We are experiencing a new phenomenon in our society these days - they call it "road rage." They can call it anything they want, but road rage is nothing more than a manifestation of our society's departure from the biblical injunctions to be patient and kind. Our society is becoming so self-centered that we have no patience with others, and we are simply cruel instead of kind.
Last week Tim Puckett, 24, of Chesapeake, was driving in a shopping center parking lot off the intersection of South Military Highway and Battlefield Boulevard, just a couple of miles from here. It was around 2 p.m. when another vehicle barely missed striking Puckett's truck. Enraged, the driver of the gray Toyota signaled Puckett to pull over. Puckett stopped and got out. The other driver followed suit. And they argued. Witnesses told police the Toyota's driver punched Puckett in the face. Bystanders broke up the fight at the Village Square Shopping Center. It looked like the dispute was over. But the worst was yet to come. The passenger from the Toyota pulled out a high-powered weapon and shot Puckett once in the arm at close range. After the bullet drilled through his arm and into his chest, Puckett collapsed. His assailants approached again. They kicked Puckett at least six times in the head. Then they fled. Profusely bleeding, Tim Puckett died on the way to the hospital.
Also last week, an altercation in a parking lot after the driver of one car cut off another, apparently led to the stabbing death of a sailor and the wounding of two others near the Naval Base Exchange. Killed in the stabbing was Petty Officer 3rd Class Glenzo K. Taylor, 20, of Milwaukee, WS, who suffered knife wounds during the 11:15 p.m. incident. Taylor was a machinist's mate assigned to the carrier Enterprise, based in Norfolk. Two other sailors also were stabbed. One of them is in stable condition at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. The other was discharged from the same hospital Tuesday morning.
The victims had been at the Main Gate Theater and were leaving with other patrons in their cars. The confrontation took place in the large parking area outside the Naval Base Exchange and Main Gate Theater off Taussig Boulevard, near the north end of Hampton Boulevard.
I don't think that anyone would attempt to dispute the fact that our society is getting more and more cruel. It seems like the virtues of patience and kindness have all but disappeared from our culture, and this is clearly manifest in incidents of "road rage."
I recently heard statistics that reported that 95% of Americans believe in God, and 46% say they are "Born Again!" If this was true, would there be as much hatred and violence as we see in our country? Our society is far from being characterized by the Christian virtues of patience and kindness. But is it really much different in the church? Would you say that, for the most part, Christians are patient and kind? We can be as impatient and unkind as the world, sometimes even worse. So much of Christianity is like the world around it, impatient and unkind.
This is a sad commentary on the church today because God's Word calls believers to live out the virtues of patience and kindness.
Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
This is not a suggestion, but a command. We are to be like our God, and He is kind. Are you kind?
2 Timothy 2:24 (NKJV) And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NKJV) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
We, as God's children, are to be patient and kind in the midst of a very impatient and unkind world. As we walk in obedience to these commands to be patient and kind, we will stand out from our society, and we will give visible evidence of the power and grace of God in our lives.
Our mission here at Berean Bible Church is: To Influence Friends Who Are Living In Spiritual Darkness, That They Also May Know The Joy Of Loving The Lord Jesus Christ.
I strongly believe that we can't be an influence in people's lives if we are not patient and kind to them. When we are impatient and unkind to people, we most often offend them and turn them away from us. Look with me at a verse in Proverbs that makes this clear.
Proverbs 18:19 (NKJV) A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.
When a brother (the word can mean either a friend or a relative) is offended, it may be as difficult to restore his friendship as it would be to conquer a heavily fortified city. The estranged relationship is like barred gates, hard to remove. God's Word calls us to maintain good relationships with others. You can't influence someone that you don't have a good relationship with, and you can't have a good relationship with someone who you have treated unkindly and without patience.
As Christians, we are commanded by God to be patient. This is the Greek word makrothumeo, this word, as it is used in the New Testament, is a word that almost on every occasion conveys the idea of: "having an infinite capacity to be injured without paying back." It is used with regard to people, not circumstances. It's having a long fuse. The patient person is able to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person and yet not be upset or angry. Chrysostom, the early church father, said, "It is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself, but will never do it." Patience is very slow to anger or resentment, and it never retaliates.
To the Greeks, it was a virtue to refuse to tolerate insult or injury and to strike back in retaliation for the slightest offense. To the Greeks of Paul's day, vengeance was a virtue, and the same is defiantly true of our day. We make heroes out of those who fight back at the slightest provocation. In our society, just as in the Greek society of Paul's day, patience is considered a weakness. But the Christian who walks in obedience is patient, he has a long fuse.
What are the things that keep us from being patient? Mistreatment? How do you respond to ridicule, insults, and undeserved rebukes, or outright persecution? When you are a victim of office politics or organizational power plays, do you respond in patience? When you are rejected or mistreated by a spouse, do you respond in patience? How do you treat another believer who is rude to you or gossips about you? I think if we are honest, we will admit we don't always respond patiently.
How can we grow in patience? We must consider and trust in the justice of God. Peter tells us to follow the example of Christ.
