Cultivating Kindness-Ephesians 4:32-5-2

I am thinking warmer weather, so I want to begin my message with one of the greatest shots in recent golf lore.  We may not be able to understand his talent, but I can explain its roots.  Phil Mickleson learned to play golf by imitating his father.  Phil plays left-handed, though he is right-handed.  Phil would stand opposite of his father when he hit balls on the range and mirror his image.  He imitated his father and it is working out.

The ability to imitate belongs to the earliest moments of life.  Researches performed four different expressions in front of the infants who were 12-17 days.  First, pursed lips; second, smile; third, open mouth; fourth, open and close hands.  They returned to a passive state between each gesture.  Their observations determined infants 12-17 days old have the ability to imitate.  Social scientists say we are born with the innate drive to imitate.

The text says we are to be imitators of God.  The Greek word for imitate is the word “mimiti”, whose English equivalent is “mimic”.  Imitating God is following the pattern of Christ who said repeatedly, “What I see my Father doing, I do.”  All we have to do is to look into the life of Christ and nurture the Spirit into following Christ’s pattern and we become imitators of God.

Imitating God may sound like a philosophical or mystical concept.  Not every attribute of God is subject to imitation.  We try to imitate the things of God we cannot and ignore the attributes we can imitate.  People will behave as if they are omnipotent, thinking they can do anything.  Other times they protrude omniscience, refusing to confess their own ignorance about certain matters.  Then there are other times when they think they can be omnipresent; look at our calendars.  The fruit of the Spirit begins to grow in us when we learn to tell the difference between those attributes we can imitate and those that belong to God.

In most cases a chapter break helps; here it interrupts the thought.  Eph. 4: 32 unpacks an attribute of God-kindness, our fruit of the Spirit today.  Ephesians 5:1 says we are to imitate divine kindness-we can be kind as God is kind.  When the fruit of kindness grows in our spirit we imitate God.

Kindness is not giving someone something they don’t really need just to feel better.  It is not about being nice and polite.  Kindness in Hebrew and Greek is interchangeable with steadfast love; which is the visible action of love directed toward others.  Six times in the NT, kindness is spoken of as the object God’s action, sustaining the union between us and God.  Kindness is love directed to others; connecting people, so to connect them to God; the groundcover binding heaven to earth.  Kindness isn’t developed in isolation.  It’s practiced in a fragmented, self-sufficient world by choosing to listen and to pay attention to others in intentional relationships.  The fruit of kindness blooms in giving ourselves to others.

The way the spirit of God shows evidence in our lives is we grow in our imitation of God’s kindness toward each other.  The tense suggests we are to become progressively kind each passing year; growing rings of kindness.  Like a Sequoia aging, we are to be marked with successive rings of kindness as we mature in faith.  Two ways the fruit of kindness grows in our spirit is spoken of in v. 32.

Kindness makes us tender-hearted.  Hippocrates used this word to speak of a healthy heart.  Paul takes this word from ancient medicine and says a healthy EKG spiritually indicates we have a good heart for all people.  This photo appeared in London’s Daily Mail newspaper last week.  It is a striking photo of unity emerging from the chaos in Egypt.  Christian protesters stand together to protect Muslims as they prayed in that vulnerable position they place themselves in, five times a day, even when protesting in the streets.  These are tender-hearted Egyptian Christians arm-in-arm, protecting the praying protesters.

Kindness forgives.  The text employs language of reciprocity; suggesting we are offer forgiveness to others in the same way we accept forgiveness from God.  People say, “I have a long memory”.  The last thing we want to hear God say is, “I have a long memory”.  Our hope is God has a short memory.  Forgiveness is the life blood of relationship.  If we prevent blood flow from reaching our limbs, we will lose that appendage.  In the same way, if we prevent forgiveness flowing from God to our lives and to others, we will lose ourselves.  Refusing to accept God’s forgiveness or denying others our forgiveness is like running out of gas while driving a tanker full of fuel.  The forgiveness of God is so plentiful, and the ability to forgive others can be offered so freely we are without excuse to experience it.  We imitate kindness when our short memory prompts human forgiveness.

We tend to grow more inflexible as we grow older.  This makes imitation of more difficult.  We decide this is who I am and this is what I do, getting caught up in the myth and we are unique originals.  There has been nothing truly original since creation.  Our work is just a movement on the same theme after God said it was good.  We are imitating our Creator.  Whether we will be imitators is not up for question.  Will our imitation be a good copy or a copy that cheapens?

I think the key to answering this question is to embrace the text calling us, “God’s dear little children”.  It belongs to the heart of the child to imitate.  Jesus said, “except you become as a child, you will not enter the kingdom of God“.  Producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is not about a moral improvement program, nor is it like going to finishing school where we learn what is proper so to advance in social standing.  We do not have to work on a list of do’s and don’ts to be approved because we are already approved.  We are called to live according our true station in life; sons and daughters of God.  As children of God we, like God’s own Son, can offer ourselves up as a fragrant offering of loving kindness.  Jesus did not give himself up in order to become the Son of God; he was already the Son of God.  He was so secure in that assurance he could love the world to death with divine kindness.  We offer ourselves to others, imitating Christ our big brother who offered himself for us by bearing the fruit of kindness.

Jesus invites us to play the childhood game of “Follow the Leader.”  God might say take a small step of faith; depending on the resources of heaven.  God might say to a narrow step of judgment as you navigate the rough terrain.  God might say take a long step over apathy that has been bred by years of mixed experience.  God might say take a giant step generosity in order to extend the kingdom of God.  We imitate God by spending a lifetime of playing the childhood game of “Follow the Leader”.

This is National Kindness Week?  Early Christians didn’t need a designated week.  They were sometimes called the Kind Ones rather than Christians.  This is due in part because there is one letter of difference in the word for Christ (Christos) and the word for kindness (Chrēstos).  People were confused about the name, but they were also confused because they demonstrated the kind of life that lived up to both names.

Early Christians caused the same kind of confusion as the free hug movement is causing today.  This movement has momentum in cities all over the world.  The fruit of kindness could go viral if we live up to our name as Jesus little sisters and brothers who produce this fruit-Kindness.  Cause some chaos this causing co-worker, family friend and foe alike to wonder if we are Christians or the Kind Ones.

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Published in: on February 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I’ve really enjoyed your messages. I can feel your passion and heart for the congregation you are shepherding and your desire to present scriptural truths without watering down the gospel message.


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