Reach Out with Love, Kindness, Gentleness, and Friendliness

 

Reach Out with Love, Kindness, Gentleness, and Friendliness

Being Christlike in attitude, words, and relationships

Richard Hollerman

We are living in a cruel and hard world.  The world often seems cold, unfeeling and harsh in their attitudes and disposition. This is true of the world at large (1 John 5:19).

We’ve all had the experience of stopping at a car repair shop and the owner or repairman is gruff, cold, and only interested in our business. He may show little interest in our real needs but only wants to increase his profit. We may walk through a department store and look for someone to answer a question or give advice. The response we receive may be cold, matter-of-fact, and merely objective.  Think also of your phone calls to an organization, a utility, or customer service. What kind of response did you have? Was it thoughtful and kind—or was it cold and indifferent?

In contrast, we have probably appreciated the kindness and helpfulness that business people show to us in person or by phone. They go out of their way to answer our questions and direct us to the proper department.  Think of the stores you have visited in the past month; you may recall certain men or women who treated you with respect and deliberately tried to assist you in your needs. Even their countenance was reassuring and caring. Their voice may have been thoughtful, kind, and supportive.

What about your own responses? What kind of person are you when you relate to other people? What kind of person am I?  If you truly know Jesus, you have the motivation of wanting to be Christlike in your relationships. You are filled with the Spirit and have the spiritual qualities that raise interpersonal relationships to a higher and more meaningful level.

Think of these scriptures and ask if you deliberately seek to apply them to your life:

  • “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.” (Philippians 4:4-5a).
  • “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
  • “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a).

These attitudes should characterize your life if you truly belong to Christ Jesus and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.  But the kind of spirit that we are urging here often relates to our speech or conversation. What do we say when we greet people or  speak with them?  Do we allow the following scriptures to guide our relationships?

  • “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
  • “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).
  • “. . . speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a).
  • “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
  • “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).

Are we determined to have the kind of heart that will respond to people with this kind of attitude? Notice the characteristics of our words: graceful words, edifying words, wise words, “salted” words, truthful and loving words, words of gentleness and reverence. We must avoid bitter and angry words, slanderous words, and words of malice. If we speak like this we will be Christlike in speech! We will realize that we will give an account for every careless word that we speak to others (Matthew 12:34-37).

Another important aspect of relating to others is avoiding any retaliation in word or deed.  Notice the way Peter describes the response of Jesus to his persecutors: “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Someone may say, “That was true of Jesus but it’s too much to expect us to respond to the unkindness and hurts of others like this!”

We may think this is true, but Peter goes on to describe the way we are to respond to others in similar terms: “All of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9). When someone treats you in an “evil” way, how do you respond? Do you respond in an evil way to him or her? Peter says No. We don’t return evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, we give a blessing to others. Someone has said that most people do good to those who do them good and do evil to those who do evil to us. Satan would want us to do evil to those who do good to us. On the other hand, Jesus says that we should do good to those who do evil to us! What a difference in attitude and response.

This is the consistent teaching of the Scriptures.  Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).  He goes on, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:17-18). Again, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

Translated into our daily life, this would mean that if you are relating to someone on the job and he or she responds in an unkind way, you refuse to answer with an unkind remark. Instead, you are to respond with kind and loving words.  If someone treats you unkindly on the phone, do you respond with a harsh retort? No, we are to respond in a non-resistant, non-retaliatory, and kind way.

I have sometimes told my wife that in public places people look so sad and unfeeling. They go around with a downcast countenance or even with a scowl on their faces.  I’ve told her that we should seek to have a joyful attitude and pleasant disposition in public. We should smile often instead of conveying a bitter or negative attitude. Try this when you are on the job or in a store or other public place: Smile at people. When you see them and their eyes glance at you, smile! When you speak to others, smile at them as you talk. Be known as a smiling person. I remember spending time in a library when I pursued my education. I recall a student sitting at one of the tables and he would give a large and sincere smile to me and others. It didn’t seem to be a “put on” smile, given for effect, but it seemed to be genuine. The fact that I remember him to this day shows how this pleasant and joyful attitude can have a lasting, positive effect on others. Our smiles should come from a joyful and thankful heart to the Lord!

