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Kindness: Never Random and Far Too Rare

Why are "random acts of kindness" pointless and, ultimately, ineffectual? Because they communicate nothing of the perfect picture of of kindness - the ministry of Christ - which He accomplished deliberately and sacrificially. (The drama that precedes this message, "Flying Lesson", is used by permission of the Willow Creek Association. www.willowcreek.com)

Todd WagnerDec 17, 2006
Proverbs 3:3

Messages In This Series (10)
Be Thirsty: Where the Sherpas Drink
Todd WagnerJan 7, 2007
Kindness: Never Random and Far Too Rare
Todd WagnerDec 17, 2006
How to be a Prude and Like It: Living a Life of Discernment
Todd WagnerDec 10, 2006
The Tamed Tongue: Controlling the Uncontrollable [Wise Speech]
Todd WagnerDec 3, 2006
Purity and the King of Candy Selection
Todd WagnerNov 19, 2006
A Generous Dozen, part 2 [Generosity]
Todd WagnerNov 12, 2006
A Generous Dozen, part 1 [Generosity]
Todd WagnerNov 4, 2006
Integrity: Sleeping Well, Living Better
Todd WagnerOct 29, 2006
If You Don't Get the 'God' Question Right, It Doesn't Matter What You Get [The Fear of God]
Todd WagnerOct 22, 2006
Who Needs a Dragon When You Have a Father Like This? (Introduction to 'This is the Life!')
Todd WagnerOct 15, 2006

Preceding the message in the series on Proverbs This Is the Life is a drama that takes place on an aircraft. A mom with a 20-year-old daughter who has specials needs is seated next to a businessman who was very tired. Seated across the aisle is a family of three: a dad, a 6-year-old daughter, and a mom.

[Skit]

Flight Attendant: Oh, excuse me, sir. I'm going to have to ask you to turn that off. We're just about ready to push back.

Businessman: Okay, that's not a problem. It looks like I'm going to get to spread out on this one?

Flight Attendant: It's all yours.

Businessman: Great.

Flight Attendant: Excuse me, did y'all order a kid's meal?

Woman: Yes, we did.

Flight Attendant: Okay, good. Is everything okay over here for you?

Businessman: Oh, yeah, yeah, it's going to be great. I just got off a flight from Boston. I think it was full of some high school kids' ski club.

Flight Attendant: Oh, I bet that was a noisy flight.

Businessman: Yeah, the inside of the plane kind of looked like a movie theater after a kids' show.

Flight Attendant: Oh, I can only imagine what they did to the meals.

Businessman: Yeah. Oh, speaking of which, I think I'm just going to skip lunch and just try to sleep my way to Portland.

Flight Attendant: Okay, well then I guess this blanket is for you.

Businessman: Oh great, thanks.

Girl: Daddy, can I get a pillow?

Little Girl's Dad: Yeah, can my daughter get a pillow?

Flight Attendant: Sure, no problem.

Girl: And a blanket?

Flight Attendant: Sure. Make sure to buckle your seat belt.

Amy (girl with special needs): Oh, I like your dog. What's it's name?

Amy's Mom: No, no, Amy! No, no! I'm so sorry. Excuse us.

Girl: Dad, what's wrong with her?

Little Girl's Mom: Sweetie, don't stare, and not so loud.

Little Girl's Dad: This is going to be a great flight.

Girl: Why, Dad? Why is it going to be great?

Little Girl's Dad: Nevermind.

Flight Attendant: Here you go. Here's that pillow, and I'll be back with a blanket in just a second.

Little Girl's Dad: Great, could you check and see if there are any seats in the back of the plane?

Flight Attendant: Sure, no problem.

Girl: Why, Dad? What's wrong with these seats? I like these seats.

Flight Attendant: Excuse me, is she buckled in okay?

Amy's Mom: Oh yes, she loves to work the seat belt. It's the first thing she does.

Amy: Here I go, Mommy! Put your arms up!

Amy's Mom: Oh, who taught you to do that?

Amy: Papa did. Papa always puts his arms up. Up! Up, Papa! Put your arms up, Papa!

Amy's Mom: No, Amy! No! I'm sorry. She gets a little excited on airplanes.

Amy: I want to see Papa. Papa!

Amy's Mom: Just be still. I need you to be still. That is not your Papa. Papa is in heaven.

Amy: In heaven. Papa! I want Papa!

Amy's Mom: I'm sorry. She just lost her grandfather.

Amy: He's not lost. He's in heaven.

Amy's Mom: He's the one who always took her places.

Amy: I want to sit by the window.

Amy's Mom: Not now, Amy.

Amy: I want to see Papa!

Amy's Mom: Not now. Look, the "fasten seatbelt" sign is still on. Look!

Amy: Seat belt on, seat belt on.

