, Sara, Mallory and Liz became Internet sensations. Interview after interview have been conducted. In one such interview, when asked about this event, Sara said, “My story is about humans being kind to each other.” “What I learned from Mallory that day is that we always have the opportunity, in every moment, to see the bigger picture. And if we can pause in moments like those and make choices based integrity and kindness, I think we’d see a lot more good in this world.” (excerpted from http://www.wou.edu/woustories/2014/12/16/the-western-oregon-home-run-that-won-an-espy-and-changed-college-softball-forever/)
This morning, I’d like for us to think about Ephesians 4:32 – And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. And more than that, I want to focus on the first part of that verse, And be kind to one another. Maybe even further – let’s just talk about the word, kind, this morning.
It’s a big little word in the Bible that we need more of.
Are you kind?
– Are you kind to your wife, men…
– to your husbands, ladies?
– How about to your children?
– Are you kinds to your parents, young people?
– Bosses (we have several in this room), are you kind to your employees?
– Employees (we have lots in this room), are you kind to those you work for… those you work with?
– Are you kind to people who share the road with you when you drive?
– Are you kind to the McDonald’s employee who messes up your order?
– Are you kind to the many strangers with whom you interact daily?
– Are you kind when you’re on Facebook? Twitter?
– Are you kind when you talk with your friends about somebody else?
And what about the opposite – unkindness? Is it ever ok to be unkind? Is there ever an excuse to treat somebody… ANYBODY… unkindly?
Well, I want to make a statement right here at the start that I hope you’ll take to heart as we think about this word – Christians can, should, and must, ALWAYS be kind.
Notice a few thoughts from Scripture:
Kindness is desirable.
In my Bible study on this, I found some very specific groups of people where kindness was said to be desirable:
Kindness is desirable in ministers… those who serve in His church.
Frederick W. Faber said, “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.”
Whether you’re a pastor, an elder, a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, a musician, a song leader, or any other servant in the local church, kindness is a key part of the job. Paul listed kindness as a key component of his ministry – But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, (2 Corinthians 6:4-6 NKJV)
Kindness is desirable in leaders. If you deal with people from a leadership perspective (bosses), kindness is important. When Solomon died and the kingdom initially passed to his son Rehoboam, he was advised to try a little kindness. And they spoke to him, saying, “If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever.” (2 Chronicles 10:7 NKJV) That kindness might have secured the kingdom for Rehoboam, but of course, you know the rest of the story – he chose to be the opposite. But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to the people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’–thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! (2 Chronicles 10:8-10 NKJV). He chose to be unkind… harsh… cruel… and the kingdom split in two.
Kindness is desirable in women – Did you ever notice, ladies, in your favorite passage, Proverbs 31 that kindness is mentioned as one of the traits of the virtuous woman? She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness. (Proverbs 31:26 NKJV) Ladies, you will never go wrong being kind. Be kind to your men… to your kids… to your lady friends. Making sure that the law of kindness is on your tongue is a key to success in all your relationships.
Kindness is desirable in men- What is desired in a man is kindness, And a poor man is better than a liar. (Proverbs 19:22 NKJV) Men, now it’s your turn – you will also never go wrong being kind. Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NKJV). I know that verse doesn’t mention kindness, but I think I see kindness bound up in the thought of husbands dwelling with their wives with understanding. The ESV and the NASB have that, live with your wives in an understanding way and the NIV has it be considerate as you live with your wives. I don’t think I’m stretching the point when I see that verse reminding husbands to be kind to your wives! And while you’re at it, be kind to your kids… to your men friends… to everybody you come into contact with. Few traits are as desirable as kindness men, and few as undesirable as unkindness. What is desired in a man is kindness, And a poor man is better than a liar. (Proverbs 19:22 NKJV)
Kindness is desirable amongst friends.
I love the story of Job in the Old Testament. Anytime I get thumb-sucky over my circumstances, I need only read Job to know there are worse things than what I’m going through. Job lost his wealth, his family, and his health all at the same time. One minute he was a prince, and the next he was sitting on ashes and covered with puss-oozing boils from head to toe. His wife turned against him and suggested he should just go ahead and die! Talk about your terrible horrible no good very bad days!