Somewhat regularly it seems that someone rings our doorbell. I may not be expecting a guest so I don’t know who I’ll find standing outside. I try to always greet the visitor with a smile. I open the door with a smile and step outside to speak to the person with a positive and sincere manner. It may be someone who wants to work on the house—check the roof for damage, sign us up for an alarm system, begin regular lawn care, or sell a product. Although you may not need any of these services, at least you can offer a genuine smile and indicate your willingness to listen to their presentation.

Sometimes the person at the door may represent a church. We seem to be on the regular rounds of the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses. Probably they are somewhat taken aback by my smile and pleasure in seeing them. They have so often been met with a negative and harsh attitude at the door that it must be welcome for them to meet a joyful and pleasant homeowner. I offer to talk to them about the Bible—if they are willing—and I genuinely hope that they will respond positively for I know that this is an opportunity to share truth with them, a truth that is necessary for them to know and believe if they would escape God’s wrath and live eternally. So the key is to smile and love and respond with both enthusiasm and kindness—for their spiritual blessing.

Christ’s so-called Golden Rule is always good to keep in mind as we relate to people and speak with them. You know it: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31; cf. Matthew 7:12).  Do we really seek to apply this to our relationships?  Do we treat others in a way that is to our own advantage but not theirs?  Or do we treat others as we would want them to treat us if we were in their shoes?  Do we “speak unto others” as we would want them to “speak unto us”? This is all a part of being Christlike in our attitudes and responses.

This is a revolutionary way of life—so revolutionary that most people don’t believe it and would refuse to consistently live it. Jesus said radical things like, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28; cf. vv. 29-38; Matthew 5:38-48).  Most people you meet and maybe most people you know might say that it is more logical to hate their enemies, to do harm to those who hate them, to curse those who curse them, and to get even with those do mistreat them. Jesus changes all of this upside down. He requires us to love people, to do good to people, to bless people, and to pray for people. This can be done since we follow the example and teaching of Jesus and because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

You may remember that our Lord said that we are not to resist the evil one (Matthew 5:38-42). In fact, we are to “go the second mile” in our responses to people (cf. v. 41).  When you are required to do something for a person, go ahead and do more than expected.  When a neighbor or friend or working associate needs some service or good deed, be willing to do more than what they need. Go the second mile. Do the unexpected. Do what will surprise—and bless—them.  Let them know what walking by the Spirit and walking with Jesus will do in a practical, everyday way. As Peter reminds us, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12; cf. v. 15; 3:16).

Paul says, “Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13b). “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 14b). “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (v. 16).   “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (v. 25).  Rather than carrying out the desires and ways of the flesh, we live in the Spirit and put to death sin (Romans 8:6-14). We respond to people with attitudes, words and behavior with the strength or power of the Spirit working in us. We live Christlike lives and are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and every other virtue.

This is not to say that there isn’t a place for strength of character that stands up for the right and denounces the wrong! There is a great need for this in a world that has lost is moral compass and is seemingly abandoning every vestige of goodness and purity.  We are to “refute” false teaching (Titus 1:9), must “silence” false teachers (v. 11), and “reprove . . . severely” those who depart from sound doctrine (v. 13). We must contend for the truth (Jude 3), “turn away” from teachers of error (Romans 16:17-18), “reject” the factious man (Titus 3:10-11), remove the immoral (1 Corinthians 5:1-13), and utterly denounce certain people (Acts 13:9-12). So there is an important and necessary place for a bold stand for the truth.

But the main thrust we are dealing with here is the need to temper our relationships with others with another important attitude and response. As we have seen, we must be filled with love, kindness, gentleness, patience, and humility. We must have a sweetness of disposition and friendliness of soul that responds to people in a different way than most others know anything about. We can do this through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and empowers us to live like Jesus and according to the Scriptures.

Will you join with me as we seek to translate our knowledge of God’s will into an actual Spirit-filled lifestyle?  Let us do so for the glory of God!

 

 

 

 

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