July 21, 1996
When Doug Meland and his wife moved into a village of Brazil's Fulino Indians, he was referred to as "the white man"- not a complimentary term. Other white men had exploited the villagers, burned their homes, and robbed their lands. But after the missionaries learned the language and began to help people with medicine and in other ways, they began to call Doug "the good white man." And when the Melands began adopting the customs of the people, the Fulino spoke of Doug as "the white Indian."
Then one day, as Doug was washing the dirty, blood-caked foot of an injured boy, he heard a bystander say, "who ever heard of a white man washing an Indian's foot? Certainly this man is from God." From that day, whenever Doug entered an Indian home, it would be announced, "Here come the man God sent us." That's one of the secrets of greatness: compassion. That's also one of the characteristics of those who follow Jesus.
The Bible says, "The one who despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy," Proverbs 14:21.
Kindness is such a garden variety virtue that I rarely think about it. It doesn't have the preaching clout that fidelity and honesty and dedication to a cause have. In fact, on the surface, kindness has a mushy or feminine ring to it.
But to be honest with you, when I dig deeper into the study, I much more enjoy hanging out with "kind" people than harsh, insensitive, nasty folks. The more I think about it, the virtue of kindness is a powerful lubricant to the smooth running of social life. In fact, kindness is a practical working out of love. I Corinthians 13: 4 starts, "Love is patient, love is kind."
The quality of kindness brings love down from the clouds, down to my level on the street. A man who says he loves his wife but acts insensitively instead of kindly is a hypocrite. Kindness is a good test of love. The world needs a whole lot more of this quality.
So now you're asking, "How can I be a kinder, more compassionate person?" I"m glad you asked. Let's start with Galatians 5:22, 23.
Kindness, like love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest is a product of the spirit of God living in you. When the spirit of God gets inside you, this kind of behavior will start coming out of you. Garbage in, garbage out; Jesus in, kindness out. In this passage the phrase "fruit of the Spirit" is a code name for the life qualities of Jesus sprouting up through your life.
So on a kindness/nastiness scale, if the quality of your life ranges more toward the nasty side, well you might justifiably ask yourself: how much of my soul have I opened up to the spirit of God?
But that may not be the best question to ask. If you see more nastiness in yourself than you like, it might be profitable to probe another direction for a few moments: do you usually measure up to your own standards? How often do your accomplishments match your expectations? Who do you blame when you come short? (Who else, you blame yourself, of course!). If you had only worked harder, smarter, stronger... If you hadn't been such a dingbat! Have you ever had a conversation like that with yourself?
IF you have them too often you may not be a compassionate person toward others. Sometimes we must forgive ourselves in order to forgive others. But that is kind of tricky. You can't forgive yourself "just because." If you're waiting for me to forgive you- forget it! I've got my own neurosis to work out!
We can't make up laws of forgiveness as we go along: "I feel guilty for running over that elderly lady on the side walk last night. Oh well, I can't live with this guilt so I forgive myself." Hoepfully you can see how that won't work. But if someone else, a person involved in the whole mess would forgive me, then I could forgive myself and I could become a more forgiving person.
That someone else is Jesus! He is involved in all my messes and offers to forgive me and then be an example of how to forgive and then be the power enabling me to be compassionate.
Let's go back to the woman caught in the act of committing adultery. Lloyd Ogilvie narrates the scene very dramatically. Listen to his description:
Editor's note: The text was unavailable, but the passage was read from The Magnificent Vision, pp 95-100
People with unresolved guilt tend to act like the punishment-loving scribes and pharisees. People who have understood the great miracle of their own forgiveness tend to let the forgiveness they received from Jesus ooze out of their life and become a salve to those around them.
An important lesson Jesus would teach us is: People never escape their guilt by being negative and critical to others. In fact, if a person does receive mercy from Jesus, but doesn't pass it on with compassion and kindness to others- the mercy they did receive becomes like a poison (like the Dead Sea with fresh water coming in but no outlet).
In the end, we do what we do; we behave the way we behave because of who we are on the inside. That is why what we have been studying is called the "fruit of the Spirit." When Jesus is in you, kindness and mercy come out.
Have you heard or felt the impact of the words, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more?" Can you say to those who need compassion: Neither do I condemn you?" If you're now asking how you can be a kinder person, you need to first be willing to experience Jesus as your forgiver. Then you will know Him as your example and as your power. To be these things you and I must let Him into our lives with the right to control every aspect of who we are.