July 11, 2016

Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness

Devotion for the Week...

It's time for another look at the fruit of the Spirit! This week we're moving on to kindness, which marks the halfway point of this series. If you've missed the previous posts on the fruit of the Spirit, you can catch up with the introduction, love, joy, peace and patience.

Our verse for this devotion series is Galatians 5:22, 23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Remember that these are not 9 separate fruit. It is not a case of one person growing love while another grows patience. Rather, these are all different sides of one fruit, all of which the Spirit will cause to grow in our lives if we are willing to listen and walk with Him.

In thinking about kindness for today's post, I thought of this story. Rather than summarizing it, I'll just post the whole story here. This is John 8:2-11:

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

So, let's start with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. They were the religious leaders of the day. The church people, so to speak. They have caught a women 'in the act of adultery' and have dragged her into the temple courts.

Can you imagine her shame? Her humiliation? Her fear? Surely she knew the Law of Moses, and that it required an adulterer be stoned.

How is it they caught her 'in the act' anyway? And why haven't they dragged her...accomplice...into the temple courts? There are some who think this poor woman was set up, that the man was in on it with the religious leaders who needed someone to use in their attempt to trap Jesus. Lovely, right?

Their treatment of someone caught doing wrong has to be the perfect example of anti-kindess. Unfortunately, modern-day church people can be just as bad. We aren't so likely to throw stones at people, but there's no denying we throw words that do at least as much damage as a stone could. Think about the gossip that swirls when someone has an affair, or when someone's kids are in trouble with the law. People are often more than ready to believe the worst, to spread the story near and far and to separate themselves from those who are being accused. When people need kindness they are often given condemnation and shame instead.

Now consider Jesus' response. The religious leaders are hoping Jesus will condemn this woman just as they have. Instead, without saying a word, He starts to write on the ground with His finger. How I wish we knew what He wrote! Many speculate that He started writing words like 'liar' or 'gossip,' words that would make these self-righteous men realize that they are not perfect either. Obviously, we don't know if that's the case or not.

Whatever He wrote, the crowd kept pushing Him to make a ruling on the woman's fate, so Jesus stood and told them to go ahead and stone her...so long as the one among them who has never sinned is the first to throw a stone. Then He goes back to writing on the ground.

Slowly the crowd disperses. I love that it's the older ones who leave first. Are they the ones who are most aware of their own sins? Are the younger ones still determined to focus on the sins of others rather than their own? Eventually, though, they all slip away, leaving Jesus and the woman alone.

And He, the only one who had the right to throw a stone at her, the only one who could have condemned her, doesn't.

I picture a smile on His face as He looks around where the crowd had stood, then turns to the woman and tells her He doesn't condemn her. I can almost hear the kindness in His voice, can't you?

The next time we're confronted with someone who has done wrong, who will we imitate? The religious leaders and Pharisees, who heaped shame and humiliation on the woman (who assuredly already knew she had done wrong), or Jesus, who refused to condemn her?

Jesus won't be standing there in that moment, ready to stoop down and write on the ground. But we do have the Holy Spirit within us, ready to remind us of our own sins and the kindness of our Savior, which could stop the stones we might otherwise have thrown.

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