David Cook’s latest Pastoral Letter has been posted at the Presbyterian Church Of Australia website
Be A Little Kinder
When John White wrote his book on the Christian life he entitled it “The Fight”. Christian living is about a fight within.
At the end of the letter to the Galatians, Paul writes in defense of Christian liberty against its two enemies, legalism and indulgence. Legalism is self salvation, by adhering to a code of behaviour. Indulgence is the jettisoning of any code in favour of doing one’s own thing, the individual becomes the code of behaviour. Self salvation and self regulation.
Paul says that true freedom is won through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the impossibly demanding law, has been fulfilled on our behalf by the Lord Jesus and the code of behaviour which now governs us is determined by the believer living in (Galatians 5:16), being led by (Galatians 5:18) and keeping in step with (Galatians 5:25) the Spirit of God. The Son frees us from the impossibility of self salvation, the Spirit frees us from the slavery of self regulation.
There are now two competing forces operating within the believer, once the sinful nature reigned supreme, but no longer, for through faith in Jesus we have received not only right standing with God, but the Spirit now empowers us to overcome the ever present sinful nature.
Toplady says in his hymn “Rock of Ages”, “be of sin, the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
Jesus’ work deals with the guilt of our sin and because of that work we receive the Holy Spirit to empower us to overcome, “the sinful nature and the Spirit are in conflict” (Galatians 5:17).
There follows the list of the works of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19 – 21) and the fruit of the Spirit’s presence (Galatians 5:22 – 23).
Maybe the first three of the nine fruit relate to the first indication of the Spirit’s presence, love, joy and peace; the second three relate to our relating to others, and the last three, our relating within, to ourselves.
Writing in the Australian Magazine recently, Nikki Gemmel quoted the American author, George Saunders, saying his regrets in life relate to his failures to show kindness, “when another human being was there in front of me in need and I responded sensibly, reservedly, mildly.”
Saunders urges us to “err in the direction of kindness” and to see that the enemy of kindness is the “sickness” of selfishness.
Aldous Huxley was embarrassed that at the end of his life, he had no more advice to give than, “try to be a little kinder”.
John Laws, the radio announcer ended his program for many years with the words of Roger Miller, “let us be a little kinder”.
Kindness is a fruit which all believers exhibit because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. Selfishness, ambition, envy, fits of rage, come naturally to us but kindness and goodness, surprising gracious acts of generosity, sticking with people even when wronged by them, doing good even in the face of enmity, comes spiritually to us, from the Holy Spirit within.
The Lord Jesus says that when we come to him, we will find his yoke gentle or kind (Matthew 11:30) and Peter says, the Lord is good or kind (1 Peter 2:13).
The Lord Jesus exemplified the fruit of the Spirit. He was kind and good. We have been set apart to be a people of “his very own, eager to do what is good”. (Titus 2:14).
Gemmel, who is not a Christian believer says, “as I get older it’s kindness more than anything that moves me to tears…. the more empowered people feel, of course, the greater their propensity to show kindness to others”.
Let us live by, be led by and keep in step with, the Spirit in order to be kind and good. Paul concludes, “let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:26).