He Is a Kind Man
I have been blessed, over the past ten days or so, to spend rather a lot of time with my father. I understand that the time I normally have makes more than a few of you jealous. I, however, am grateful to have heard my father preach at Ligonier’s national conference, to address several thousand saints on the theme of our justification. The day after the conference’s close I found myself sailing the Caribbean with a crowd of several hundred where I was blessed to listen to my father teach on our sanctification, on our calling to develop Christian character.
Despite all the time I have been privileged to spend with him throughout my life, I learned something new on board. While teaching through the fruit of the Spirit my father expressed how delighted he would be were those he leaves behind to choose, “He was a kind man” for an epitaph. While it is certainly possible that such will come to pass, we pray in the distant future, I thought it might be wise to speak that truth here and now—my father is a kind man.
Most of the people who know my father know him in one of two contexts, either as a preacher or as a teacher. His skills in both forms need no cataloging by me. They are as obvious as a profoundly obvious thing. His engaging style, whether behind the pulpit, or behind the pen is so personal that many feel like they know him. But while he is genuine and honest as a writer and speaker, those media do not leave much room for displaying genuine kindness. That requires real interpersonal relationship.
Which is what I have been blessed to have all my born days. I have disobeyed my father. I have, over the years, surely disappointed him from time to time. But I have no memory of his ever being unkind. Indeed I have no memory, even in the context of moments of my disobedience, of his ever being anything but for me, and for my sister. I have never been afraid to go to him when I have failed.
While too many look at his success, wondering what it must have taken, what skill set, what strategy leads to his level of influence, I look at his greater success, wondering what it takes to be a man of kindness. I think, however, the two are actually related. My father did not set out as a young man to become a leading theologian, to be heard on radio stations across the country and across the world. He didn’t plot and plan how to write books read by hundreds of thousands. Instead, he sought to be faithful to the Word. He sought to serve the Lord who saved him. And the audience came, from an earthly perspective, coincidentally. He seeks first the kingdom.
In like manner one does not earn the title “Kind” by setting out to earn it. Rather, one rests in Christ. That is, kindness is born not out of a preternatural love of mankind, or from a gritty determinism but from a quiet confidence in God’s love for us in Christ. When I am most confident of my acceptance by my heavenly Father, I have nothing to lose, nothing to protect, no ambitions to pursue, save honoring Him. When I have been forgiven much, I am more forgiving, loved much, more loving. When I am confident that He is merciful to me, I am better able to show mercy to others. In short, when we trust and obey, we become more like Him who we trust and obey.
He is a kind man, for He is a kind Savior.