Living in the Spirit #6
Have you ever said something to somebody that you regretted almost as soon as it came out of your mouth? I read about a guy who got angry at the manager of the local dry cleaners and expressed his anger in rather unkind words which the manager apparently didn’t forget.
Shortly after the incident, a red ballpoint pen leaked in the pocket of this guy’s white shirt. It left a horrible red stain with a dark center all over the pocket. His wife couldn’t get it out with regular washing, and decided to try the dry cleaners.
She took the white shirt with the dark red stain on the pocket to the dry cleaner which her husband had exploded all over. The manager took a long, slow look at the dark red stain on the front of the shirt and then looked back at the guy’s wife and said, “Good shot.” (1)
A kinder word or gentler approach from the man might have gotten a different response from the dry cleaner. You see, nobody likes a grouch; except maybe Oscar the Grouch.
Everybody knows who Oscar the Grouch is, right. You know the character from Sesame Street who lives in a trash can and who insults almost everyone he meets.
Do you know where the inspiration for the character and his name? It seems in the early days of Sesame Street, Jim Henson and Jon Stone, the show’s director would meet to work on the upcoming show at a Manhattan restaurant. The name of the restaurant was Oscar’s Cavern. Each time they ate there they were waited on by a man who was consistently rude and grouchy. He was so over the top with his grouchiness that they actually went to the restaurant looking forward to what he might do or say next. The result was that the waiter’s attitude was forever immortalized on Sesame Street in the character of Oscar the Grouch. (2) That’s not how I want to be immortalized. Do you?
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar calls that attitude “stinkin’, thinkin’”
Frederick Faber, composer and hymn writer who wrote: Faith of Our Fathers said, “Kind words are the music of the world.” Someone else wrote, “There is nothing stronger than gentleness.”
Today we’re going to focus on Kindness and Gentleness because they are so closely related.
Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)
 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Kindness and Gentleness, like everything else we’ve been talking about in this series, are byproducts of our faith in Christ and they are manifestations of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Kindness and Gentleness. A lot of people think they are both signs of weakness. Kindness and compassion are for wimps and Gentleness is too soft and effeminate. But if you look at Jesus, he was anything but a wimp and he was kind and gentle. And HE’S our model not whatever stereotype the world has set up. From Jesus, I think we learn to Show, Share and Sow Kindness and Gentleness in all that we do.
I. SHOW KINDNESS AND GENTLENESS:
A. My Dad could be kind, but he didn’t really know how to be gentle. In his mind it wasn’t manly. He never held either of my boys when they were infants. Shortly after he was born, I remember putting Joshua, my youngest, in my Dad’s arms. He froze up. He didn’t know what to do. It totally shocked me.
It shocked me because according to Scripture Kindness and Gentleness show great strength and great faith. Gentleness is having strength under control. It’s being calm in the middle of the storm. Kindness is about loving people more than they deserve because God loves you more than you deserve. Kindness and Gentleness bring out the best in others. As Christians, we’re called to be Kind and Gentle.
B. Let me tell you about John Moon. Almost 20 years ago, John was a part of my Church in Arlington. In the early 90’s John was a full scholarship football player at TCU. He is one of the founders of The Lettermen’s Tailgate which evolved into “The Pit” a 40′ trailer with smoker, grill, upper deck and sleeping quarters which travels to every TCU home game.
John lives in Boerne with his wife and daughter and runs his own construction company where he builds Custom Homes. John is about 6’ 6” and weighed about 295 when he played football for TCU, he’s a big old boy. I like to call John “el gigante por Jesus.” My giant for Jesus.
You see, before he got married, John volunteered with Mercy Ships. They go into places like Nicaragua. They bring medical teams and bring hope to the poor. Occasionally they build homes and schools. But they always teach both children and adults about Jesus. John started volunteering with Mercy Ships when he was 22.
On his first trip to Nicaragua, the kids flocked to him like bees to honey. They asked him over and over again if he was a giant. That’s how he got his name. He tells story after story of touching children’s lives by teaching them Bible stories and letting them hang all over him like a walking jungle gym.
