In a world of road rage, sexual abuse, animal cruelty and other dark and evil things; in a world that thrives on knowing about the latest tragedies and has an insatiable appetite for other “news worthy” things that show human misery and suffering; in a world that has lost the basic civil understandings of respect and service, what do patience, kindness and goodness have to say?
We must remember that these three words are but different facets of the one fruit of the Spirit, which is love. Patience is a way of loving, as is kindness and goodness. You can’t practice one without the other; all of them are interrelated. It is impossible to grow in peace and not grow in patience, to grow in kindness and not grow in gentleness, to grow in faithfulness and not to grow in self-control. Each of these aspects of love builds upon all the others. That is why there is but one fruit, with many facets.
A world like ours desperately needs people who are growing in love and exhibiting the various aspects of love. A world like ours full of violence, anger and cruelty needs people indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit who live out patience, kindness and goodness. Lets look at each of these.
In the scriptures, patience is the ability to restrain your anger for a prolonged period of time. God is said to be “Num. 14:18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.” Psa. 103:8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” We see this restraint of God’s anger at work in the days of Noah when God “… waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” 1Pet. 3:20. We see his anger being slowly aroused in the time of the judges and the prophets as the people repeatedly went their own ways and instead of destroying them, he worked to bring them to repentance.
In fact that is one of the main purposes of God’s patience. 2Pet. 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Rom. 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
In a world of anger and rage, where tempers flare and demands are levied, can we respond like God in patience, while also praying that if his patience can lead people to repentance, that our patience may do the same? I think we can, because it is not our patience we are exercising, but God’s patience flowing through us.
Patience allows time for God to continue working in the heart of others. Patience absorbs the wrongs that another commits, while understanding that they too are in the process of being shaped into the image of Christ. That is why Paul says elsewhere, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Romans 15:1). “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1–2).
It isn’t going to be easy, but it is the character that God displayed to us and that he is building into us, so it is a quality we can practice and increasingly practice, from learning how to wait patiently at a stop light, to understanding that someone’s actions may take a long time to be refined before we truly enjoy being in their presence. But every bit of waiting and bearing with and persevering through is developing in us the kind of character that God has and which he draws upon for the great drama of salvation that has been playing out in our world. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12–13).
Like patience, God’s kindness also leads us to repentance. .” Rom. 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Titus 3:4-5 has become one of my favorite verses, for it speaks about God’s salvation and in our context this morning, it ties that salvation to God’s kindness and love. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4–5). God’s kindness is part of our salvation, his kindness and generosity, his caring hand and tender heart brings us into his house and sets us at his table.
One of the best Old Testament stories to illustrate the concept of kindness involves David and Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth’s father was Jonathan; he was King Saul’s son. Unfortunately David and Saul were unable to get along together, I would say because Saul was unable to practice patience – he was an envious man unable to control his temper. Anyway, Saul and Jonathan die in battle, David ascends the throne and then he asks, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”” (2Samuel 9:3)
This is kindness on so many levels. It is a caring tender act for a deceased friend, it is an invitation to eat at David’s table and be treated as a son forever. It is kindness shown to one’s descendants who had tried to kill you multiple times. Jesus builds upon this kindness when he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy (kind) and my burden is light”” (Matthew 11:29–30).
Kindness involves a gentle way of dealing with people, both friends and enemies. In a world of cruelty and rash words, quick tempers and fast talkers, we too need kindness, and not just the “random acts” but true kindness, kindness that desires a continual relationship like David had with Mephibosheth or like God has with us. We need kind words, kind actions, kind thought to permeate our way of being, and thanks be to God, we can because his spirit is at work in us.
Take a moment and write one way you could practice kindness this week.
Like the other aspects of love, goodness also flows from God. Jesus tells us that No one is good – except God alone (Mark 10:18). I love the chorus that we sometimes sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.” For that is the truth. He is good. Goodness is therefore anything that inhabits God – his love, his mercy, his compassion, even his righteous judgment and anger; these too are good.
So in a world that likes to call black, white and white, black; God needs good people willing to stand up and speak truth, he needs good people willing to stand up and acts in ways consistent with his calling and design. He desires people who will stand up and imitate the good things and reject the evil, who will do the
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV) we have been equipped for.
And this goodness is developed first by having our minds renewed and transformed as Romans 12 tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). If we truly believe that God is the source of goodness and his will is the execution of that goodness, then our minds need training and transformation. We need to focus them and direct them upon good things, for then we will begin to be and act goodly in this world. Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
We have often heard the maxim, “You are what you eat” or “Garbage in, garbage out.” It is true if we are pouring more of this world into our minds than we are pouring of the Scriptures. If we are more focused on the violence and cruelty offered in movies, video games, music and television than we are of the love and kindness, patience and joy offered in the gospels, then we will become people who look more like the world, than people who look like Children of God. I don’t fully understand it, but the mind has a powerful way of shaping us into the things we place into it. WE can’t help but getting transformed by what we witness all the time.
So in a world that purports to be good, God says, “Come to me, for I am good and I have created you for certain good works which I prepared in advance for you to do. Eph. 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. These aren’t works the world will understand, they might recognize them as good, but they wont understand them, caring for orphans and widows, serving the poor, walking with one another, putting up with one another. The world doesn’t quite know what to do with these peculiar actions of the Christian.
Take a moment and write one way you could practice goodness this week.
So we have seen that these 3 aspects of love all flow from God, but that our world is also in need of them. You have written down 3 ways of loving this week, specific to you, so now I charge you in the Name of the Triune God, whose fruit you are bearing, GO forth and be the people God has made you to be, doing the works he brought to your mind, always remembering that your actions are for his glory, and his glory alone. Amen.