Kindness and Gentleness

Kindness and Gentleness

For the last number of weeks First Mennonite Church has been exploring the Fruits of the Spirit.  Imaging how we might embrace them in our daily lives, and also, how they might meet the needs of the world around us.  This past week we explored Kindness and Gentleness.

When we’re stressed and overwhelmed, kindness and gentleness are sometimes the last things we think about.  It takes a little more effort to not be short, terse, or blunt in conversations.  It takes a bit more diligence to respond rather than react.  At least that’s the case for me, maybe you’re the same.  When we’re in a prolonged stress, we tend to ‘circle the wagons’ to protect ourselves. We tend to become myopic, focusing on ourselves, our needs; our wants...dare I say… our ‘freedoms and rights.’  And we’re seeing this stress manifest itself in a variety of ways.  Though I suspect it’s not just me, I think it’s safe to suggest that others are feeling similar things.  To say that as a society we’re stressed would be an understatement.  And how couldn’t we be.

We’re hearing stories of restaurant and business staff being harassed by folk for trying to do their job; a job which now includes checking vaccine cards and enforcing new health restrictions in addition to their typical responsibilities.  Or, we’re seeing people lash out through protests at entrances to hospitals; burdening already strained and exhausted healthcare workers.  There is so much happening, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  

So where does the gospel make a difference?  How does the Jesus way of living change things?  We are God’s Church after all, so where or how do we manifest the fruits of Kindness and Gentleness in this moment in time?  Isn’t that the million dollar question?

The first thing to recognize is that we’re not alone.  You are not alone.  Stress has a way of isolating us, and it’s important to remember that a) we’re part of a community, and b) God walks with us.  Before ascending to heaven, Jesus prays for the Holy Spirit to come, to be an advocate, to be a support, to be a helper.  And in times like these we need that helper; we certainly can’t do all this on our own.  And we need that helper to first and foremost, lead and guide us to be kind and gentle to ourselves.

This past week we explored 2 Kings 6:8-23, in it, the King of Aram attempts to abduct Elisha. Rather than summarize I would invite you to read it for yourself.  The long and the short of it for me, is the realization that we, in this moment in time need an Elisha to help us see ourselves, and one another, through eyes of kindness and gentleness.  We need someone to reassure us, to remind us that we’re not alone and we need someone pray for us so that our eyes may be opened so we can see.  We need someone to be gentle and kind with us in the same way that Elisha was with his servant and with the army that’s sent to him.

Looking outward also requires that our eyes be opened.  It requires that we see beyond our own struggle and pain, to see the struggles and pain of others.  And this is no easy task.  It takes effort. Perhaps this is why it requires more than our own will; it requires prayer and the Holy Spirit’s help, to see and notice the fear, and the confusion, the anger, the frustration, the longing, the discomfort, the pain, the sorrow and the grief of others around us.  As I’ve been reminded, we don’t know what’s happening in others’ lives when we first meet them.  They could be having the best day of their life, or they could be having the worst.  They could be ready to explode in celebration, or they are on the verge of a breakdown, we don’t know.  And so how might we demonstrate, embody, the kindness and gentleness that Elisha shows to this invading army?

As you go out into your week, as you try to live by the fruits of the Spirit, may you go out with your eyes opened, knowing that you are not alone.  May you go out with faith and trust you have been and are held in prayers.  And may God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit go with you.  Even if you might struggle to see it, remember, you are not alone.