Tag Archives: kindness

How to live Christianly in the world – Titus 3:1-8, Part 2

6 Aug

In the first post in this series on Titus 3:1-8, I introduced the series saying that so often we Christians talk about the good news of Jesus by focusing on its implications for life after death. While it does apply to the eternal realm for sure, what we notice in a letter like Titus, is that God cares greatly about how we live. In fact in Titus 3:1-2, Paul lists six ways that God wants Christians to live in the world.

First, we saw that God is concerned that Christians be subject to rulers and authorities. You can read that post here. Now Paul continues this line of thinking about God’s desires for how his people live, with what Paul says next about how Christians should live in in relation to all people.  Remember what I have been saying in this study through Titus about the reputation of the people on the Island of Crete?  They are wild and out of control.  Time and time again in Titus we have seen that Paul wants the Christians to be different.  In this post we are going to look at the next five ways Paul describes in Titus 3:1-2 that Christians are live God’s way in the world.

Next he says that Christians are to be obedient. 

Obedient to who or what?  Certainly to the rulers and authorities as he already said.  But there are plenty of other ways to be obedient.  First and foremost, we obey God.  And as long as what we are being asked to do is in line with God’s ways, we obey in other situations as well.  Children obey parents.  Employees obey employers.  Students obey your teachers.  Athletes obey your coaches.  Christians are known for being obedient.

After obedience, Paul says Titus is to remind the Cretan Christians to be ready to do what is good.  Are you seeing a thread here?  Christians are to be subject to authorities, obedient, ready to do what is good.  Christians will be very easy to spot, if they follow what Paul is teaching in the middle of a society that is unruly.

Often when I preach these messages at Faith Church, I use PowerPoint to illustrate them. As I was trying to find a picture to depict “doing good”, I learned that there is such a thing as International Good Deeds Day.  People all over the world give time to clean parks, plant trees and gardens, visit the elderly, or feed the hungry.  I thought that was amazing, something that we Christians should be participating in. But you know what? For Christians, every day should be Good Deeds Day. 

It is very easy to be self-focused in this world.  The busyness.  All the hours at work.  Just keeping up with dirty dishes and the laundry, keeping vehicles going, and then, those of you that have kids and all they have going on, all school, sports, and extra-curricular activities, and more!  We come to the end of most days exhausted.  When that happens, we can think we have no time for doing anything extra.  Doing good?  Many of us have house projects or yard work that we’d love to have time for, letting alone serving our community, volunteering, or reaching out to neighbors.  But Paul is saying that Christians are people who are ready to do what is good.  They will make a difference in society.   This is why we are so concerned about the concerns of social justice in our society.  Feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, housing the homeless, and finding the roots of injustice that may be causing these problems.  Roots of greed, racism, and so on, and we work to bring justice to them.  The work of mercy and justice is doing good.

Next Paul goes on and says that we slander no one.  Speak with kindness and gentleness and truth, and do not gossip.  Be committed to radical confidentiality.  It seems to me that this is an area that many Christians could dwell on.  Whether it is on social media, or face-to-face, it can be hard to control our tongues.  Christians should be known as people who have control over our tongues, even when we are hurt and offended, or even when we disagree with something. 

Very much related to that, Paul next says Christians are peaceable and considerate.  Christians should be peaceful, peace-loving, peace-making, people.  Our Anabaptist brothers and sisters, like the Mennonites, are really focused on this, and for good reason.  We can learn from them, because generally-speaking they have done deep study into peace-making and are much farther along than others.  We strive to make peace between genders, ethnicities, and generations. 

Finally, Christians show true humility to all.  This means not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.  Look to the humility of Jesus.  His willingness to associate with people of low position, to be friends with sinners, not to be judgmental, but forgiving.  So in summary, in verses 1-2, Paul is saying, Christians, you will be so different in society because you will be so good.  You’ll be living like Jesus did.  Not exactly like he did, of course.  But you’ll stand out, in a good way.  Sure some people get grumpy at people who are trying to be good.  You’ll have that.  Kind, peaceable, humble people expect that, don’t let it get under their skin, and love those people anyway.  Not easy, I grant you, especially when the difficult people are from within your own family, friends or even church family.  But still we follow the example of Jesus in practicing kindness and humility to all.

Follow-up to Flipping Out, Losing It, Going Off and other generally mean things

20 Aug

Remember the guy who confronted me when I was putting up door hangers?  Read the beginning of the story here.

