David Jeremiah - Radical Kindness
Peter believed the church should be a place filled with the attitude of brotherly kindness, and so he adds that to his list of characteristics that we're to develop in our lives. He says we're to add to our godliness brotherly kindness. The word Peter uses in the original language of the Greek for brotherly kindness. Are you ready for this? It's the word "philadelphia". Philadelphia is the translation of the words "brotherly kindness".
The city was called Philadelphia because William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, wanted to establish a city that was characterized by this particular biblical trait, so he chose this name right out of the Bible to call the city Philadelphia, which translated means "the city of brotherly love". Whether or not it lives up to that name, you can figure that out. As followers of Christ we are to live up to that name. We're to be philadelphian Christians. The commentary on the word "Philadelphia" is found in Ephesians 4:25 and following. This passage of Scripture describes what it means to live the philadelphian Christian life.
Here we go. "Therefore, put away lying, 'Let each of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another. 'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Don't give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word come out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear it. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you".
This passage of Scripture in Ephesians is a come back to often passage, because it's Paul's seven bullet points about being kind. Each is like a special delivery from the divine postal carrier to your heart. The Bible tells us to forge our friendships with trust, free our relationships from anger, feed those who are hungry, fortify others by our words, flash bitterness out of our spirit, find ways of practicing kindness, and forgive others as Christ forgave you. Man, if you start working on that it will change everything.
Can you imagine a better definition of what it means to be a philadelphian Christian? So, let's take 'em one at a time. Here is the first one: forge your friendships with trust. Paul begins by saying put away lying, the Lord tells us, and speak the truth to your neighbor. We're members one of another. That's what it says. Trust is essential to healthy relationships. Do people know they can trust you? Brotherly kindness begins with a trustworthy spirit, with the willingness to be honest and kind. Listen to me. Speaking honestly one to another doesn't mean speaking bluntly or brutally.
Stormie Omartian wrote, "I've known people who use the excuse of just being honest to devastate other people with their words". Have you ever known anybody like that? "Now, I'm just gonna tell you the truth this time. As your brother, as your sister, I feel obligated to tell you the truth", and then they just bury you. Being honest doesn't mean you have to be completely frank. You don't have to go past the point of hurting people. It takes wisdom to know how to balance all of that, honesty and kindness. It takes wisdom to know when and where to trust another person, but growing in brotherly kindness means growing in our ability to trust and be trusted, and you can't trust everybody in the world.
You know, one of the things I learned when I was sick is I learned who I could trust. Illness or serious issues in your life will sort out your friends, help you to see who the real friends are and who the others are. I know we can't trust everybody in this world, but you should be trustworthy. Your spouse should be able to trust you. Your neighbors should be able to trust you. The people you work with should be able to trust you. Brotherly kindness begins when we put off falsehood, and we stop lying to one another, and we're honest, kind people. Forge your friendships with trust.
Here is the second one: free your relationships from anger. Our attitude of brotherly kindness has a way of shoving aside angry tempers that plague us. Here is what Paul said, "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil". Paul wasn't talking here about getting angry at things like traffic. He's talking about getting mad with your neighbor. When you're most tempted to lose your temper, it's often because someone else, perhaps someone you love very much, has done something to irritate you.
The Bible doesn't tell us never to be angry. Anger is a natural human response, but it must be governed. It's a dangerous emotion that must be controlled, as volatile as nitroglycerin and that's why Paul quoted Psalm 4:4 when he said, "Be angry, and do not sin". Brotherly kindness is the biblical corrective for an angry spirit.
Someone said the more you grow up, the less you blow up. Maturity involves learning to control how and when you express your anger, and I always love this little catchphrase that says "don't let the sun go down on your anger," and I've been in marriage conferences where people have said that's a good thing. If you have enough spat with your wife or your husband, just make sure you settle it before you go to bed. It's not God's will for us to live with an angry spirit. You can't be kind and angry at the same time. Forge your friendships with trust. Free your relationships from anger. Then it says feed somebody who's hungry. Here is another secret to brotherly kindness. He says, "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need".
Now, you have to understand when this was written, when Paul wrote these words, Christians who first read this letter, they'd come to Christ out of a background of thievery. Many of them were shoplifters and cheaters, even burglars, and Paul is saying that if they stop stealing and instead go to work with their hands, they could earn a livelihood, and then they'd have something of their own to share with other people, and that would give them the transformation in their life, which we call brotherly kindness. What a reversal. Instead of stealing from others, based on this verse, "I advise you," says Paul, "to work hard so that you won't steal from them, but you can give to them".