Girl: She's not using her inside voice.

Little Girl's Mom: You're right, sweetie, she's not. Now don't stare, okay?

Flight Attendant: All right, here is that blanket you asked for.

Amy: Blanket for Amy?

Girl: Dad, get my blanket!

Amy: Please! Please!

Amy's Mom: Amy, let go!

Little Girl's Dad: Just let her have it. It's okay.

Flight Attendant: I'm so sorry. I can get you another.

Little Girl's Dad: Were you able to see if there are any other seats in the back?

Flight Attendant: There's a few here and there.

Little Girl's Dad: Could you move them there?

Flight Attendant: Well, sir, there aren't any two together.

Little Girl's Dad: Look, I don't want to be a pain, but we're on vacation.

Flight Attendant: I understand. I'll see what I can do. [speaking to Amy's mom] Excuse me, ma'am? Could I possibly show you some seating options in the back?

Amy's Mom: Uh… Well, all right. Amy? Amy, honey? Look at Mommy. You be a good girl.

Amy: Good.

Amy's Mom: Be still.

Amy: Still.

Amy's Mom: I'm sorry. I'll be right back. Let Mommy by, sweetie. Let me out. That's a good girl. I won't be gone long. Be good. I'll be right back.

Amy: Ow. Did you hurt your finger? I can see your Band-Aid.

Little Girl's Dad: Stop it!

Amy: [crying] Papa! Papa! Papa! Papa!

Businessman: You miss your grandpa? Huh?

Amy: Papa!

Businessman: Can you see him? Look, why don't you just sit in this seat. You can see out the window better.

Amy: No, no, no. Seat belt. Seat belt.

Businessman: Oh, right.

Amy: Can you see Papa? Look! Look! Look!

Businessman: Look, this seat belt is here. You can sit in this seat. There's a seat belt.

Amy: No, Mommy sit.

Businessman: Right, but see your mom can sit in your seat. You can sit here. You can switch.

Amy: Switch.

Businessman: Yeah. It's okay.

Amy: Seat belt. Seat belt. Seat belt. Seat belt. Seat belt. Buckle up! Papa!

Businessman: Yeah, you really miss your Papa, huh? But remember, he's in heaven, so he is okay, right?

Amy: Papa is tired. Amy is tired.

Businessman: Yeah, I'm tired too.

Amy: Oh, read this! Read it, please!

Businessman: This? It doesn't really say much.

Amy: Read it! Read it!

Businessman: Okay, it's just about the airplane.

Amy: Read the story.

Businessman: All right. The story. Um, okay. Well, there's this plane. It's a 737.

Amy: Once upon a time!

Businessman: Right. Right. Once upon a time there was this plane. This plane's name was Jane.

Amy: [laughing] A plane Jane! I like it! It's funny!

Businessman: Yeah, that is kind of funny. And, uh, let's see here. Well, the plane see has all these doors. Can you count the doors?

Amy: One, two, three, four, five, six! Six doors!

Businessman: Six doors, exactly. And see, they all have these funny little things sticking out of them. Do you know what those are? Slides!

Amy: Oh yes! I like slides!

Businessman: But see, they're not out the whole time the plane is flying because, well, they like to stay a secret.

Amy: A secret. Shhh.

Businessman: So they just stay kind of tucked in while you're flying. You know, it's uh…

Amy: I love you, Papa.

Amy's Mom: Amy, sweetie, we have to get our things. We need to move. [speaking to the businessman] Thank you.

[End of skit]

Watch that little drama and something like that, you just go, "Man, I want to be like that. I want that to mark my life. I want to be the guy who isn't worried about his vacation or the fact that he is tired after a business trip, but who is going to come alongside a mother who obviously has her hands full and show a little kindness.

The character attribute that the book of Proverbs, that's trying to let us live a life that the world would frankly marvel at and that would fill our hearts with a sense of fullness that really very few things would, begs us to put on kindness. Proverbs, chapter 3. Let me just read you verses 1 through 4, because this is kind of the seminal little bit of Scripture that talks about this. In this book, when a father is trying to instruct a son in to the ways of life that will allow his life to be a life that other people look at and just marvel at. It literally takes their breath away. It says,

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man."

You find somebody who is kind and you find somebody who the world has a sense of favor toward. There's no question watching that little drama behind us which man our hearts totally went out to. We just go, "Oh, man. I want to be that guy." But when you ask people today about people who hang out where we are this morning or in things called churches and you ask them to describe what folks who go to those churches are like, kindness is not one of the top words that you will hear thrown out to describe those types of individuals.

You'll hear words like intolerant, judgmental, self-righteous, bigoted, concerned only with money, arrogant, legalistic, and hypocritical. You don't often find folks describing individuals today known as churchgoers with the word kindness. Something is terribly wrong. Kindness is a necessary attribute of any life that is informed by a relationship with God.