1 Peter 2:23 (NKJV) who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
We are not to retaliate but to commit our selves to God, who judges justly. One of the thoughts that most disturbs a suffering Christian who has not learned patience is this issue of justice. He is concerned that his tormentor will escape justice. Look at God's promise to us in:
Romans 12:19 (NKJV) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
Don't worry that the person who is treating you unjustly will get away with it, leave it to God, he is a just judge.
If we are going to be patient, we must not only consider the justice of God, we must also understand the sovereignty of God. I will always act in a patient manner when I realize that God is in charge of everything. Every circumstance, from disease to death, from astronomy to acne, from the gnat to the Navy. God controls it all. He is sovereign, nothing happens outside His control, nothing. And furthermore, he controls it all for my good. So whatever happens in our lives, God is working it for our good.
Genesis 50:20 (NKJV) "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
God can and does take the deliberately harmful acts of others and uses them for our good. If you memorize and meditate on this verse, it will go a long way to helping you to walk in patience in the face of mistreatment.
When you have confidence in the justice and sovereignty of God, you will be able to demonstrate patience in the face of mistreatment. We are commanded to be patient, are you?
I think another thing that keeps us from being patient is the shortcomings of others. People are always behaving in ways that, though not directed against us, affect us and irritate or disappoint us. It may be another driver who is driving too slow or in some way doing things that irritate you. It may be a friend who is late for an appointment. It may be a teenager whose pants are ten sizes too big and has a pierced eyebrow and a ponytail. It may be a fellow church member who doesn't raise their children as we think they should.
Impatience with the shortcomings of others often has its roots in pride. John Sanderson observes, "Hardly a day passes but one hears sneering remarks about the stupidity, the awkwardness, the ineptitude of others. Such remarks stem from a feeling that we are smarter or more capable than those with whom we are impatient." Almost daily, because of our pride, we are tempted to become impatient with our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. Forbearance or tolerance in the Scriptures is associated with patience
Ephesians 4:1-3 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Love will cause us to bear patiently with the faults and shortcomings of others.
A train was filled with tired people. Most of them had spent the day traveling through the hot dusty plains, and at last evening had come, and they all tried to settle down to a sound sleep. However, at one end of the car, a man was holding a tiny baby. And, as night came on, the baby became restless and cried more and more. Unable to take it any longer, a big brawny man spoke for the rest of the group. "Why don't you take that baby to its mother?" There was a moment's pause and then came the reply. "I'm sorry. I'm doing' my best. The baby's mother is in her casket in the baggage car ahead."
Again there was an awful silence for a moment. Then the big man who asked the cruel question was out of his seat and moved toward the man with the motherless child. He apologized for his impatience and unkind remark. He took the tiny baby in his own arms and told the tired father to get some sleep. Then, in loving patience, he cared for the little child all through the night.
Patience demonstrates a willingness to take someone's unpleasant character traits in stride and to exhibit enduring patience.
We are not only called to be patient, but we are also to be kind. The Greek word for "kind" is chrestos, it means: "to show oneself useful, to act benevolently." The verb itself speaks of activity, active good will, being useful for somebody else's good, always trying to do what is helpful to the other person, even if it involves sacrifice. Kindness is not just a feeling. Kind people are easy to take, not harsh. In the New Testament, the verb appears only in 1 Corinthians 13:4, but the noun and the adjective for kindness occur repeatedly in Paul's epistles.
1 Corinthians 13:4 (NKJV) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
Here Paul tells us that the loving Christian is patient and kind. In our cruel and unkind society we have unlimited opportunities to show the world love through our kindness.
Clement of Rome wrote an epistle to the Corinthian church in which he quotes a saying of Jesus that has the same Greek verb: "As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness."
During World War II, the U.S. submarine Tang surfaced under the cover of darkness to fire upon a large Japanese convoy off the coast of China. Since previous raids had left the American vessel with only eight torpedoes, the accuracy of every shot was absolutely essential. The first seven missiles were right on target; but when the eighth was launched, it suddenly deviated and headed right back at their own ship. The emergency alarm to submerge rang out, but it was too late. Within a matter of seconds, the U.S. sub received a direct hit and sank almost instantly.
How often it is that when we act unkindly toward others, the unkindness comes right back to attack us? The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:
Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV) A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
A soft answer would be responding to a person with kindness. Harsh words would not be kind and would stir the other person to act unkindly also. Actress Vivica A. Fox once worked at a fast food place and gives this advice. "If you're not nice, you never know what they're gonna do to your food."
The NT has much to say about the kindness of God, and as his children, we are to imitate Him.
Luke 6:35 (NKJV) "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Here the Greek word chrestos, is translated kind, and in Romans 2:4, the same word is translated good.
Romans 2:4 (NKJV) Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Kindness and goodness are so closely related that they are often used interchangeably. We could translate "kind" as good. The kind person does good, they are useful to all. Peter translates this word "gracious."
1 Peter 2:3 (NKJV) if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
God is kind; He does good, useful, helpful, gracious things for people. We are called to be like God, we are also to be kind to all.