The Bible says he who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and he will pay him back what he has given. When that kind of generosity becomes a constant lifestyle, you're starting to live Ephesians chapter 4. I remember one time Donna and I were talking about this. She told me this story. She was at a 7-Eleven store not far from where we live and in this particular situation there was a mother there with two little children, and she had a little sign saying, "Help me feed my children".
So, Donna got her stuff, and she left, and she was on her way home, when God spoke to her heart, and she turned around. And instead of going back to 7-Eleven she went to the pizza store, and she bought a couple of pizzas for those kids, and she went back, and she gave the mom some money, and she gave those two little girls a pizza. And Donna said, she said, "David, I have never seen two little children as hungry as those girls were". And she said, "When I stood there and just watched them start on those pizzas, it just broke my heart".
Those are the stories that happen when you open your heart to kindness, and so here is what some people will say, "Well, I can't take care of all of 'em, so I'm not gonna worry about it". No, if everybody does that, nobody ever gets any care. Just ask the Lord to give you a sensitivity to the people you meet during the day. If he says, "Help that person," help 'em, and then leave it up to God for what he wants to do in their lives. The best thing that will happen if you do that is you'll protect your heart from getting cold and indifferent to the needs of people we have everywhere.
Little Gisele only weighed 1 pound and 14 ounces when she was born, a consequence of her pregnant mother's drug abuse. She spent three months in the NICU, on ventilator support. Her parents were battling addictions and unable to tend to her. She was transferred to Franciscan Children's Hospital, tiny and alone. No one ever came to see her, but there was a nurse named Liz Smith who noticed her and felt incredible compassion for her, and she began visiting her regularly. She said, "Since the moment I met her, there was something behind her striking blue eyes that captured my attention. I felt that I needed to love this child and keep her safe".
Liz became a foster mother to Gisele, with the view forward that would hopefully reunite her with her birth parents. And when that plan fell through, guess what she did? She volunteered to adopt her, and when Liz and her family and Gisele appeared before the judge to finalize the adoption, he stood up and said, "When a judge walks into the room everyone stands up out of respect, but today I stand in respect for you, Liz, because you deserve the respect from this room. A birthing day is a miracle, but adopting a child from miles away, that's destiny".
And even as Liz adapts to the pressures of being a single mother, Gisele has made tremendous medical strides. She still receives most of her nutrition from a feeding tube and most of her nutrition is hard for Liz to manage, but she started taking some simple bits of food. Liz is doing what the Scripture talks about when it says "and add to your godliness brotherly kindness," Christ-like kindness, radical kindness. That's radical. She didn't know this child, but God birthed in her heart a love for this child, and she followed through.
You know, God does that if we open ourselves up to it, if we just say, "Lord, if there is somebody I should help today, somebody that I should minister today, show me who that is. I stand ready to do it to the best of my ability". So, forge your friendships with trust. Don't lie to each other. Free your relationships with anger. Don't be angry one with another. Feed somebody who's hungry, and then fortify other people with your words. Here is what it says, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers".
The Bible is full of verses about how we speak the words we say, about the tones that we employ, but this is among the most practical and helpful Scripture when it comes to the subject of our tongues. Nothing we say with our mouth should be unwholesome. That means unholy. We don't use words that are vulgar and that are cuss words. Nothing we say should be unwholesome, unholy. Nothing should be unhealthy. Nothing should be destructive. Nothing should be detrimental, instead the words of a brotherly kindness Christian should always build somebody up and benefit them and encourage them. To practice brotherly kindness with your words, make a habit of complimenting at least one person every day. "Who can I compliment today"? You'd be amazed at the gratitude that flows your way and fills your heart over time when you say thank you.
Do you know that Abraham Lincoln wore a Brooks Brothers overcoat when he and his wife, Mary, attended a performance at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865? Shortly after 10 p.m., John Wilkes Booth crept behind him and fired a fatal shot into his head. After he was shot, Lincoln was carried across the street to a boarding house where he died, and the personal belongings in his coat pocket were collected and given to his son. Robert Todd Lincoln put them in a box. They were later passed down to Robert's daughter, Mary, who donated them to the Library of Congress in 1937, and the box was never opened until 1976.