For I'll show you a little bit later where he says for, "…He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." It's easy to be kind, the Bible observes, to folks who are warm toward you or have something to offer you, but it's not so easy to be kind to folks who are mean-spirited toward you or who make your life a little bit more difficult to live. God is desperate for us to model who he is to the world.

The kind of God who folks would worship is a God who is kind to evil and ungrateful men. That's the kind of God, that's the kind of deity we just kind of go, "Are you kidding me? If there is a God, he would be like that, but I can't imagine there is a God like that." Then every now and then you see somebody who says they have a relationship with God who embodies that kind of kindness. It makes the world stop and take a look and cock its head in wonder.

Kindness is not convenient. It's never convenient. For me, it's not even natural. That's why the Scriptures have to remind us again and again, "You have to bind yourself to it." The Scriptures tell us that when you think about what defines a good man or a good woman, kindness is always an attribute that is associated with them.

In Proverbs, chapter 19, verse 22, it says this. "What is desirable in a man is his kindness…" Not his strength, not his wealth, his kindness. If there has been a consistent theme that wives are coming and asking for help in their marriage when they describe the types of things that frustrate them about a relationship with their husband, it's not that they're not living in a certain house, it's not that they're not driving a certain character of car. It's that their husband is no longer kind to them.

"What is desirable in a man is his kindness…" I have had women say, "If he would just treat me with the same kindness that he treats the waitress at Denny's, I'd be happy." "What is desirable in a man is his kindness…" What's desirable in a woman is the same thing. Proverbs 31, where it talks about the kind of woman who we should pursue and venerate and honor.

In verse 26, it says this. "She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Constantly teaching kindness to her children. Kindness. I say it all the time to my kids, "Kindness. Kindness." I need to say it all the time to myself. When the Scriptures talk about our response to our relationship with God, it is imploring us to be these kinds of people.

Well this is an idea that is picked up in the New Testament. In Colossians, chapter 3, we start right there in verse 12. This is what it says. "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart…" Now this doesn't say, "Be a put-on," but I'm going to explain to you a common expression in the New Testament that deals with this idea of the indwelling of God in our life, what it means. There's not some piece of God that has been blow-darted into our inner being where we're hit and it enters into us then.

But the idea of a heart that has been transformed, a life that is in submission to, in relationship with, that dwells in unity with God. A life that is filled with the Spirit is a life that puts on the characteristic of what the Spirit says should be in our life. Watch this, "…put on…" In other words, it's not naturally what you would wear. Men go out in their naked rawness or they adorn themselves in things that in their rawness and natural state they would grab: self-exaltation, self‑promotion, self-concern.

That is what we easily slip into. He says, "Look, it should not be so with you who have been confronted with God, who have come to know God, who have been chosen by God to be redeemed back to what God originally intended man to be." You see, what happened is God, when he created us, had us walk with him intimately as his friend. Then we turned from him and went our own way. We thought our way was a better way because there was life away from God.

"Why let God define good and evil? I will define good and evil on my own." The way we define good and evil is so far less than what God intends for it to be and even worse, even when we define good right, we find, in our natural state separate from God, we can't even do the good that we have defined as good. So there is a mess going on around here. So all of us, every one of us, falls short of the glorious life that God has intended us to live. Every single one of us is less than what Jesus would be on that airplane unless we put on humility and the Spirit of Christ.

Unless we are lead by his kindness into submission and relationship with him again, not just for some random, self-promoting, feel-good reason, but in response to the kindness of God that has invaded our hearts we slide into something that is not normal to us and we "…put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."

So we are implored here to also forgive others. "Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity…" The Scripture in 1 John says, "God is love…" That's why in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 4, this little love chapter, when it describes what love is, it doesn't use an emotion.

In fact, there's not a single word in the biblical description of love that has anything to do with how you feel. But it says, "Love is patient, love is kind…" It's the second thing that God lists when he is trying to describe to you what love is. It's the perfect thing that will bind you together. It continues in Colossians, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…" In other words, let this be what informs everything that you do.

"…to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ [the mind of God] richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Then watch this. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."

One of the things that has really welled up in our country over the last 15 years is this desperate need for civility and chivalrousness to come back into our world. We've become a self-absorbed, rude people. So there's been a huge push to having kindness mark us again. In fact, there's a little story that was created, which isn't true, of a man who was sitting on a bus and a woman comes walking on the bus and all the seats were filled.

The man stood up to give the woman his seat. When he did, the woman fainted. So people came around her and fanned her. When she came to, she looked up at the man and she said, "Thank you so much," and the man fainted. The idea that folks are kind anymore, we see it as some amazingly special behavior, where God says, "This is the way I created you to behave."

