It would be much easier to write on “something I did wrong in the ministry” or “something I tried to do right in the ministry. Ernie Reisinger used to say to me: “Experience is a strange old teacher; first she gives you the test, then she gives you the lesson.” I confess I have learned many lessons by first failing the test. Yet, God has helped me to learn in spite of myself.
I struggled over what to write because I see much I wish I could “do over.” So, I asked my wife for a suggestion. Her answer surprised and humbled me. It was not about my preaching, teaching, counseling, youth, ladies, or men’s Bible studies. Rather, she said: “It was your kindness. You did that right.” “What is desirable in a man is his kindness” (Proverbs 19:22).”
I was shocked that she said this because she knows I must overcome so many remaining sinful thoughts to try to be kind as Christ has been kind to me. I am sure there are those from my past ministrations who would doubt my kindness. However, I will follow her suggestion, though not fully convinced of it myself.
Paul said to Timothy: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
It is essential that a pastor be kind to all, especially those in opposition or unrepentant. It is easy to be kind to the kind. But how can you be kind when some big guy threatens to beat you within an inch of your life because you called him to repent of sin? How can you be kind when a church member whom you have confronted with clear sin tells you, “It is none of your business?” How can you be kind and keep preaching to members, when you have been falsely accused by a church officer, and many believe him?
The only help to me in such situations is to remember the kindness of God who chose me before the foundation of the world in love (Ephesians 1:4), to believe that God is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds (Psalm 145:17), to remember that “the kindness of God appeared” in the incarnate Christ to save us by His mercy, and poured out His renewing Spirit upon us, thus enabling us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and to be justified by His undeserved grace (Titus 3:4-7).
As I look by faith into the depths of God’s kindness, displayed in His dear Son’s earthly walk among men unto His death for me, I find One who has been so kind to me that I can never be kind enough to my worst enemy as He was kind to me while I was His enemy. There is no excuse for a pastor to be unkind. Our Lord was perfectly kind, even when He rebuked the Pharisees (Galatians 5:22ff). Love is patient, love is kind.
If anyone in the church should be known for kindness, it should be the shepherd of the sheep, overcoming self-importance, self-righteousness, and anger to manifest the kindness of God’s grace while preaching it. We must look into the face of grace incarnate while we think and before we speak to men. It is desirable for a man to be kind. For in His kindness, he becomes as approachable as was Christ. He is easy to talk to, open to being corrected, and never uses the pulpit to lash out at wayward sheep. As I have meditated on the kindness of Christ to me, I have found myself being more transformed into His image. I have more desired to be like Him, to be kind in spite of my natural state.
If there is any kindness in my bones, it is because God Himself has infused grace into the marrow by His Spirit’s power to His glory.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:12-13).
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).