When he approached me, at first I had to deal with the confusion of what was happening.   It was one of those moments when I started looking around to see if there were other people, because maybe he was talking to them.  No, he was talking with me.  No one else was around.  But I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.

As he was still approaching me, I walked over to the sign, and sure enough, he was right.  I had been putting up door hangers, breaking the community rule.  I confessed, apologized and said, “I’ll take them all down right away.”

Then an amazing thing happened.

He seemed to soften.  He said, “So what are these hangers for anyway?”  I showed him one, and told him about our worship concert.  Now he was interested, and even approving.  It’s been a number of years, so I don’t remember the exact conversation, but what he said next was something along the lines of “Well, maybe you don’t need to take any down.” Amazing!

But I took them down anyway.  It wouldn’t be cool having a church break the law, or even a community rule, to advertize their worship concert.

The proverb is right: a gentle answer turns away wrath.  It might not work every time, but it is a great principle to live by.  My kids will tell you that I have a lot of work to do in this area, despite my story.

One of Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul, wrote about a situation where a couple ladies in a church he started were having a fight.  You can read about it in Philippians 4:2-5.  What is so interesting to me is the progression he advises.

  1. Agree with each other.
  2. Rejoice in the Lord.
  3. Let your gentleness be evident to all.

That second point is key.  When we rejoice in God, even in the middle of a difficult time, we can have our hearts and minds refocused on him, his provision, his purposes, his mission.  It reminds me of times, especially early in our marriage, when my wife and I would have arguments late into the night.  It was so agonizing and emotional.  What prolonged the fight was that neither of us wanted to agree with each other.  In other words, we wanted to win!  I remember thinking, after a couple hours of this had gone by, after I had made her even more upset by falling asleep in the middle of the fight, that my focus had been so self-centered that I forgot something important.

I forgot that I love her.

And when I refocused on that love, that it is not about me, but a commitment to her, it changed my perspective.  Then it was so much easier to let my gentleness be evident to her.  When we rejoice in the Lord, we are refocusing on our love for him and for others, and our bitter walls of division come crumbling down.  When we rejoice in the Lord, we can let our gentleness be evident to all.

I don’t know what happened with the two Philippian ladies who were arguing.  Perhaps they started rejoicing in the Lord and let their gentleness toward one another flow.  What I do know is that we can do the same.

I showed this video during the sermon because it shows how one famously cruel and mean guy was softened by rejoicing in the Lord.

Want to discuss this further?  Please comment below.

Flipping out, Losing it, Going off, and other generally mean things

17 Aug

Sometimes people are hard to deal with.

Six or seven years ago we had an outdoor concert in the grass field behind our church.  Featuring our praise band playing on a flatbed trailer, it was something we had not done in recent years, and we were excited about it.

A few days before the concert, I was out one afternoon distributing door hangers in neighborhoods near the church.  One of those neighborhoods is sandwiched between rental communities.  Interestingly, the homes in the neighborhood look very similar to the homes in the rental community, and it can be hard to tell where one starts and the other stops.  This is a key distinction because while it is legal to put up door hangers in the neighborhood, the rental community has a no solicitation rule.

From the direction I was walking, I did not see the rental community sign that mentioned this rule.  I got about 20-30 door hangers out illegally before a man came rushing out of his house yelling at me from across the parking lot: “You’re not allowed to do that!  Didn’t you see the sign?  No solicitation here!”

You know how your body can heat up very fast when someone confronts you harshly?  Yeah…

Why did he have to be so mean?  He wasn’t wrong about holding me to the law.  He correctly interpreted and applied the law.  He was also right about bringing it to my attention.  But did that give him the right to be unkind and mean?

I wonder what was going on in his life, in his history, that led him to react that way?

Have you ever been mean like that?  I have.  Way too often.  My guess is that many of you know what I’m talking about.  You’ve lost it.  Or people have been very unkind to you.  The stories abound.

We can unload on Facebook.  We can go off on persistent telemarketers or customer service reps from another country who have accents that are difficult to understand.  We scream at the TV.  We yell at family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

As we prepare to study the next few characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit, gentleness, kindness, and goodness, I wonder if you might think through why we can be so unkind, so mean, so hurtful?  And if you’d like, let’s discuss it a bit here before the sermon tomorrow.  I’ll also share how my story with the angry man ended!