But our world, as it drifts further and further away from God, will drift further and further away from the glory which should mark our lives. So kindness is not an attribute which typically defines many people. It's not even an attribute which is often listed early in an individual's description of the kind of people who attend church. It should not be that way.

I was with my kids. We were going around the room. Just as a matter of course sometimes we share our highs and lows throughout the day. Not long ago, within the last couple of weeks, I just said, "Let's just go around and celebrate something we see in everybody's life in this room." When they came to me, they said some nice things, but not a single person said, "Kindness."

They talked about how I helped make them a better person, how I could teach them God's Word, how I knew God's Word, how I spurred them on, encouraged them, loved them, provided for them, but not a single one of them said, "Kindness." It didn't frankly surprise me, though it hurt me.

Because if I want to be anything to my children, I want them to think of their dad as a kind man. I have some work to do. I don't want to just be the bright one. I don't want to be the one who can always take you to a Scripture that informs you of truth. I don't want to stop being those things, but I should never be those things in a way that excludes kindness, and neither should you. Neither should any of us.

In this rush to have kindness and this sense of chivalry come back into our world today, a number of years ago, people started a movement where they encouraged people to do random acts of kindness. There are numerous websites out there that talk about different stories where people have run into strangers who have done kind things.

Well I just want to share with you this morning that ought to be something we never do. In fact, it ought to be impossible for us to participate in random acts of kindness. That is because of what the Scripture says in Colossians, chapter 3, verse 17 and other places. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…" See, it's impossible for us to do random acts of kindness. Here is the first point I have for you to think about today.

There is no such thing as a random act of kindness if you are a follower of Christ because as a follower of Christ, there is no such thing as a random act. I say it this way next. Every act we take as a follower of Jesus should be an act of kindness.

First John says, "God is love…" First Corinthians says, "Love is patient, love is kind…" Galatians 5:22 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…" How are you doing? Do you know if everything you do is not able to be put in the category of kindness, whatever it is, it is not an act that Jesus would've participated in.

If you do something and it isn't defined by kindness, it is not an act that is informed by the Spirit of Jesus, ever. Let me just remind you of this. The fruit, singular. Often we think there are nine fruits, plural, of the Spirit, but that is not so. The fruit (singular) of the Spirit. In other words, when the Spirit of God is present, these things are all always present.

So as we've said many times, we as people don't need to pray for more patience, we don't need to pray for more ability to love, we don't pray for more kindness. We pray that we would put on and yield to the Spirit of who Jesus is that we have surrendered and given ourselves to that we would clothe ourselves in humility and not do what we want but the life which we now live we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and delivered himself up for us and we would live as he would live no matter how that feels, because it's not about us.

He, being rich in righteousness and in every provision as God himself, became a servant for our sake and so he says, "As I've won your life, give your life for me." We are no longer supposed to consult our emotions or feelings or what makes sense to us. He just says, "Do as I have done." By the way, he says, "…do to others as you would have them do to you."

If that was your daughter, what would you want done? I'd want somebody to read my daughter a book. When you see a man who puts on kindness, we go, "That is a desirable man." That is what a skilled life always does. That is the way a skilled basketball player should dribble. That is the way a skilled musician should play. That is the way a skilled singer should sing.

When we live our lives consistent with God, people should look at us and go, "That is the way humans should live," humans who are draped in the glory that God intended them to have. In a world that doesn't know that God is here to capture your heart, not with a spirit of Christmas but the Spirit of Christ you have to come up with random reasons, but you are more informed than that.

There's no such thing as a random act of kindness if you're somebody who understands what Christmas is all about. There's no such thing as an act made in the name of our Savior that is in and of itself not kind. You see, there have been a number of times when I have been, by the grace of God, an individual who has done a kind thing or said a kind word or shared a kind act.

People have said to me, "Thank you so much! That's so kind of you." I typically have said this. I have said, "Let me just tell you. I just pray and you need to know that the small act of kindness was done to remind you of God's great love for you in the person of his Son Jesus Christ."

Whether it's picking up somebody's toll, whether it's paying somebody's difference in the grocery store, whether it's caring for their child, whether it's dealing with some issue they might have around their house or yard and they want to make some remuneration, I tell them there's no kinder remuneration they could make toward me than to consider why I do what I do when they see me do it in a manner that makes them go, "That's the way a man ought to live." In fact, we talked about having cards produced for today that you could use.

You could just do something kind for somebody and hand to them and simply say, "May this small act of kindness remind you of God's great love for you in the person of Jesus Christ." But we think your words and eye contact can be a more convincing way of encouraging people why you live the way you live than just a simple card. Because it's not a tool to invite them here. It's a tool to introduce them to the Kind One whose kindness toward us should elicit a response, as we'll see as we go forward.

