The feedback to me was spot on accurate – “You are task oriented!” I am internally wired to seek efficiency, to like results, and that sometimes shows us in ways that are not godly, and I am insensitive to the needs of others. Not so long ago, in a moment of frustration with another person I spoke words that were unkind and unfair. Were they true? Yes, but they were not “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) Later I felt God’s Spirit correcting me. “Jerry, you can be both efficient and kind!” It is not the first time I have felt His reproof in that area.
Who tests your love and kindness? That teenager in your household? A supervisor who is overly demanding? A neighbor who lets his dog run all over your yard? If you are a Christian, your Father’s expectation is clear – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV) In that list of the evidence of the Spirit’s’ life found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians these two traits are included: “patience and kindness.” It is so easy to talk about love but actually practicing it demands the transformative work of the Holy Spirit deep inside of us.
Genuine love serves people in a way that gives them dignity and respect. Love causes us to give up our ‘rights’ even when we are misunderstood or misused. Love refuses to take note of unkind words, causes us to extend ourselves to meet the needs of another even when it is inconvenient. How do I know that? Because, our model for love is Jesus; and that’s what Jesus did for me… and you. He left the powerful and perfect life in Heaven to become one of Nazareth’s common laborers. He worked when labor was back-breaking, without vacations or fringe benefits, or even Aleve™ to ease the muscle aches. Why? For love’s sake alone! Hebrews says He became a full participant in this world so that He could our Priestly Intercessor – One who “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do.” (Hebrews 4:15, NLT) He embraced people who hated Him. He died ‘while we were still sinners!’
The Spirit speaks to us with the example of Jesus. “Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!” (Philippians 2:3-7, The Message)
I pray that I will rediscover the power of kindness and gentleness, rooted in the meekness of Christ. In a time of such division and competition in our nation, would you join me in praying to be among God’s gentle people? Jesus assures us that “the meek will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Let’s not confuse ‘meek’ with ‘weak.’ Jesus gave Himself to the least, the broken, the dysfunctional with such gentleness that they were healed. Even the lowest outcasts found Him approachable. That same Jesus could confront the arrogance and hypocrisy of the Pharisees fearlessly. Oh God, teach us how to live like that, gentle yet fearless.
Matthew quotes the words of Isaiah that describe the ministry of the Messiah. As we read this today, let’s pray for the same gentleness of heart.
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
‘till he leads justice to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21, NIV)
Father, I am praising You for gently loving me,
For Your amazing patience for me when I fumble and stumble.
Give me a tender heart, break my heart with those things that break Yours.
Jesus, help me to be your hands that lift up those who are weak.
Give me words that encourage those who have lost hope.
Forgive me when I am unkind and change my heart to one that is meek and gentle.
In this may You become more visible in my life and
Let me live for Your honor and glory. Amen