Mark This Down – some thoughts from Pastor Mark (Kindness in the Parking Lot)


Kindness in the Parking Lot


Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Walmart parking lot, masked and gloved, having finished my shopping for necessary items. I loaded my things into the van and I heard a voice behind me saying, “Let me take that cart for you.” Surprised, I said “Thank you!” hoping I showed my gratefulness through my mask.

A grocery store can be a difficult place to find kindness. If there’s any place in the world where you are focused on yourself, it’s at the grocery store. And when you are focused on yourself, others and their needs seem to carry no weight. In the early days of the toilet paper shortage, we saw news reports of violence in the store aisles.

Now, this is not going to be a moralistic appeal for everyone in our community to start being kind. Frankly, the capability is not really there. I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but philosophers have been teaching people to be kind for centuries. Listening to the radio, I have heard a blog called “The Kindness Revolution.” The author wrote a bestselling motivational book which large corporations like Chick-fil-A and L.L. Bean have used to improve their customer service and thereby, their bottom line. And it works. Treat people well, and, lo and behold, they come back to your store.

I think we saw an example of that when a restaurant opened in Fowlerville. For some time after they opened, the staff went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. It was a joy to get a burger there. We kept going back. But, after a few months, I went in on a Saturday night and a glum looking teenager handed me my bag with a gruff, “There you are.” I said to myself, “Ok, back to normal.”

My point is that what is needed is not a motivational book, or good management (though they can be very helpful as far as they go). What is needed is Christ. People without Christ need Him for far more than behavioral change. They need to be rescued from the eternal penalty of their sins. And when they experience that, they enter a new life.

However, entering that new life is not smooth sailing. Christians need to grasp fully the riches of what we are in Him. For the life we need to live—the life we can live—is His life. And the power to live that life is His power.

Where we fall down in matters of kindness is when we try to practice it in our own strength, much like the restaurant that, after a few months, had lost its customer service zeal. It just isn’t in human nature to practice it without constant supervision.

The power to practice kindness is not in outward controls, but the inward power of the Holy Spirit. Two sentences before verse 32, Paul says, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. We look at that statement as if it is one of several projects to work on—like being kind. It’s not, it’s central to being kind. In fact, the power of the Holy Spirit is central to all the Christian life.

In Galatians 5, Paul’s subject is the true method of living out the Christian life. And the key statement is verse 16. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. J. I. Packer translates it, keep in step with the Spirit. It’s not a great mystery, it’s walking with God. It involves an open Bible, a praying heart, and a surrendered will. It’s day by day, moment by moment, step by step, growing in grace, growing in us the character of our new life—the character of Jesus Christ. What is He like? Galatians 5:22 … the fruit of the Spirit is (among other things) … kindness.

I said that this is not a moralistic appeal for everyone in our community to start being kind. It’s a call for Christians to put their best effort into keeping in step with the Spirit. For when we are like Christ, we can be kind, even in the pressure cooker of the grocery store.

I wondered later if the kind man in Walmart’s parking lot was a Christian, if he was simply doing what Christians do when Jesus is living His life out through them. That kindness is what a sick world needs.

Think about it!

Just a brother, Pastor Mark


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