Let me show you what it says in Ephesians, chapter 4. Very similar to the Colossians passage, it says this. "But you did not learn Christ in this way…" As it lists off what men typically do and how men typically become self-absorbed. He said, "This is not what you learned when you learned about a skilled life."

"…if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind…" Here it is again. "…and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

You know we talk a lot about what it means to be in relationship with God and to have the Spirit of God dwell in us. Well, the idea of the Spirit of God indwelling us is not at all intended to be a physical locality or a geographical placement. Because we talk about God being already omnipresent, meaning everywhere.

What it talks about is us embracing who Jesus is and surrendering to the will of God and that the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What's in us is a heart that has been transformed by the truth of who Jesus and God are. As we are then in the Spirit of truth, we then act and live differently because we submit ourselves to his way and no longer reject his way and go our own way.

Those great passages that I read you in Proverbs 3:1-4 precede two verses that most people who have been around Jesus for very long have been introduced to if not memorized. Where it says, "Do not let kindness and truth leave you…" it goes right on after that to say, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

Don't do what you think. Submit yourself now to your King. He is a loving King who wants you to live a certain way that when others look at it would just go, "That is the way a life ought to be lived." So that you can say, "If my life is good, let me introduce you to the Creator who is redeeming my life from the pit. His name is Jesus."

"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN…" I'm going to talk one of these days about a life of self-control and not being angry, but just so no one is confused, I'll touch on it here.

The idea of being angry and sinning not means that you ought to have a steadfast attitude that is disgusted by that which is not good, of God, kind, loving, gentle, and you ought to have a constant disgust for it, but you should not be spiked to move against things that are not as they should be in a way that you are controlled by a fleshly response toward it.

You can be angry against sin. You can speak against wrong. You can stand against injustice, but you are not to be an individual who is confronted in your flesh with something that is not as you want it to be and have a spike of emotion fill you, meaning control you, so that you behave in an angry way. You always behave in a way that is informed by the holiness and righteousness of God but not in a way that is filled with the anger of man. That's what that's talking about here.

"…do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." One of my favorite little sections of Scripture there. That word is topos. Don't give the Enemy a place, a topographical map marks off the changes in elevation, the area that is marked by that elevation. We get that from the Greek word there which talks about opportunity or place.

Don't give the Enemy a spot that you're going to say, "I'm going to remain in my flesh full of bitterness and anger toward this person," because what'll happen, as one has said in a very quirky, kind of church marquee kind of way, "If you give Satan an inch, it won't be long before he is a ruler."

So it says, "Deal with it." Deal with it, because if you give an area of your heart over to him, it won't be long before he is ruling your life with that anger. You're to be filled not with anger, but to be filled with the Spirit of God, the spirit of goodness, love, patience, self-control.

"He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification [building up] according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit…"

See, the Holy Spirit is not an it. It's not an impersonal force. He is a person who we can hurt. "…by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you…" Take them off. "…along with all malice." Now watch this. "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

My parents love to tell the story. I think they say I was between 2 and 3. I had been on some Sunday taken to a church, and we had apparently heard a message about the kindness of God. Specifically, somebody there introduced me to Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 32. They said they were driving home that particular Sunday.

I think I shared with you before that my history as a young man was that we did go a lot of times to churches on Sunday but had no relationship with pretty much anything else we did throughout the week. It was a very cultural response for us. I was a very young man, 2 or 3 years old, and I was riding along in the backseat of the car, probably not buckled in, definitely not in a car seat. Such was the spirit of that age.

My mom and dad apparently were having some discussion, which even as a 2- or 3-year-old I could reckon was not informed by love. Probably, as my kids have observed in the front seat of my car at times, it got a little escalated and elevated. They said, as they were getting after it, out of nowhere in the back seat came these words in a little high-pitched, 2- or 3-year-old voice. I said, "Be ye kind. Love one another."

I have no recollection of that story. My parents love to tell it. Probably once my dad realized he couldn't reach me to slap me silent, he said just this. They looked at each other like, "Oh my gosh. Where did that come from?" But I could reckon that whatever it is that my mom and dad were supposed to be… I had no concept of oneness, had no concept of what really relational unity was supposed to look like, but I could tell that what was going on in that front seat wasn't what God had intended.

Having just heard something as a child by faith, I just go, "Hey, I'll just whip this thing out and use it. I just heard it. Be kind. Love one another." Just that simple reminder brought healing to that little car. I need friends in my life who will all the time say to me, "Be kind. Love one another."

Let me just define kindness a little bit further for you. Kindness takes great strength. I think a lot of times we think of kindness as something that people who cannot impress their will on something choose to do so they don't get swallowed up by the monster. That couldn't be further from the truth. Kindness takes great strength.