Do you know what was in the box? What Lincoln carried with him that fatal night in his Brooks Brothers coat, he had a couple of pairs of eyeglasses, a pocket knife, a gold watch fob, a white handkerchief, a cuff link, a confederate $5 bill, a brown leather wallet and several newspaper clippings. One of them extolled his accomplishments and began with the words "Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest statesmen of all time". Though he was one of the greatest statesmen of all time, Abraham Lincoln had borne unceasing criticism. He needed encouragement and affirmation, as most of us do, and what he found was an article that said something good about him, and he folded it up and put it in his pocket and carried it with him through his death experience.
And isn't that a tremendous reminder to us that no matter who we are we all need encouragement? We all need to know that somebody cares about what we're doing, and that's why we should never waste any of our words being critical of other people. You know what? As Christians we don't have to do that, 'cause there's a lotta people who've taken that whole thing over, and they do it all the time. Why would we join them? Let's be different. Let's be people who have philadelphian tongues, philadelphian words, brotherly kindness words. We need to quit being mean as snakes and start being as kind as the Scripture encourages us to be. Amen.
Forge your friendships with trust, free your relationships from anger, feed somebody who's hungry, fortify others with your words, and then number five, flush bitterness out of your spirit. Here is what verses 30 and 31 say, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice". I don't know if you've noticed, but in verses 26 and 27 Paul says that when we stay angry over a period of time we give the devil a foothold. And then, in verse 30 he says that when we let bitterness grow in our hearts, we grieve the Holy Spirit, so if we don't do right by our words and by our heart we give the devil a foothold in our life, and we grieve the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
A bitter spirit does two things at once. It grieves the Holy Spirit, and it delights the devil. To excel in brotherly kindness you have to work to resolve your personal issues. This is no easy task. Today there are many ways to seek help and freeing yourself from bitterness. With guidance, the Holy Spirit, do what you need to get rid of the bitterness in your heart. As we grow in him, our angry and disapproving faces are transformed into loving expressions, and the Bible says those who look to him are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame. Let us always be people who are known for our kindness, who stand up against the ugliness and evil that's so much a part of our discourse today and our evil today.
I don't have to agree with you. I don't have to believe anything you believe, but I do have to treat you with dignity and kindness and listen to you as I expect you to listen to me. Forge your friendship with trust, free your relationship from anger, feed somebody who's hungry, fortify others with your words, flush bitterness out of your spirit, and find new ways to practice kindness. That leads us to the last verse of the chapter, Ephesians 4:32, which really brings the idea of brotherly kindness to fruition. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted". Oh, I love that. I remember as a little child I had to learn that verse. Did you?
Growing up in Sunday school that was one of the key verses. Kindness always creates a chain reaction. Have you noticed that? The Bible says, "A soft answer turns away wrath". I'm just trying to help you understand that kindness is not a doctrine. Kindness is not some word in the Bible. Kindness is a word that has action attached to it. Be kind. When you're kind to somebody that means you do something for them. It's not a warm feeling about your heart. It's not a good enough thing just to have a kind attitude. Kind attitudes are good, but they don't do any good. Kind actions are what do good. Just pray the prayer, "Lord, help me today to see somebody that I can be kind to, who needs a word from you".
If you ask him that he will do it. If you ask him that you better mean it, 'cause if you don't he'll do it, and then you're gonna be upset if you don't know what to do, so you ask him, and he'll do it. He'll help you. He'll give you a sensitive heart. There is somebody you should help. Be kind one to another, tenderhearted. And then, it says, "Forgiving them, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you".
And you know what? There is tremendous truth in that little section of Scripture. How many of you know forgiveness is hard? Oh, man, depending on what's happened. Sometimes something happens to you that's so awful you cannot, "And you want me to forgive him for that"? "You want me to forgive her for that"? No, I don't, but God does, and God says this.
If you come to grips with what it meant for him to forgive you out of the reservoir of God's forgiveness for you, you will find the forgiveness you need to forgive somebody else. If you try to do it in your own strength, you won't, but just every time you get to the place where you say, "I cannot forgive that person," just remember the Bible says when we were without strength, when we had nothing to offer to God, when we didn't bring anything to the table, God sent his own Son into this world to die for our sin and forgive us. And because he has forgiven me, out of the forgiveness I got from him I can find what it takes to forgive someone else. For Christ's sake, for God's sake be forgiving.