Written and preached by David P. Nolte

2 PETER 1:5-11

An old man sat in the cramped paper stand on a cold, blustery day feeling alone and depressed. Folk came and bought papers with scarcely a word. Then a hand touched his and a warm voice greeted him, "Hello, Jake! I thought you might like a cup of coffee -- here it is just the way you like it -- hot and black!" It was Marge, one of his customers. He thanked her and she went on her way not realizing that in the little paper stand the sun shone brightly and the day was warmed by her little act of kindness. Now, we have been considering Building Blocks of Character: diligence, faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and Godliness. All vital and needed! But we might possess them all and be aloof, exclusive, self-righteous and superior. We need to add brotherly kindness to moderate and temper us; to bring us down to earth and make us accessible. How can we demonstrate brotherly kindness day by day?
    1. I don't mean pay attention to others like:
      1. Teenage boys eyeing a sweet young thing and exclaiming, "Check it out!"
      2. The snoop in The Dalles spying on her neighbor, who was her preacher, keeping track of his comings and goings and reporting him to the elders to get him into trouble when she thought he was home too much.
    2. It means being benevolently and kindly aware of, and attentive to, your neighbor, your family and even the person in the pew next to you. It means being attentive to their:
      1. Emotional needs: their fears, their wounded spirit, their destroyed self-esteem, their loneliness and discouragement.
      2. Physical needs: the need for food, clothing, home repairs, transportation and even a break from the children.
      3. Spiritual needs: some are guilt ridden, many are without salvation, countless people are hopeless and desolate.
    3. Three major difficulties hinder us here:
      1. We often pull the shades or put on the blinders so we don't see!  We are like Schultz in "Hogan's Heroes" who was not a Nazi but was not pro prisoner, either.  When they pulled their shenanigans, he'd close his eyes and say,  "I see nothing!  I hear nothing!  I know nothing!"  As if that would absolve him of responsibility.  We think if we don't see or hear or know, we can't be held accountable to help.
      2. We focus on self rather than on the other in spite of Paul's admonition to be observant of the needs of others, considering them as more important than ourselves.  This makes our problems more severe than the problems of others.  Someone said, "The difference between major and minor surgery is that it is mamor when it happens to me and it's minor when it happens to you."
      3. We adopt the Cain perspective and shun responsibility: We carelessly ask, "Am I my brother's keeper?"  Christians must change that to, "I am my brother's keeper!"
    4. We could learn a lesson about attention to others from an encounter in the market place. A shopper was checking out at the market, and to her horror and dismay, discovered that she was just $4.00 short! They wouldn't take a credit card, and she had left her check book home. As she pondered which items to eliminate, the man behind her caught the clerk's eye and indicated that he would compensate for the lack. He paid the extra $4.00. How relieved the lady was. The man refused to give her his name, so she went home and wrote a letter to the editor: "To the kind man who helped me at the market when I was $4.00 short, thank you so much. Since I don't know who you are, I can't repay you, but I have donated $4.00 to the American Cancer Society - thank you again."

You see, brotherly kindness is seen in attention to others.

    1. Now, it's one thing to notice others needs and another to involve and identify with them!
    2. To identify with others means:
      1. Recognizing their problem as ours: not that we can solve them all, meet every need, pay every bill, soothe every hurt -- but we can avoid saying, "that's their problem! Better them than me!"
      2. Bearing one another's burdens: share your loaf with them in their hunger; sit with them in grief; occupy the seat of pain with them.
      3. Following Paul's admonitions: Romans 12:15, 16, 20 (NLT) "When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all! ... Instead, do what the Scriptures say: 'If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.'"
    3. You need no degree in theology, philosophy, psychology, or behavioral sciences to identify with other people -- you just need a heart to care, a hand to help, a voice to say, "I love you! I care what happens to you! I am with you! We'll get through this together!"
    4. It's like the story of a young boy who was riding his bicycle when he saw a little neighbor girl having difficulty with hers. He stopped and noted that the chain had come off. He tried his hardest to put that chain back on, but to no avail. He said, "I know! Come on! Let's push your bike to my house. My dad can fix this!" One might wonder why a young boy would bother with a little girl, especially when he was at the "girls are icky" age. But you see, just the week before, his chain had come off his bike, and he knew how maddening that was. He identified with her in her plight. That's sort of like brotherly kindness.

Brotherly kindness is seen in attention to others and in identification with them, as well.

    1. If we are aware of need and get involved in it we will have better understanding of what's happening in other people's lives. The more we understand the more we will take things into consideration.
    2. We need to consider such things as:
      1. Their weaknesses: they are not necessarily hypocrites when we see inconsistencies in their lives. Maybe they are just honest failures struggling, weak, faltering!
      2. Their situation: their background, home life, opportunities, temptations. Maybe we'd do worse under the same circumstances!
      3. Their value to God: God is no respecter of persons; they matter to Him as much as we do!
    3. Understanding others in this way will eliminate a tendency to:
      1. Be harshly critical of their performance or lack of it.
      2. Be overly demanding and expect the unrealistic of others.
      3. Be at odds with spouse, children, neighbors, fellow Christian.
    4. The poem stresses the need for considering others: "If I had known the pain you felt, And all the grief you knew, I would have gently soothed your hurt, And sought to comfort you. If I had known how dark your night, How fear drove sleep away, I would have brought you God's sweet light, To help you through til day. If I had known your loneliness, If I had only known, I would have been a friend to you, You'd not have been alone. But now I know, I understand, Real love I should have shown. I'll do now as I should have done If I had only known."  If we are attentive and identified and consider others, we'll never have to say, "If I had only known!"

Paul hits the nail on the head in the matter of brotherly kindness: Ephesians 4:31-5:2: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, Who loved you and gave Himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins." We have been kindly treated by God, what a small thing it is for us to treat others kindly. Jesus was kindness embodied! Nobody has ever been so patient with failure, so gentle with the weak, so forgiving to the sinful, so understanding to the downtrodden as He! He wants to live His life through us so others can experience His love, too! Think of this: you might be the only experience of kindness someone will have -- but Jesus cannot show His kindness through us until we are available, yielded, surrendered to Him! It can't happen until He changes our hearts. Brotherly kindness isn't something we put on, it's something He puts in - and the it comes out to bless others. But when that takes place you are blessed, your family is blessed, and others around you, touched by your brotherly kindness are blessed, too.

Poem by David Nolte

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