I know that God, because of his goodness and loving kindness toward me, my elderly neighbors, and shut-ins, brought a (future therapy) rescue dog to me after nine months of prayer. Adopting a shelter dog with a short past reminds me that Christ rescued me when I was an undisciplined thirty-three year old. If I neglect Christ’s special grace of the gospel and not show the same loving kindness to others, through the Spirit’s fruit, I will not live out the faith I profess. “Christ’s divinity is not an abstract truth, however glorious, but a transformative witness that impels followers to good works…False followers identify themselves in part by lack of such actions. Paul’s many ethical promptings [in Titus] are therefore calls for believers to show in real life the gospel they profess. For Paul, saving faith is shown not least in its actions.” (1) Let’s take a closer look at one Titus passage. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7) We are God’s heirs, with his righteousness, because of Christ’s goodness and loving kindness when he appeared in history and to us in our regeneration. Our Christian compassion exceeds worldly benevolence because of our salvation and renewal in the Spirit. We have the hope of eternal life, and hope in this season where many to lose their jobs, businesses, health, lives, and possibly homes. The fast spreading illness and events of the last few months should shock us all into a great appreciation of and conviction from God’s kindness to us.
In Titus 3:4-7, Paul ties together God’s goodness, kindness, mercy, grace, and hope. “And we are delivered out of our miserable condition, only by the mercy and free grace of God, the merit and sufferings of Christ, and the working of his Spirit. God the Father is God our Savior. He is the fountain from which the Holy Spirit flows, to teach, regenerate, and save his fallen creatures; and this blessing comes to mankind through Christ. The spring and rise of it, is the kindness and love of God to man.” (2) According to our Titus passage, the triune God is our merciful, cleansing, regenerating, renewing, justifying, gracious Savior and Spirit, generously giving us eternal life. Concentrating on God’s attributes helps us to keep his person, work, and desires in mind as we move through the day. But, why do we need this continually, every day? “There is a battle royal between the brain and the heart. The brain makes one assumption and the heart completely disavows it. The brain revels in every modern advancement while the heart says, ‘that won’t satisfy.’ The brain cries out for improvement while the heart cries out for everlastingness. The heart will never be satisfied with the desires of the brain. The heart was made for everlastingness while the brain is suffocating under the cloud of depravity.” (3) So is the state of humans, but not God whose being is whole and unconflicted. We will begin the study of kindness, our spiritual fruit, by focusing on God’s kindness to us, especially in Jesus Christ, who appeared for our salvation. It’s God’s fruit that we want to develop and demonstrate; he is the beginning and foundation of our faith and fruit.
We have many emotional issues in our society today that call for godly kindnesses, expressing themselves in different ways. I particularly appreciate these thoughts about recent protests from Vanessa Hawkins.
“Following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I did what I have learned to do way too well – I compartmentalized. I conveniently tucked feelings away so that I could accomplish the task before me and complete the work day. When I finally made it home, I watched the video that was cycling through the news, and I was undone. I couldn’t sleep. I poured out an assortment of complex feelings before the Lord and just wept. Every time I thought about it, I wept. I realized that day that lament is costly and disruptive. It disrupted my plans and made space for emotions I didn’t care to feel. It ultimately pushed me to the throne of the only Help I know. That Help is our only hope; His name is Jesus. While I am often tempted to look away from the evil and injustice in our world, Jesus never did. He looked. He saw. ‘When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36). Jesus didn’t look away from injustice. He looked. He saw. This is uncomfortable for us because having compassion is costly. It won’t allow our response of ‘that’s so sad’ to be the end of the conversation. Compassion demands that we do something. In various places in Scripture Jesus is ‘moved with compassion.’ Compassion means acting on the grief our heart feels and setting things right where we can. It’s bringing what access and influence we have to bear on the circumstances of the harassed and the helpless.” (4)
I mourn the deaths of our citizens every morning when I check at the new coronavirus death count, which is increasing daily. I am overwhelmed by the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, police officers, and others caught up in the protests. For now, I’ll follow Hawkins’s example of lamenting as a way to remember the goodness and lovingkindness of Christ. After all, we are “justified by his grace [that] we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7) We should consider this truth in light of Romans 8:16-17: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” God’s children will suffer, and we are to suffer with them. Is this not the best goodness, to have the same godly compassion that Christ manifested when he appeared and saved us by his mercy and regeneration? So the question I’m asking myself today is, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) Christ’s kindness brings me to repent of distancing myself emotionally from America’s destructive racial conflicts. For what do you repent?
(1) “NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, Introduction to Titus,” Zondervan, Kindle Edition, 2018.
(2) Henry, Matthew Henry, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible,” Titus 3:7, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/titus-3.html
(3) Tozer, A.W., “And He Dwelt Among Us,” Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2009
(4) Hawkins, Vanessa, “On Oneness, Lament, And Seeing With Compassion,” https://encourage.pcacdm.org/2020/06/04/post-template-213-36/
June 5, 2020