CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CV)

5:22f Your spiritual oneness with the Anointed bears the fruit of . . .  Kindness . . .

To describe kindness (“humbleness” KJV), Paul uses the Greek noun chrēstotēs, which in English has synonyms such as “goodness” and “kindness.” Greek writers in Paul’s day used this word to denote something suitable and proper for the occasion, especially when evaluating someone’s moral excellence and their integrity. To Greek philosophers, this word described inner greatness, as shown by outer goodness. In other words, it had more to do with character than charity. Kindness is an eagerness to put others at ease. It is a sweet and attractive temperament that shows warm regard for others.

One of the first excellent examples of kindness can be found in the First Covenant, done by someone described as “A man after God’s own heart.” I’m talking about King David, the one who wrote many of the beautiful Psalms believers love, read, and sing to this day. Here’s the moving story about David’s outstanding spirit of kindness:

One day David put the word out that he was looking for survivors of King Saul’s family because he wanted to do something kind for them in memory of his best friend, Jonathan. When the word got around, they told King David that one of Saul’s former servants, named Ziba, was still alive. When Ziba’s friends heard the news, they encouraged him to go and see King David. When he arrived, David asked him, “Are you the Ziba I heard about?” “Yes, your Majesty,” replied Ziba as he bowed before the king. “Let me ask you,” said David, “do you know if there are any survivors left from King Saul’s family? I want to show my devotion and kindness to them just as I promised God I would do.” Ziba replied, “Yes, your Majesty, one of Jonathan’s sons, a cripple named Mephibosheth, is still alive.” “Where does he live,” David queried? “He lives with Machir, the son of Ammiel, in the city of Lodebar,” answered Ziba.

Immediately King David sent emissaries to invite Mephibosheth to his palace. When Mephibosheth arrived, he bowed down before David out of respect. David looked at him and asked, “Are you the real Mephibosheth?” “At your service, your Majesty,” replied the trembling Mephibosheth. “Don’t be afraid,” David assured him, “I’ll be kind to you for the sake of your father, Jonathan. I’m going to give back all the land that belonged to your grandfather King Saul, and invite you to join me here at my table in the palace anytime you please.” Mephibosheth trembled as he bowed again before King David. “I don’t consider myself any better than a dead dog to your Majesty,” said Mephibosheth.  I don’t see why you want to be so kind to me.”

King David immediately commanded that they bring Ziba, Saul’s servant, back to the palace. When Ziba arrived, David instructed him, “Everything that belonged to King Saul and his family I am returning to his grandson Mephibosheth. Now I want you, your fifteen sons, and your twenty servants to farm the land that belonged to your master Saul and his family, and then bring in the harvest to provide them with food. However,” David continued, “Mephibosheth will stay here and eat as a guest at my table.” Ziba was quick to answer, “I will do everything you have ordered, your Majesty.”

From then on, Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table as though he were one of David’s sons. As for Saul’s servant Ziba, he and his whole family became servants to Mephibosheth’s household, especially Mephibosheth’s young son Mica. Thus, the crippled Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, eating all his meals at the king’s table for the rest of his life.[1]

When we consider all the torment and trouble that Saul caused David, even tried to kill him on numerous occasions, why would David want to return such ill-will with such good-will? David reveals that it was a promise he made to God. God did not demand it; neither did God send a prophet or angel to convince David to do it; he did it out of his own heart. What an example of the type of kindness the Holy Spirit wants to produce in every believer’s heart as the fruit of love transformed. Here we see that a First Covenant believer set a high bar for Final Covenant believers to try and meet.

