FPC Sermon – 7.26.20
Title 3: 1-8
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water[a]of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is sure.
A few weeks ago when we started this series I shared with you an interesting observation made by New York Times columnist David Brooks where he highlights the difference between what he calls Resume Virtues vs. Eulogy Virtues, that is, the kinds of virtues and qualities that we remember and celebrate on our job resumes versus the ones that we remember and celebrate when we give a eulogy at someone’s funeral.
And I shared with you how these two types of virtues don’t often overlap and how you don’t often see resume virtues championed at a funeral or eulogy virtues championed on a resume.
After all, think about how weird it would be for someone were to give a eulogy where they commented on how “Mrs. Jones never missed a key deadline” or was “incredibly productive throughout her career.” That would, without question, feel out of place and would be to completely miss the moment.
And yet the opposite would also be really weird. Think about the personal qualities in someone that we highlight in a eulogy. Now imagine if Mrs. Jones’s resume read something like this.
I am an expert in love. I have an abundance of joy. I have peace like a river. I am unbelievably patient. Kind to all people at all times. And last but not least, I am a good person.
As good as that might be, that alone probably won’t get her the job.
Now, Brooks’s point in all this isn’t to communicate that resume virtues are inherently bad and shouldn’t be pursued but rather to illustrate that you and I spend so much of our life focusing on the resume, trying to build up the resume, when we really ought to live lives in light of the eulogy.
And that is in many ways what we’ve been doing over these last few weeks and throughout this sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Over these last few weeks we’ve studied love, joy, peace and patience, things you very well might hear mentioned in a eulogy.
And this morning we continue on, as we today reflect on both kindness and goodness. And for the only time in this series, we’re going to look at two fruits in one message, and this is for a couple reasons –
One simple reason is that the words are often paired together in scripture, as is true with our passage today, as it describes the ‘goodness and loving kindness of God.’
And the other reason is because the words are so very similar. In fact, in some of my studying and preparing for this week, I found different authors contradicting each other, where what one author would define as kindness, the other would define as goodness, which is super unhelpful if you ask me. Nevertheless, I think it actually goes to show just how similar the two actually are.
So here’s how I understand kindness and goodness. And this I think is in line with our passage from Titus today.
Where kindness is the desire to meet the needs of another and goodness is the actual act or effort that meets the need.
Kindness is the inner disposition while goodness is the tangible act. Kindness is the heart posture while goodness is meeting the physical need. Kindness is the tenderness and compassion towards your fellow neighbor. Goodness is taking that tenderness and compassion and turning it into action.
And that seems to be how our passage understands it, or least how it understands goodness, as Paul, the likely author of this book, writes, “to be ready for every good work.”and later saying, ‘that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.’
And though some understand these two fruits in the exact opposite way, nevertheless, one way or another, together they make up a unified whole. That in kindness and goodness, you have joined together both the inner desire and the tangible act of meeting the need of another. And so that is in short, or not so short, why we’re looking at them together.
So for this morning, as we look at this scripture from Titus 3, I want to highlight some of the ways that you and I can practice kindness and goodness in our everyday life, and in addition one of the ways that our church has been shown kindness and goodness over the last few months.
Here again is how Titus 3 begins. Paul says,
3 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.
Notice those first two instructions. One of the ways that we can show kindness and goodness within the culture and society at large is by ‘being subject to rulers and authorities”and ‘to be obedient.” And by rulers and authorities here, Paul is referring to the various forms of human government, telling us to be obedient to them, to do what they say or command, so long as what they are asking of us does not conflict with the commands that God gives us in his Word.
So friends, you might be able to see where I am headed here. To me, this is one of the clearest reasons as to why we as Christians should comply with any mask mandate that has been or will be required of us. It’s a way in which we can obey and be subject to our rulers and authorities, our government. Now, I might be encouraging us differently if the mask mandate were only applied to Christians, or if the restrictions were such that only churches were prohibited from gathering, but yet every other equivalent kind of group could. Well that would be a different story. But that’s simply not the situation we are in.
So friends, my point is this, one of the ways we can demonstrate kindness and do good to those around us is by complying with our present day rulers and authorities. Wearing a mask is a way that we can be kind to our fellow neighbors, showing them compassion, as we give up our comforts and rights for the good of another.
And as our church’s leadership discerns what worship will look like in the fall, we want to ensure that we worship in a way that is safe and responsible, that shows kindness towards our own church family as well as our fellow neighbors and promotes the common good of all.
Friends, we show kindness and goodness through our submission and obedience to our rulers and authorities.
Now, here’s another way.
Paul also encourages the people, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.
And here I think we get a deeper understanding of what kindness really looks like. We know that kindness speaks evil of no one, that it avoids quarreling. That’s obvious. That’s just mean and rude. But we need to distinguish kindness from niceness. We often use these two words interchangeably, but yet they’re not the same thing. Niceness is about pleasantries and manners and being polite, while kindness is rooted in a genuine compassion and wanting the good of another. Niceness is have to and should to. Kindness is want to and get to.
And never do we see the difference more clearly between niceness and kindness than in moments where we are in need of honest and constructive feedback.
Years ago, when I was getting my footing as a future pastor, interning at a small church during seminary, I had the opportunity to preach a few times. And some of these sermons were bad, like really bad. And afterwards, people would come up and give feedback. They’d say, ‘Great job. I loved it!” They were lying, they were being polite, they were being nice. And yet, there were others who would help me through tangible, thoughtful and constructive feedback. And though it was sometimes hard to hear, they were being kind. You see, kindness walks that ever so narrow tightrope of speaking truth in love. And the love part is critical of course. Paul says, ‘be gentle, show every courtesy.’ That’s the loving part of speaking truth in love. And it’s because of their kindness, their courageous willingness to speak truth in love, that Lord willing, 7 years later, you might be subjected to fewer bad sermons.
