The Kindness of God
By Pastor Farrel Stauffer
You may have heard the little give and take phrase that goes like this…someone will say “God is good.” And someone else responds by saying “All the time.”
I hope when you say it that you truly understand what you are saying because God is good all the time. There is never a time when he is not good and out of this goodness comes kindness. The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans about this kindness in the second chapter of his letter to them. He says, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4) According to Paul they had been “thinking little of” or ignoring God’s kindness to them. Notice that he mentions not just one but three points of kindness: kindness, forbearance, and patience.
Let me give you a brief definition of each of these words. Kindness carries the idea of a tender concern for others reflected in a desire to treat them gently. Christians understand that from God’s kindness comes His care and provision for us. The word forbearance is not a word we use much today. Some translations use the word tolerance. This is not the best word to use today because we use this word differently than Paul intended. Forbearance means refraining from the enforcement of something (like a debt, right, or obligation) that is due. It means to hold oneself back with effort. But it is temporary. Moses captures this thought when he is pleading for the lives of God’s chosen people. He reminds God of His own character. “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.” (Numbers 14:18) Patience literally means “long temper” (as opposed to a short temper). We have all seen people who put up with a lot of mistreatment and nonsense and we have seen those who don’t. God is patient. Just think for a minute about all the nonsense he puts up with from you and me.
In the context of this passage the people receiving Paul’s letter were living their lives as if God’s kindness, these three kindness, were non-existent. Take a moment and think of how God has shown his kindness to you. Imagine not responding to God after receiving such gifts! Not only was that happening then but it still happens today.
Paul tells his readers that God’s kindness is leading them to repentance. Repentance of their sins and living for Jesus Christ. One writer put it this way, “You think that you are safe because God’s judgment has not yet descended upon you. But the kindness that God is giving you is not carte blanche to sin; he is giving you the opportunity to repent and to amend your ways. A man cannot sin forever with impunity.”
Here is the key: God shows his kindness to us so that we will repent of our sins and believe in Him. When you think of God’s kindnesses to you today think also of the reason he has been so kind.