My wife recently shared a prayer request in a group text, and one person texted back, “No praying!” Then a few seconds later the person wrote, “This phone has been killing me lately with autocorrect…that was supposed to be ‘NOW praying’.”
How many of you have had text messages auto-correct to something crazy? Something unsavory? Something that was maybe the opposite of what you intended? Something unkind?
Our friend didn’t have to text us the explanation. We are so used to typos in text messages, we knew.
Those were unintentional unkind words. Like our friend did, when you and I send an errant text, we feel embarrassed and quickly send off an apologetic text saying, “Ugh, Auto-correct strikes again…sorry…what I meant was …”
The reality is that often we intentionally do, say or think unkind things. And we mean them to be unkind. Maybe we don’t 100% mean to be unkind. I suspect it is rare that we do sinful things with 100% motivation. Instead, when we are unkind, we are usually in the middle of an emotional or difficult situation, and our fear, our anger, or our sense of justice is heightened. If we have not cultivated our inner strength enough or are not walking in step with the Spirit enough, we can choose to be unkind. We can also have patterns of unkindness. Habits of unkindness. Almost to the point where it can seem that it comes out of us without thinking.
But there is another side to unkindness. Some of us have watched unkindness benefit us. There are people who cower and fall in line in the face of unkindness. If we use a certain tone, if our posture is aggressive, domineering, or authoritative, certain people are intimidated by us and will do what we say. If the words we use are harsh or accusatory, there are plenty of people who will bow before us. Have you learned the dark power of unkindness?
In other words, we can use unkindness to get what we want. In relationships, in business, on the sports field, and in the church, unkindness can be a method for personal advancement. We can even spiritualize our unkindness, believing that God has blessed us with a special coercive power, and that he is working through us. When we think like that, we don’t believe that unkindness is wrong. We usually call it boldness or persuasiveness or committedness or leadership. And the people who lay broken and hurting in the dust behind us, we declare them to be weak, that they couldn’t handle life or the truth, and thus their pain is not our fault. We say they just misunderstood us and took things too personal.
We can be deeply unkind. Followers of Jesus, however, are willing to pursue kindness, even if it slows down our progress, even if it puts us at a disadvantage, even if kindness doesn’t seem to be working.
We have been studying the Fruit of the Spirit, which we read about in Galatians 5:22-23. In previous weeks, we’ve talked about how the Spirit grows his fruit in our lives so that we can be in healthy relationships with God and others. Our God is a relational God, and how we treat one another is incredibly important to Him. Look at the lengths He went to to be in relationship with us. We’ve already studied love, joy, peace and patience in relationships. This week we will study kindness.
Before we focus on kindness, I want to point out that some of the qualities in the Fruit of the Spirit are very similar. In the past two weeks we talked about peace and patience. They are not identical, but they are related. This week and the following two weeks we are going to learn about kindness, goodness, and gentleness. These three are also related.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at their definitions, and I think you’ll see what I mean.