So here’s poor Job – wiped out of everything he owned, bereaved of everyone he loved, and berated by his own wife who ought to have stood with him… and his three friends show up. They came to mourn with him, and to comfort him (Job 2:11), and when they saw his state they wept and sat down with him, not saying a word for seven days (Job 2:12-13). Up to that point, they were showing some wonderful kindness to Job weren’t they? But then they opened their mouths and everything went to pieces from there.
Job, as he listened to their attacks on him, was pretty amazed at the lack of kindness shown him by his friends. He called them on it – To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. (Job 6:14NKJV) We might paraphrase his words – “Even if I’m the sinner you guys think I am, you ought to be showing a little kindness to a friend!”
Who among us doesn’t desire kindness? We desire it in our ministers… our leaders… the men in our lives and the women in our lives… from our friends.
Kindness is illustrative.
God is kind! It is an attribute of the Most High.
Jesus said, But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. (Luke 6:35 NKJV)
Paul told the Ephesians, But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NKJV)
Nehemiah mentioned God’s kindness when he prayed, You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake. (Nehemiah 9:17 NKJV)
God’s kindness is the reason we are saved! – But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:4-5 NKJV)
God’s kindness is forever – With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the LORD, your Redeemer. “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says the LORD, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:8-10 NKJV) (These words apply first and foremost to Israel, but by application, to all His children.)
Kindness is DESIRABLE… and it is ILLUSTRATIVE. But also:
Kindness is possible.
“I’ve tried being kind, Pastor, but I just don’t have it in me. I don’t have that gift.” “I’m just naturally a confrontational person, Pastor.” “My gift is speaking my mind and telling it like I see it.”
Some people seem to think either that kindness is not something that applies to them, or kindness is not even possible for them. But notice:
Kindness is how we treat each other when we’re courting – His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. (Genesis 34:3 NKJV)
When we were dating, we sure knew how to be kind, didn’t we? If all husbands would treat their wives like they did when they were courting… if all wives would treat their husbands like they did when they were courting… what a wonderful world it would be! It was possible to be kind then. And it’s just as possible to be kind now.
We knew how to be kind then, and we know how to be kind now. We were capable of being kind then, and we are capable of being kind. We do it when we need to, which proves we CAN do it… it is POSSIBLE to be kind!
Kindness is evidence.
Evidence of our love – Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (1 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV)
Evidence of our salvation – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (Galatians 5:22 NKJV)
We CAN be kind because we innately know what it means to be kind, and we practice it when it suits us. And we CAN be kind because the Holy Spirit of God which indwells every believer produces the fruit of kindness in our lives!
Kindness is DESIRABLE… ILLUSTRATIVE… POSSIBLE… and finally:
Kindness is commanded.
Do you remember the statement I made at the beginning of this message? Christians can, should, and must, ALWAYS be kind. From what we’ve learned so far, we can make a pretty good case for the first two points there – we CAN be kind, and we probably OUGHT to be kind… we SHOULD be kind. But what about that last point?
MUST we be kind? Always? Without exception? Even when we don’t like somebody? Even if somebody is unkind to us? Even if we’re in a bad mood? Even if that person did us dirty and our flesh is screaming for revenge? ALWAYS?
Yes. Christians can, should, and must, ALWAYS be kind… no exceptions. That’s what our text says, isn’t it?
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)
It’s also what Paul told the Romans – Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; (Romans 12:10 NKJV)
And it’s what he told the Colossians – Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Colossians 3:12 NKJV)
It’s also what Peter wrote in his second epistle – But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV)
Now, what was missing from those passages? I’ll tell you what was missing – exceptions… wiggle room. These are imperatives, which we are to practice often and always – be kind to one another!
Here is a common and rampant folly amongst Christians. God says something very clearly and simply… and we read it… and we know that we are not doing it as we should. But rather than simply obey it, we seek a way out… an exception… a loophole that we might use to excuse our disobedience.
Please notice, though, that in these commanding verses about kindness, there is no exception… no loophole. There is no Be kind to one another UNLESS clause. Our kindness is to be ALWAYS, and WITHOUT EXCEPTION.