Somewhere I’ve got a picture of him with at least 25 kids hanging all over him. And I don’t know who had a bigger grin on their face, those kids or John.
John is no wimp. He’s no weakling at all. He could take you down in a New York minute with his tree trunk arms. But it’s not his physical strength that attracts the kids or makes him the man he is. It’s the strength of his Kindness and the Gentleness of his spirit which comes from Christ. That’s the gentleness Paul is talking about; a Gentleness that is behind every Kindness.
John is able to Show Kindness and Gentleness wherever he goes.
II. SHARE KINDNESS AND GENTLENESS:
A. We’re also called to share Kindness and Gentleness wherever we go with whomever we meet. Sometimes it’s that whomever that trips us up. Kindness and gentleness are about loving people more than they deserve to be loved because God loves us more than we deserve to be loved. It’s called putting the grace we’ve received into action and sharing it with others.
You have probably never heard of a man named, Steven Grellet. He was a Quaker missionary, who died in New Jersey in 1855. He never really did anything great and nobody would have ever heard of him except for one statement he made which has become one of the most famous quotes in history. It’s been quoted by and attributed to others but here’s what he said, “I expect to pass through this world, but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Kindness and Gentleness toward those who don’t seem to deserve it or even want it is one way of obeying God and living like Jesus. It’s one way of living as the abnormal people, people who live the Kingdom way, not the worldly way. It often times requires us to offer forgiveness when we don’t want to give it and to love the unlovable despite who they are.
B. I remember reading a story another preacher told year ago. He said, one night his dogs started barking furiously. They don’t usually bark unless there’s a prowler or something is wrong. By the time he’d gotten up, the dogs had stopped barking. The next morning they looked around but nothing was missing. Instead, something had been returned.
Outside the front door were two car speakers that had been stolen six weeks earlier from his son’s car. There was a note attached to the speakers which read, “I’m sorry that I took your speakers, but now I have repented of my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me. I hope you will forgive me too. I no longer take other people’s belongings. God has changed me. I am a new creature since I asked Jesus into my heart.” It was signed simply, “Saved.”
God changes us and changes others when we are Kind and Gentle and offer forgiveness. Be Forgiving no matter how hard it is.
C. I read about a widow, who lived in a small town in the country. She was a very godly lady, but she had a neighbor who was an unbeliever. He hated the idea of God. He hated the church and he particularly did not like this woman, because of her godliness. He was always being rude to her and at even mean to her.
This woman tried repeatedly to reach this man and to build a friendship with this man and to witness to him, but he just wouldn’t have anything to do with her. He despised her. He despised her God and he especially despised her chickens. You see, this lady had chickens. In fact, it was part of the way that she earned a living, by taking the eggs and selling them.
One day her chickens got out of her yard and into this neighbor’s yard and it just infuriated him. He picked up one of those chickens, wrung its neck and threw it back over the fence. He wasn’t even watching where he threw the chicken, She just happened to be in the yard and that dead chicken landed right at her feet. He turned and stormed into the house.
That evening, she knocked on his door and there she was holding a fresh plate of fried chicken. She gave it to him and said, “I hope you enjoy your dinner.”
That act of Kindness broke that man’s heart and he eventually wound up giving his life to Christ, becoming a good neighbor and a good friend.
As difficult as it is (and believe me it’s difficult) and as hard as it is (it is hard), you’re never more like Christ and never represent the Kingdom of God more than when you are Kind and Gentle, even to people who do not deserve it. We’re called to Share Kindness and Gentleness.
III. SOW KINDNESS AND GENTLENESS:
We’re called to Show it. We’re called to Share it. And we’re called to Sow Kindness and Gentleness. My favorite book, next to the Bible, is To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s also one of my favorite movies. Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of 1960, it probably wouldn’t have been made if Gregory Peck hadn’t pushed to play the part and rallied others to get it done.