Venerated Jewish scholar Maimonides discusses this attribute of kindness, along with judgment and righteousness, and gives us this Jewish perspective. The Jews see Lovingkindness practiced in two ways: To begin with, we show compassionate kindness to those who do not claim that we owe them anything. Then, we are kind to those to whom we do owe something, and in a more significant measure than what is due to them. In the Holy Scriptures, says Maimonides, the term lovingkindness occurs mostly in the sense of showing kindness to those who have no claim to it whatever. For this reason, he employs the term lovingkindness to express the good bestowed upon us by God. The prophet Isaiah said, “I will mention the lovingkindness of the Lord.” [2] On this account, the very act of creation is an act of God’s lovingkindness. The Psalmist sang, “I have said, ‘lovingkindness built the Universe.’” [3] In other words, the building up of the Universe is an act of lovingkindness. Also, in the listing of God’s attributes, Scripture says: “And abundant in lovingkindness.” [4] [5]

In the Gospels, Jesus gives us two of the most insightful and challenging examples of what it means to express love in a way that is both cultured and graceful. Jesus tells His disciples, “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you are only kind to those who are kind to you, why should you get recognition, even sinners do as much.” [6] No doubt, this influenced one translator to express it this way: “be kind to those who persecute us.” [7]

Jesus makes it clear that He expected those who profess to be His followers to go out of their way to be kind. I heard that someone at work needed a ride to a particular location. So, I offered to take them there; but they refused by saying, “Oh no, I don’t want you to go out of your way.” I responded, “But that’s the joy of taking you there because it is out of my way. Would I be doing you any favor if where you needed to go was on my way? Besides, it’s a blessing only when it is out of the way.”

Jesus teaches us that when love expresses itself, it can only qualify as an act of kindness if it necessitates an effort above the routine or out of the norm. Do you think our love for the Anointed would be as intense as it is if the salvation, He purchased for us, required nothing more than a few kind words or His paying a small fine on our behalf?

The second instance involves a young man coming to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what honorable deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus responded to him somewhat critically, “Why are you asking me about what is honorable; you know God is the only One who can be called honorable.  Not only that, but you know that according to your religion if you want to gain eternal life, you must keep the commandments.” The young man shot back, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments! What else do I need to do?” Jesus looked at him and said, “Okay, if you want to do it your way, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, then come, follow me.” The young man dropped his head, turned around, and walked away so disappointed because he possessed many riches to give away.  Jesus pointed out to his disciples how hard it was to earn your way into heaven. The disciples were astounded and asked, “Then who in the world can be redeemed?” Jesus stared them right in the eyes and said, “Humanly speaking, it’s impossible; but with God, everything is possible.” [8]

We find this same concept when love expresses itself as kindness; it’s not out to gain but to give.  Love transformed expressed as kindness does not seek self-enrichment, but empties itself to enrich others. For sure, this is an accurate portrayal of the Anointed’s character and personality. By expressing this act of love transformed, we can embrace even the most ungrateful and obstinate person, thereby demonstrating unconditional love for those who offer no love in return, as Jesus did.

Does this imply then that we should go out looking for people like that? No! Of course not! But it does mean we don’t try to avoid them when we see them coming our way. Are we obligated to lie down in a puddle of dirty water so they can walk on us to the other side? No! Absolutely not! However, we can offer to walk through the water with them. In addition to that, even if they then walk off without so much as turning around and saying, “Thank you,” we can still consider it worth our effort? Yes! Of course! We didn’t do it for thanks; we did it because cultured love transformed has the power to express itself as kindness under such circumstances.

The Apostle Paul’s knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, along with his concept of kindness being a cultured and graceful act of the will, allows him to express the dynamics of such transformed-love in words that make his Epistle readers sit up and take notice. Writing to Roman believers, who tended to be critical of each other, Paul admonishes them by asking, “Are you about to throw God’s wonderful kindness, consistency, and patience back in His face? Don’t you realize God’s kindness will give you the ability to change your ways?” [9]

Here Paul touches on a critical point in explaining the effects of kindness. Even when those to whom we show unsolicited and often unappreciated kindness do not at first seem grateful, Paul believes that given enough time and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it will have a positive effect. One question we might ask is this: if it takes a large amount of continual kindness to turn some people around, what are their chances of changing course if we show no kindness at all?

[1] 2 Samuel, Chapter 9

[2] Isaiah 63:7

[3] Psalm 89:3

[4] Exodus 34:6

[5] Maimonides, Moses: A Guide for the Perplexed, Part III, Ch. LIII, Veritatis Splendor Publications, pp. 605-606

[6] Luke 6:32-33

[7] Aiyer, Ramsey, The Contextual Bible Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Matthew 19:16-30

[9] Romans 2:4

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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