Peggy Noonan, speech writer for President Ronald Reagan, recently told a story, which, she believes, captures the personality of the former president better than any other did. It involves an 83-year-old woman from San Francisco who existed on her small Social Security check. Though she had very little money, for eight years she sent one dollar per year to the Republican National Convention. One day, she received a RNC fund-raising letter, which invited her to attend a White House dinner to meet President Reagan. She never noticed the small RSVP card, which suggested a positive reply by a generous donation. She thought she was being invited for her one dollar a year gift. She scraped together every last cent she had and took a four-day train ride across America. Unable to afford a sleeper, she was forced to sleep straight up in coach. Upon arrival in Washington DC, she went to the gate at the White House and announced her arrival. She was a little white haired lady, wearing a white dress, white stockings, and a white hat. When she gave the guard at the gate her name, the man searched the list and informed her that her name was absent from the list. However, a Ford Motor Company executive was standing in line behind her and listened to the developing situation. Realizing something was wrong, he called her aside and listened to her story. He asked her to return to the same gate the next morning at 9:00 a.m. She agreed, and in the meantime, he got in touch with a presidential aide whom he knew. The aide was able to arrange for Frances Green a personal White House tour and a potential handshake with the President. Unfortunately, the next day turned out to be one of the most difficult days of the Reagan presidency. Ed Meese resigned that morning and there was a military uprising occurring overseas. The aide met Mrs. Green and personally gave her a wonderful tour. However, given the developments of the day, she prepared her guest for the possibility that she might only get a glimpse of the President walking down a hall. However, as Mr. Reagan left a meeting with the Joint Chief of Staffs, he saw Frances Green. With a smile, he gestured her into the Oval Office. As she entered, he cried out, "Frances, those darn computers have fouled up again. If I had known you were coming, I would have been there to greet you myself!" He then invited her to sit down and they talked leisurely about California, her town, her family, and her life. Some suggested that the President gave Frances much more time than he should have. Some even suggested that he wasted his time with her. But according to Peggy Noonan, the President gave to her something much more important than his time. He gave her himself.
Colossians 3:12 (NKJV) Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
Galatians 5:22 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
These all use the same Greek word, chrestos, we are to be kind to one another, we are to be good to each other, we are to be gracious to each other. President Reagan was certainly gracious to take time out of his schedule to spend time with that elderly woman - he was kind.
The first test of Christian kindness is the home. Let me ask you married people, "Are you kind to each other?" Children, are you kind to your parents? Parents, are you kind to your children?
A woman expresses the lack of love in her home in writing to Ann Landers: "Dear Ann Landers,
My husband doesn't talk to me. He just sits there night after night, reading the newspaper or looking at T.V. When I ask him a question, he grunts, 'huh, or Uh'huh' Sometimes he doesn't even grunt, 'uh'huh'. All he really needs is a housekeeper and somebody to sleep with him when he feels like it. He can buy both. There are times when I wonder why he got married."
I think it is sad, but true, that many Christian homes are like this, there is a real absence of kindness. Kindness is vital to our Christian witness, and the place to learn and practice kindness is in the home.
I think Clement of Rome was correct when he wrote, "As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness." Just as unkindness sets off a chain reaction of unkindness, so an act of kindness sets off a chain reaction of kind events.
A man was driving down the road in his old pickup when he noticed a stretch limo on the side of the road with the hood up. He stopped to ask the driver if he could use some help. The driver said, "Yes. I have no idea what the problem is." The man looked around under the hood for a few minutes, discovered the problem, and was able to fix it. The limo started up immediately and began running smoothly. The driver thanked the man and offered to pay him. "Not necessary," the man said. "Just glad to help." He began walking back to his car when the rear window of the limo opened and a voice called out to the man. The man looked in the window and saw Donald Trump sitting in the back seat. Trump said, "Thank you very much for your help. What can I do to repay you?" At first the man said, "You don't need to do anything." Then he had a thought. "Mr. Trump," he said, "My wife would be thrilled to get a box of flowers from you. Would you do that for me?" Donald Trump said, "Consider it done. What is your address?" The man told Donald Trump his address. He later said he only half-expected to hear from him the next day. Sure enough, the next day a delivery truck pulled up with a box of flowers addressed to the man's wife. The note inside said something to the effect of... "Dear Mrs. Smith: You are lucky to have for a husband such a caring and kind person. When I offered him payment for his act of kindness, he thought only of you. These flowers are for you." Signed, Donald Trump. Then the P.S. said, "By the way, I have paid off your mortgage at the bank. You now own your house free and clear."
Kindness is contagious! But so is unkindness. Let's be sure that as God's children, we are spreading kindness to those we come in contact with.
Herbert V. Prochnow said, "You may be sorry that you spoke, sorry you stayed or went, sorry you won or lost, sorry you thought the worst, sorry so much was spent. But as you go through life, you'll find-you're never sorry you were kind."
Think about how patient and kind God has been to you. In gratitude for all that God has done for us, we are to be patient and kind to everyone.
Think about how we will be able to influence others for the glory of God when we treat them with patience and kindness. We can live this way, but will we? We must choose to be patient and kind to others while trusting the Lord to provide the strength to do it.