Gregory Peck plays a lawyer, Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird, tells the story of racially divided town in Alabama in the 1930s. Atticus Finch agrees to defend a young black man who is accused of raping a white woman. Many of the townspeople try to get Atticus to pull out of the trial, but he decides to go ahead and defend this young man whose opportunity for a fair trial is questionable at best.
The story is told through the eyes of “Scout,” Atticus Finch’s daughter, a feisty six-year-old tomboy. In one scene Scout, along with two friends, Jem and Dill, are running to meet Atticus on his way home from the office. They draw near the home of Miss Dubose, known for her ill temper. Jem startles Dill when he turns and says, “Miss Dubose is on her porch. Listen, no matter what she says to you, don’t answer her back. There’s a Confederate pistol in her lap under her shawl, and she’ll kill you quick as look at you.”
Jem and Dill march past the house with looks of fear a determination, but Scout can’t resist calling out, “Hey, Miss Dubose!”
Irritated, Miss Dubose yells, “Don’t you say ‘hey’ to me, you ugly girl! You say, ‘Good afternoon, Miss Dubose!’ You come over here when I’m talkin’ to you! You come over here, I said.”
But Scout just keeps on walking. She sees her father, Atticus Finch, down the sidewalk, and all three children run up to him. It’s pretty plainly that he’s heard the exchange. In fact, Miss Dubose has not stopped screaming at Scout since she passed.
Atticus shepherds the children up to Miss Dubose’s porch for a lesson in diplomacy and kindness. Atticus says, “Good Afternoon, Miss Dubose! My, you look like a picture this afternoon.”
From behind his back, Scout whispers to the other children, “He don’t say a picture of what.” Atticus gently smacks her to keep her quiet, and continues, “My goodness gracious, look at your flowers. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? Miss Dubose, the gardens at Bellingrath have nothing to compare with your flowers.”
Completely disarmed, Miss Dubose shyly says, “I don’t think they’re as nice as last year.”
Jem whispers, “He gets her to talk about something nice so she forgets to be mean.”
Atticus slaps at Jem with his hat, and then says, “I think that your yard is going to be the showplace of this town. Well, grand seeing you Miss Dubose!”
Atticus wants to teach Jen and Scout a lesson about Kindness and Gentleness. Proverbs 12:18 says “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” And Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. “
Those are both good lessons for anyone to learn. And because she was watching and learning from her father, Atticus, later in the film, Scout, through kind and gentle words, is able to turn away the wrath of a lynch mob.
It’s not often easy nor do we always get to see the fruit of our labor. But we are called to Sow the seeds of Kindness and Gentleness in all we do and say because we represent Christ and the Kingdom of God in our little part of the world.
After Confederate General Robert E. Lee retired from the military, he was named President of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, originally named Washington Academy because of a gift from George Washington. The name was changed in 1871 in honor of General Lee.
While Lee was president of the University, a new student came into his office and asked for a copy of the school’s rules and regulations. Lee looked at him and said, “Son, we don’t have any rules and regulations in print.”
The young man was incredulous and asked, “You mean this school has no rules?”
Lee replied, “Yes, we have only one.”
The young man asked, “What is it?”
Lee replied, “Our only rule is kindness.” (3)
We are living in a society in which Kindness and Gentleness are becoming increasingly rare commodities. Yet, I believe that it attitude is completely counter to our nature. I think it’s something we have learned. I believe we are inherently good. Scripture says we are created in the Image of God. And that’s a good thing.
I also believe that you and I have the ability to change the world. The first step is simply treating each other with Kindness and Gentleness. Kindness and Gentleness tears down walls and builds bridges. We saw how both approaches to a situation worked in the midst of the explosive situation in Ferguson.
As Christians we are a walking advertisement for Christ. Jesus said we are the light of the world and that light can’t be hidden under basket. Instead we are supposed to shine bright for the world to see. And the best way to shine is through Kindness and Gentleness. Show Kindness and Gentleness. Share Kindness and Gentleness. Sow Kindness and Gentleness.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.