Subject to rulers and authorities, speaking truth in love. Here’s another -
Paul says, ‘To be ready for every good work.’
What might it look like to ‘be ready for every good work?’ Here I’m sure there is an endless list of possibilities, but here’s the good work that I keep thinking about these last few weeks and one that our whole country has been debating and wrestling with this whole summer, and it’s the question of,
‘Should our schools reopen and what happens if they can’t? What impact might that have on kids, and parents and teachers and administrators, for the economy and society at large? How might we as a church step into this opportunity, showing kindness and doing good for those in need? And how can we right now, get ready, be ready for this possibility?
Should it come to this, should our schools not return as normal, maybe it looks like we as a church providing a safe space where children can do online school while their parents work. Or maybe it’s inviting the children of one of your neighbors – who is a school teacher to your house while they teach online. Maybe it’s donating computers to help close the technology gap. Maybe it’s simply asking our teachers and professors what their biggest needs are and how we can best support them.
Friends, school isn’t scheduled to start for another month or so, but what if we were ready for this potential good work? What a blessing we could be in a time of great need.
Be ready for every good work.
Alright, one more example of kindness and goodness. And this one isn’t something you can do, rather something that’s been done for us, someone who has shown incredible kindness and goodness towards us.
And that’s the opportunity we’ve had since March to worship on the radio. Back in mid March, as things surrounding COVID-19 really started to take shape and worshipping in the sanctuary was no longer an option for us, we as a session were scrambling to figure out how we could continue worshipping together from home, and someone mentioned the radio as a possibility, a medium which everyone in our congregation, young and old has access to. And our local radio station graciously agreed, and even for many of these weeks offered our time slot free of charge. And bless her heart, one of their employees Wendy Alvarez, goes in every Saturday afternoon to get the recording ready, listens through it all start to finish to ensure that I haven’t used any foul language … (and if it’s not immediately clear that I’m joking, well shame on me) … Wendy has now done this for 19thstraight weeks and if they’ll allow us, Lord willing we’ll continue on for many more.
Friends, they could have continued playing today’s hits and yesterday’s favorites, but no, they graciously, out of the kindness of their heart, did good on our behalf so that we could continue worshipping together even while apart.
So you all, in your bulletin, we’ve included the address of our local radio station, encourage you to send her a thank you note, thanking them for their generosity.
Alright, we have got to wrap this up.
You may have noticed in this passage that there’s a part of it that comes across a bit harsh, that maybe even feels somewhat offensive and off putting for us modern listeners.
And that’s when Paul says,
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.
Friends, Paul is telling Titus to tell his people that this is who they were and who they are apart from God. And indirectly, he’s saying this is who we were and who we are apart from God.
Foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, malice and envy, despicable and hatred.
Hard to hear, right?
And this points us to and reminds us of one of the most challenging and likely offensive teachings in scripture. And that is the fact that you and I and all of humanity aren’t born basically good or basically kind, but rather basically sinful. And that from birth, the default mode of the human heart isn’t bent towards loving and serving others, but rather towards serving ourselves. And as hard as this truth is to believe sometimes, I’ve never been more convinced of it than I was a few weeks ago with my own son.
A few weeks ago we had the Tipton’s over for dinner and Noah and Jhett, Andy and Hallie’s son, are just a few months apart. And Callie and I were excited for Noah to have a play date with someone his own age, thinking he would graciously share his toys and things with Jhett. Wishful thinking, I know. Instead Noah was mean to Jhett and wouldn’t share, hoarding his toys and his kindle and refusing to let Jhett sit in his chair or any chair for that matter, and the whole time Noah is yelling and screaming and fussing and whining.
And I’m watching this unfold and thinking, ‘My sweet little angel … just turned into a monster. What is happening?’ I was embarrassed, confused, frustrated and saddened all at once.
Now friends, it’s not like earlier that afternoon I sat Noah down and said, ‘Hey buddy, Jhett’s coming over tonight and I want you to be as mean as you can to him and make him feel as unwelcome as possible.’ No, I didn’t teach him this … at least, I don’t think I have. No, he acted like that all on his own. It’s the default mode of his little human heart.
But friends I have hope. I have hope for my little boy and hope for you and me.
Hope that we’ll grow in kindness and goodness. That our kids will be raised in homes that teach that kindness is always possible, one’s where we encourage sharing, because Lord knows, my kid’s not going to have any friends if he doesn’t learn how to share.
But yet, even still we need more. Noah will need more. I need more. We all need more. We need even more to truly grow in kindness and goodness. We need a kindness and goodness from God himself. Which is exactly what we see in the very next verse.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Friends, this kind of kindness is not of our own. A goodness not of our own, but from God himself, his Spirit poured out rich on us through Jesus Christ. Lord knows, our good works will never be good enough before a God who is the source of goodness itself.
You and I kind of goodness, not founded on any good works of our own, but according to his mercy. And the good news is is that it’s available to us though Jesus Christ.
So maybe sometime today, or maybe this week, simply pray in a moment of need, or when you’re finding yourself digging deep in search of kindness and goodness -
‘God, through your Spirit, fill me with more of your kindness, more of your goodness. Help your kindness to change me from the inside out. Help me to find comfort and strength in your goodness, rather than my own. And when people see my good works, my acts of kindness, give me opportunities to point them to the kindness and goodness of you.’
Paul finishes by saying,
I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.
First Pres, by God’s help, may that be true of us.