Fruit of the Spirit: “Kindness”


Fruit of the Spirit: “Kindness”
A Message on Ephesians 4:29-32

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
June 24, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NRSV)


Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

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In continuing our sermon series on “Fruit of the Spirit” I want to start off today with two different stories about “kindness.”


Here’s the first story.


Out in Virginia City, Nevada in the 1950s, two neighbors got into a dispute. One of the men built a new house. When he did, his neighbor bought the lot next to him. He, too, built a new house. But when the second neighbor built his house, he built it close to the first neighbor. Like real close. Very, very close. As in less than 12 inches close. The second neighbor did it on purpose to deprive the first neighbor of a good view and of breezes to cool the house off during the summer. (This was before air conditioning.) The house became known as the “Virginia City Spite House” and is still standing today. (Show photo) []


Come to find out, there are a lot of “spite” houses in the US. Some are built to spite governmental entities (one man, who had his property taken by the city for a street, built a very skinny house that hangs out over the street) or their neighbors (one couple painted their house with big, loud, red vertical stripes after the neighbors complained about them).


But they were done because of spite. They went so far as to spend a great deal of money just to aggravate their neighbor.


Now, the second story.


There is a doctor that lived in Gainesville, Florida, who had to give one of his patients, Jimmy, some bad news. Tests came back and showed that Jimmy had pancreatic cancer. The doc gave the news to Jimmy and they talked about options, which for Jimmy were few and not good. Jimmy didn’t have long to live


Later that day the doctor was walking through the parking lot to his car when he noticed an elderly gentleman who was handing tools to someone working under the car. The person under the car said he was finished and crawled out from under the vehicle. It was Jimmy.


“Jimmy, what are you doing?” the doc asked him


Jimmy dusted off his pants. “My cancer didn’t tell me not to help others, Doc,” he said. He waved at the elderly man to try starting the car, and it started right up. The man thanked Jimmy and then drove off. Jimmy went and got in his car and drove off as well. []


There is quite a contrast between these two stories, isn’t there? In the first one, the story about the “spite” house, someone goes out of their way to make someone else’s life worse. In the second one, about the man with terminal cancer working on someone’s car, someone goes out of their way to make someone’s life better.


One person exhibits kindness, the other the exact opposite.


The Bible is very clear what kind of people we, who are followers of Jesus Christ, are to be like. We are to be kind.


Paul packs a lot of theology into the scripture we read today from the fourth chapter of Ephesians. “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)


Paul is writing to the followers of Christ in Ephesus, which is a city on the Mediterranean Sea in what is present day Turkey. It was an important city in its day for travel and commerce and was important militarily to the Roman government.


People in the early church fussed and feuded just like people do today. Unlike us, though, we have to remember that the people Paul is writing to didn’t have the Bible like we do today. They had a few writings and some letters that were circulated around, but the Bible as we know it wasn’t compiled until later.


So there is no owner’s manual on how to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Some of the disciples say that you have to first be Jewish because, after all, Jesus was Jewish. So you have to go by all the holiness code laws that deal with dress and food and worship and then add Jesus to that mix.


Others believe that Jesus’ coming changes everything. This means that you don’t have to be Jewish or circumcised or follow the dietary laws but instead follow the things that Jesus said and did.


Paul considered himself to be the apostle to the Gentiles, which is basically anyone who wasn’t Jewish. And this is ironic given the fact that before Paul experienced the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus he was a Pharisee, a Jewish religious leader, who worked hard to persecute those who followed Jesus.


Paul is writing this letter to the church members in Ephesus, although many Biblical scholars believe that the author intended for the letter to be passed among many churches in many cities. As is the case with many of the epistles, or letters, in the New Testament, the purpose is not only to encourage those following Jesus Christ but also to address problems happening in the church.


I believe the scripture we read today does both. I think it gently scolds while it also encourages.


Here’s Doug’s condensed, East Texas vernacular version of what Paul is saying: “Quit your bellyaching and be nice!”


This is a lesson that applies just as much today as it did in the first century. Our world is filled with “bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,” isn’t it? Just look at any social media and you’ll get to see plenty of examples of those negative behaviors.


It’s almost as if whoever screams the loudest wins. But the reality is everyone loses.


Now I’m not saying that we can’t be passionate about issues. I think as Christians we are obligated to speak out against injustice, but I firmly believe we should do so in love, not “bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.”


Think back to the two stories I told earlier. We should be more like Jimmy and less like those that build spite houses. We should be kind.


Here’s the really cool thing about being kind: it’s free. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind. And it can be so, so powerful. I believe kindness introduces people to love. I think Paul things that as well. “…be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”


Paul isn’t the only one who is a fan of kindness. Kindness is an important theme throughout the Bible.


Proverbs 11:17 says “Those who are kind reward themselves, but the cruel do themselves harm.”


Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”


Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?”


And, of course, 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind…”


Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, which is what this sermon series is all about. Remember that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.


When we are not kind, it saddens God.


I think it’s important that we make sure what we think is kindness is actually kindness.


Pam showed me kindness this past weekend. On Friday, my sabbath day, Robbie Kettrick took me out fishing on Lake Jacksonville in his really nice bass boat. It was beautiful and we were really enjoying the day.


Unfortunately in the process of fishing my cell phone fell out of my pocket, bounced off the boat, and than plopped in the water and sank to the bottom.


I have had it for about a year and a half, which means that it wasn’t yet paid for. So that afternoon I went to Verizon and paid a financial penance for my sin by paying off my submerged phone and then getting another one.


The worst part was having to tell my wife, Pam. Man, I dreaded that. And she wasn’t happy, to say the least. And she let me know she wasn’t happy, I can assure you.


Yesterday morning Pam was talking to the girls on the phone. She had it on speakerphone and we were all visiting and Sarah mentioned how she was mad at me because of the sermon last week about practicing patience. She said because of that she had the kind of week that gave her lots of opportunities to practice patience.


I pointed out to them that this week the sermon was going to be on “kindness.” Pam said, “I showed you kindness yesterday. I was kind in that I didn’t kill you!”


True kindness, Biblical kindness, is something that is expected of all Christians.


So my challenge to you this week is to offer up the spiritual fruit of kindness to others. Be kind even in situations that are stressful or that even anger you. Be kind not only to fellow church members, but to everyone. For unchurched people the only Jesus they see may be the Jesus they see in you. Show them the kindness that Jesus shows us.


And if you are planning on building a house just to spite your neighbor, please, come talk to me first.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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