I wrote here, "Any fool can act with anger, revenge, or self-exaltation. It takes true greatness to discipline yourself to be kind." See, I want to tell you something. I can silence people with my tongue. I can intimidate people with my physical presence. I can respond in anger to somebody else's anger, and it takes zero effort on my part. I don't need to put on anything. I need to let out my naked, rawness of who I am as a man left apart from God who leans on his own understanding.

Can you recognize that in your life? It takes no effort from me to say, "Could you move away from me? You're making what I had hoped for here uncomfortable." It takes great discipline, even when you're weary, to go, "Move over here and let me love you." When you see that, don't you see Jesus? Wouldn't you want to know if you're that mom when you sit down, "Who are you that you would love my daughter this way when others seek to separate us from each other and from their presence?"

You want to make Jesus more famous? You want your life to be a life of renown? Clothe yourself in this and you will have a life that others will marvel at. What a good Father to give to you the instruction that would make you famous. And what a great thing to be able to do with a father that you love dearly to take your fame and to lay it at his feet and to say to others, "Look, if there's anything good in me, let me tell you from whence it comes."

It takes nothing in a man to exalt himself over another. It takes a lot for a man to lay himself at others' feet so they can experience greatness for a moment. Sometimes when I'm involved with things with my son, who has had some athletic success at his young age at a very low level. I just tell him, "Coop, it's your turn to go out there right now. I don't want you to score. I want you to make sure they score."

He'll come back sometimes and say, "Dad, I didn't score hardly at all today. I made sure he scored and he scored. You're letting them score more than me." I said, "Cooper, you wouldn't believe how good you looked out there today when you made other people have an opportunity to have a moment that they may never forget."

See, there'll be days that maybe he'll get to keep competing and others' days will be done. There have been days that I'm sure that folks will say, "No, you didn't do that. You pushed your son to excel in a way that exalted him over other kids." As much as that might be true, it didn't take much of a dad to encourage him that direction. Any fool can do that, but it takes something great to be kind. Love is kind. If there's anything that ought to mark the people of God, it's love.

But I really want you to hear this. Love is not always doing what another person wants, even as it is not always kind to remain silent, enable, or condone. One of the tragic things that could come out of a message like today is that you could go out of here so committed to kindness that you end up condoning behavior that's hurting other people. We somehow misplace kindness into this, "Whatever you want is fine with me," category.

But there's a way to go about being a leader. There's a way to go about being a herald of righteousness. There's a way to go about speaking against the horrors that are in this world and in other people's lives and injustices that still can be marked with kindness, sometimes firmness, but always kindness.

People won't always recognize kindness when it comes. My kids don't recognize it. One of the things that I have done with my children, because I read about sweet little Amy Carmichael who grew up to be a great servant of God that her parents used to do to her when she was little…

So at times when it's appropriate, when I've disciplined my children appropriately, not in anger with a quick word of rebuke or a backhand to the backside that feels more good for me than it does for them, but when I in wisdom love them well and say, "Look, we've talked about this, haven't we? We know that this behavior is not what we want to be about, right? Okay, now because I love you, this is going to be the consequence that's going to come in your life right now." When they're smaller, it does involve appropriate at times physical discipline.

So what I've done with my children when I've disciplined them as a young man or a woman in that way and as they get older with other methods, I always ask them at the end of that time to turn and look at me and say, "Dad, thank you for loving me, for disciplining me and for making me see that what I was doing is not consistent with what a good young man or woman would do."

Because I want them to see that a loving father is kind by not tolerating error. Now when I do that out of my flesh or out of anger or the spite moment, I don't ask them to thank me for that. In fact, I ask their forgiveness for that. In fact, this is a little transition I want to share with you. It goes with my last point.

One of the kindest things that we can do is humble ourselves before others when we are made aware that we have not acted in kindness toward them. One of the ministries that I am proficient at that Jesus never did that I get to do that gives glory to God my Father is the ministry of, "I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?"

This week, one of my good friends shared a story with me that I felt was appropriate to share with you that fit into this category. I want to see the goodness of our God that even in our mistakes and failures how God can take what we intended for evil and use it for good when we come to our senses and we put back on kindness and obedience.

Braun, come on up here with me. I'm going to let Braun share a story. I have stories like this in my own life. I have had to return to places that I have been, and it had been brought to my attention that I have failed people in the way that I made them feel. I've had to return places before and talk to some individuals.

In fact, when my last child was born, I had to return to where we spent our first 24 hours with him and have a little chat with the nursing staff that I did not give off a spirit of kindness and gentleness and just apologize to them for some things that were pointed out to me about the way they felt. Well, this week Braun had a little illustration, a little story that was fresher than mine. I thought, "Hey, come up here and humiliate yourself with me. Walk us through that."

Braun Brown: I want to thank you for the opportunity, Todd.

Todd Wagner: Sooner or later I had to let one of them make it here, right?