So… kindness is DESIRABLE… it is ILLUSTRATIVE… it is POSSIBLE, and mostly it is COMMANDED. How are you doing with it? If you had a kindness meter attached to your head, ranging from 1-10, with 1 being stinkin’ nasty and unkind all the time, and 10 being kind like God is kind, what would your kindness meter say?
Oh how we need kindness. Do you not grow weary of the unkind words and attitudes and actions that seem to be everywhere today? Can you not imagine what our world would be like if kindness was practiced and unkindness was banished? Imagine our churches… our workplaces… our families… our marriages… our homes… if only there was kindness always, and unkindness never.
Our homes need kindness. Our nation needs kindness. Our government needs kindness. Our media needs kindness. Our churches need kindness. Our neighborhoods need kindness. Our marriages need kindness. Our families need kindness!
My brothers… my sisters… will you join me this morning in committing to this big little word that we need more of? Will you join me in striving to be kind, always?
“Yes, Pastor. I see the need for it… and I want to practice kindness… but I don’t know where to start. What can I do to make sure I’m living in Ephesians 4:32?”
Well, let me make a few suggestions… 5 actually… 5 practical things you can do to practice kindness:
1. Repent of unkindness.If you have acted unkindly toward others… or spoken unkind words… or even thought unkind thoughts, you need to repent. You need to confess to God the sin of unkindness. You need to lay that sin at the foot of the cross and see it for what it is – sin, that Jesus died to destroy. Repent of it. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
And if you have been publicly unkind… if others know of your unkindness… then you need to publicly repent. Sins that are public call for public repentance. Step out when we sing… kneel at this altar… let others who know of your unkindness see you kneeling here.
2. Memorize Ephesians 4:32 and 1 Corinthians 13:4.
– Underline them in your Bible.
– Write them on sticky notes and put them everywhere you need to…
– on your dashboard or your rear view mirror (so you’ll remember to be kind to others on the road)…
– on your bathroom mirror, dresser, refrigerator –
– all over your home if need be (so you’ll remember to be kind to those in your family – your husband, wive, children, parents)…
– on your desk at work, or your machine at work (so you’ll remember to be kind to your co-workers… your boss… your employees).
– Write it on your heart, and burn it into your brain, so you’ll remember always and believe always, that kindness is something you can, should, and must show to everyone as a Christian.
3. Practice DOING only kind things.
I don’t believe you will ever regret the kind things you do. Nor do I believe you will ever go wrong being kind. Unkind deeds are the opposite, though… the very breeding ground for regret.
Publius Syrus wrote, in the first century before the birth of Christ, “You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force.”
Before you do anything, pause and ask yourself, “Self, is this thing I’m about to do KIND?” If not, then for God’s sake, don’t do it!
4. Practice SAYING only kind words.
Frederick W. Faber said, “Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power which seems to be beyond natural causes, as though they were some angel’s song which had lost its way and come to earth.”
If your Bible is still open to Ephesians 4 notice again vs. 29 – Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. That is a brutal verse concerning what a Christian should and should not say – NO CORRUPT WORD – NEVER and UNKIND word… only GOOD words… only words that BUILD UP.
I dont’ know about you, but I find this one really hard. That verse convicts me everytime I read Ephesians, because I’m a man who lives and dies by what I say. My words are what I do. And I struggle with words, as a result. In the early days of my marriage to Beth, there would be times when my smart mouth would take over and I’d say something to her that I should not have said. I remember one such occasion when she looked at me sadly after one particularly blistering barrage had come out of my mouth. I can still see her sad eyes as she said softly, “Your mouth is going to be the death of you one day.”
Oh how we need to practice saying only kind words.
5. Practice THINKING only kind thoughts. I like Paul’s words to the Philippians concerning our thought lives. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8 NLT). Which fits that verse better, unkind thoughts or kind thoughts? Only kind thoughts could be called true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable thoughts.
So PRACTICE THINKING ONLY kind thoughts.
Imagine your world… your home… your marriage… your workplace, if you repented of unkindness, if you memorized and meditated on and strove with all your might to live in Ephesians 4:32, if you practiced doing only kind things, saying only kind words, and thinking only kind thoughts.
What a world that would be.