The Most Important Thing

In Galatians 5, Paul lists nine fruit of the Spirit. The one in the middle, (the fifth one) in my view, is often the most ignored and overlooked: It's kindness. Ella Wheeler Wilcox once wrote, "So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind, is all this old world needs."

I think she was onto something. God was too, when He inspired Paul to write Galatians 5:22-23. By the way, when was the last time you worked at being "kinder than necessary?" When was the last time you were so filled with the Spirit, that kindness came easily?" Both are questions worth pondering.

I've been married 44 years. People often ask me, "What's the secret of a good marriage." I always give the same answer--"kindness." Two people who are kind to one another rarely mistreat one another. People who are kind to one another listen well, and with respect. Conversely, where there's an absence of kindness in a relationship, there's an overblown and unnecessary desire to "win," to be "right," to come out on top, to prevail. My friend, that's a waste of time and relational productivity.

I see this with parents a lot. Many parents think that being outspoken and stern is the only way to raise their children, that it's essential for effective discipline. I would counter with a question: "Why can't you do that kindly?" Try it.

One of the reasons we're not kind to others is insecurity. We always feel like we have to prove ourselves. Rather than lashing out at others, maybe a better approach would be to question what it is about ourselves that makes us want to lash out in the first place. We've all heard Paul's words at weddings. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (I Cor. 13:4-6)

Notice the first two things that flow out of love: patience and kindness. They’re twin sisters, aren't they? A hand and a glove. A dog and a bone. Sunshine and warmth. In fact, patient people are unusually kind, and kind people are unusually patient. Ever notice that?

How about you? Where do you fit on the kindness scale? If it's on the lower end, what will you do about it? The thing about change is that no one can do it for you. It's your deal. Let me ask the question another way. If there's someone in your life whom you love, do you love them enough to be kinder? When will you start?

This isn't rocket science. You know what it is? It's humility. The essence of humility is putting others' needs ahead of your own. You know something? Everybody needs kindness, including you. Don’t you enjoy it when you receive it from others? Why not reciprocate it? Better yet, why not initiate it? That's the more important question.

A little can't do it without God's help. Remember, it's the fruit of the Spirit, not us. So begin each day this week with this prayer, "God, please fill me with your Spirit, so that my life is a reflection of Your Spirit, not me." I've discovered that, in order to be filled with the Spirit I have to empty myself of things that are not the Spirit--attitudes, choices, desires, grudges, and anger, to name a few.

So "empty"...then "fill." It's not too complicated. The problem is that we don't do the simple things, because the simple things are too hard. There's the conundrum.

Friend, this is simply life in the Kingdom of God, and you know something? It's the best possible life on this planet. If you're not living it, start now...and start with kindness. I promise, you'll never regret being kinder than is necessary. Never.


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