Braun: Yeah, this is for my job security. No, I'm kidding. Yeah, about a week and a half ago, our son Easton was going in to get tubes put in his ears. You guys who have little kids with that know that sleep is a futile thing at that time when your kids are up a lot of the night.

Todd: You make an excuse for why you weren't kind?

Braun: I was going to try to, but…

Todd: I'm not going to let you. Go ahead.

Braun: I don't know if you have any kids, but they're really tough. I have three of them. But anyway, no I'm kidding. So anyway, a week and a half ago Easton and Angie and I went to the doctor's office. We had to get up at like 4:45 AM and have friends get our other kids and all that stuff. So Angie went on and took Easton in. Then I came a little bit later.

I had this Big Gulp-sized cup of coffee in my hand because I was trying to stay awake. So I walk into the place, and the receptionist you could tell was busy. I didn't even take note of that really until later, but it was just crazy busy. I walked up with this cup of coffee and I said, "Hey, I'm here for Easton Brown. My wife's already back there." She looked at me and she goes, "You can't take that in there." In my Christ-like response I said, "Thanks for the point." Like that. Handled that great.

Todd: This is where my wife would say, "You didn't even say it that nice!" Anyway, I'm sure you didn't even say it that nice.

Braun: Look, give me a break. I'm in front of a lot of people here.

Todd: Okay, go ahead. Continue the public penance.

Braun: Anyway so, it was kind of one of those deals where you catch yourself but you're still kind of mad like, "She was rude, and she deserved that." So I moved on and then she kind of caught herself. I came up and she said, "I guess I could hold it back here." Like she was going to watch my big cup of coffee all day.

I said, "No, it's fine." So I dumped the cup of coffee out. Then to add insult to injury, I kind of sarcastically (I don't know if she knew this, but I knew it in my heart) said as I walked by, "Hey, thank you for your help." So I went back. So I'm feeling… Is it getting bad enough here?

Todd: How many folks think she knew it?

Braun: All right. A little clarification. Anyway, so we go back in there. If you've been through these tube surgeries, they're the world's fastest surgery. It's a great business to get into. It's about eight minutes. So we went and waited in the waiting room. They said, "Hey, while he recovers, you guys can go back out in the lobby."

Well I go back out there and I look across the room, and there's that lady. The Spirit of the Lord is going, "Probably should go ask her forgiveness." I'm like ignoring the Spirit of the Lord at this point and noticing other things in the office. So we finish up, and we go get Easton and go home. I was talking to Angie about it later and I said, "Boy, I really didn't handle myself well with that lady today."

She said, "You probably should've gone and apologized." I said, "Yeah, probably should've." So we left it there. So I had already been convicted by the Lord and convicted by my wife. Those are both about equal. Then the next morning, I was hanging with some guys and I told them the story.

I kind of wanted to tell the story and move on, have them go, "Yeah, I know how that is. It's a busy time. We're all tired." One of them said, "Isn't there something in the Proverbs about making amends." I said, "Yeah, there is. Boy, that's a good Scripture." So from there that morning, this was the next morning and I got in my car and I was heading back to the office and the Lord was going, "Go see her at the office."

Everything about me was going, "I'm sure she's over that by now, Lord, it's not that big of a deal." We had a good conversation in the car, as people were driving by looking at me talk to myself and to the Lord. I missed the turn and was heading back. All of a sudden, I realize I was heading back to the office.

I go, "Maybe I should just go on back." All those things that go through your mind. The Lord was going, "Go." So I went to the office and I walked back up in there. There was a different lady at the receptionist table. I went over to her and I said, "Hey, there was a lady here with dark hair yesterday. I'd love to talk to her."

She said, "She's not here right now." I said, "I was really rude to her yesterday. I want to be a follower of Christ. Here's to him. I just need to ask her forgiveness." She goes, "That's incredibly sweet. Was this about the coffee?" That's when I dropped her my student ministry card from Fellowship Bible, and I said… I'm kidding.

So anyway I said, "Yes, it is about the coffee." From there, I just said, "I just need to leave her a note. I really blew it with her." She goes, "Oh, you're being such a witness to me. I just became a Christian a few days ago." She went into this story about her kids. I got to share with her about Watermark and said, "Boy, we really want to represent ourselves better than this as we love people out there."

Really it was just a chance. I really saw it as an opportunity at that point. I knew God had a purpose because he was all over my heart about it. It was for this lady and the other one. So I got to leave the other one a note and tell her how sorry I was that I acted that way and then tell this lady about our church.

She said, "Where is your church?" I got to share with her about Watermark. The Lord has really used it. Even in addition to that, Todd, being able to share it with our students at Shoreline, just having some kids email me this weekend just saying, "This is how God used that in my life and I went and asked my atheist teacher's forgiveness for the way I responded to her." So the Lord has really used it in spite of my mess-ups.

Todd: Even our mistakes, when we humble ourselves, can be a means through which God can glorify himself. What men intend for evil God can use for good when we come to our senses. I wanted to hold up Braun before you today not to in any way, as we said jokingly, publicly expose him, but to publicly display him as an example of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

We are not sinless people. As we clothe ourselves in Christ, we sin less and less, but when we do still sin, there's still an honor to glorify our Savior, who himself was kind to evil and ungrateful men. The purpose of God's kindness most fully displayed in a way that made the angels sing when they saw him incarnate become one with us on Christmas morning so that he could identify with our sin and go to the cross in our stead.

Even when we spit in his face and mock his love, that he in his kindness would say, "Father, forgive them, because they don't even know what they're doing in their evil, rebellious, mocking state." That defines kindness. If you know Jesus, you will clothe yourself in the same spirit of God that he did. The world will look at you and marvel. You can give glory to your Father in heaven just as the life of Jesus has done.

I want to tell you there's a purpose to God's kindness. It is both to illustrate for us how we should live as men and women filled with the glory that God intends. God's kindness on that cross, at Christmas, was meant to illicit a response from you. The response is surrender and submission to him. If that kindness has never won you to repentance, I ask you to consider God today, the most glorious one who is skilled and wise beyond all description, who Christmas we celebrate showed his kindness toward you. Let's celebrate that in song and then we'll close together.

Father, I thank you for this morning. Just as simply as we can, we just wanted to come and just really hold you up. We want to hold up the fact that you, Father, are the great kind one. In your kindness, you have sought to lead us to repentance, to change the way we think about who you are, not as a God who is looking to rip us off, but a God who wants to be gracious toward us in love and truth.

Father, I pray for my friends who are here this morning that have maybe mischaracterized you. They've made you out to be something less than what you are. You are the God of Christmas, who in incredible kindness would humble himself to come to serve and die for wicked and incredibly ungrateful men like the one who prays right now and like all the others who pray with me.

Lord, it's our prayer that as we reflect on the kindness of Christmas and of who you are, that it would elicit a response in us, maybe a response to come into relationship with you first and foremost, but then secondly a response to live as you have lived for your glory and others' and our great good. Would you do that this morning in our hearts that men might look at us and say, "Who are you that love and live this way?" Amen.

Well, I'll tell you what. There's no better song that I think just illustrates the meaning of what Christmas is all about than the kindness of God. That he would leave the comfort of heaven where he is adored and praised and where there is nothing that hurts him to come to those who he created to walk with him, who have rejected him, who have spun into violence, ungratefulness, and evilness.

That he would become like them so they could spit upon him, reject him, go to a cross for them, and experience his own wrath so that those who are wicked could receive his kindness without him compromising the nature of his goodness. That's a story that's so unspeakably kind we talk about it every weekend and it never grows old.

That's a story that so unspeakably kind that it has changed this wicked, unkind heart. It can change yours. If you've never dealt with the kindness of God, it's time for you to stop making God out to be something that in your comfort you created him to be that he is not at all and consider the kindness of Christmas and the kindness of Jesus.

I will tell you, to reject that kindness has an eternal consequence. As kindly as I can, I need to tell you that. It's your privilege if you know Jesus Christ to be kind to others this week, to use every bit of relational credibility that you have to invite them with us next Sunday to come and consider again the kindness of Jesus.

We're going to present it in a great, I think, creative way. We always use a metaphor to illustrate the power of Christmas. This year is no different. I will tell you that I am going to do all I can to implore people I love to come see the kindness of God that we celebrate. This week, I'm going to do all I can to clothe myself in that kindness that is a shadow of the kindness illustrated in the person of Jesus Christ.

If you'd like to know the kindness of God through Jesus, we'd love to talk with you today. If you know it, would you go and worship him by telling others to come and see kindness in action? May your lives reflect it and may your King be glorified as a result. Have a great week of worship.


About 'This is the Life! Volume 1'

It's the ultimate self-help book. Centuries before Drs. Laura, Phil and Benjamin came on the scene to tell us how to live, love and parent wisely, God weighed in on these matters in the Book of Proverbs. Today's "life coaches" have simply repackaged God's wisdom but the concepts are timeless and truly life-changing. In this multi-volume series, Todd Wagner combs through the book's 31 chapters and identifies principles for approaching life with wisdom and skill. Each of the attributes is perfectly embodied in the person of Jesus Christ and guaranteed to bring abundant life to those who apply them - regardless of whether they've chosen to acknowledge Christ as Lord or not. Discover the blessed life God has in store for you in Volume 1 of this practical and applicable series on Proverbs. This is The Life, Volume 1, offers advice on: the fear of God, integrity, generosity, purity, wise words, discernment, kindness, and the thirst for knowledge.