Clothed In Kindness

By Julian Wells

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a children’s series that was broadcast on PBS stations for over 30 years. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, a documentary about that series and its star, Fred Rogers, is currently showing in theaters nationwide.

After watching it last week, this verse from Colossians has been much on my mind. Each episode of that show began with Mister Rogers taking off his jacket, donning a cardigan sweater, and replacing the dress shoes on his feet with a pair of sneakers. Some might say those articles of clothing were his trademark, but I would disagree.

What defined Fred Rogers, what touched the hearts of all those who knew him, and what brought tears to the eyes of so many in that audience last week (none more than mine) was the kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, compassion and concern for children that were the genuine trademarks of his character.

Although he was an ordained Presbyterian minister, he was no doubt constrained from presenting the Gospel on that program. But that did not prevent him from having an impact on millions of viewers, family members, fellow workers on the show, and even celebrities like Yo-Yo Ma.

His son described him as like a “second Christ” in his life. With that statement, I don’t believe he was suggesting that his Dad was like a god to him. The world certainly does not need a second Christ – the one and only Christ is sufficient. But what we could use are more Christians who make Christ visible to a world in desperate need of him. 2 Corinthians 3:18 calls us to “reflect the Lord’s glory”.

1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” Implicit in that statement is an expectation that we live in such a way that our lives elicit those types of questions, creating powerful opportunities to witness. Never have those opportunities been as ripe as they are today.

Kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience are declining rapidly. The society around us is looking more and more like the days Paul described in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 where so many have become “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

May our lives as Christians stand in such stark contrast to those trends that it demands an explanation. May we always be ready to explain that the hope, kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience they see in us is rooted in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And may we always be prepared to lead them to the Savior who “loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

If “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is showing at a theater near you, do yourself a favor and go see it. You will not regret it. In fact, you may find yourself, like so many in the theater around me, not wanting to leave when it is over.

It is absolutely my favorite movie so far this year.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet: how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers

(Note: All Scripture references from the New International Version (NIV))

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The Light of the Gospel

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. … For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4: 4,6) 

Fall has arrived in all its splendor here in the mountains of western North Carolina. Visitors are flooding into our sleepy little communities and navigating our winding roads to bask in the wonder of God’s creation and to capture that perfect photo for posting on social media.

Not being much of a photographer myself, I’m usually disappointed with my own photos. imageThey rarely adequately convey the breathtaking beauty of the Creator’s artistry. One trick that works well for capturing the vivid colors of autumn is positioning the camera so that the sunlight forms a backdrop for the shot. This technique greatly enhances the natural colors, as the light filters through the leaves and creates the appearance of a “tree with the lights in it”, as perfectly articulated by Annie Dillard in her Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This photo I took of a copse of aspens in Estes Park, Colorado a couple of years ago serves as an example.

Experts tell me that lighting is an essential key to taking good photographs. God’s Word tells me that lighting is also a vitally important key to being an effective witness for Christ.  2 Cor. 3:18 says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 

It grieves my heart, as I’m sure it grieves God, when I hear of seekers who have been turned away from the Christian faith by the actions of those believers who all too often serve as a barrier to God rather than a conduit. It grieves me even more when I stop to consider how often I have likely been that barrier myself.

Paul tells us in Galatians that our flesh constantly struggles against God’s Spirit for control of our hearts. When the flesh temporarily wins that battle, the light of the Gospel dims and we begin to blend into the woodwork of humanity. But when we surrender to the leading of his Spirit, God’s glory sets us apart from the crowd and draws others to the Christ who resides in our hearts, just as the autumn splendor of God’s creation is drawing so many visitors to these mountains arrayed in their annual October palette of colors and light, perfectly blended.

Never forget that people are always watching. They may not know a word of Scripture – they may not even own a Bible. But we are surrounded by people looking for light in an often dark and gloomy world. May they see that light in us that we might be the conduit Christ uses to draw them to himself.

“Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it.  I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. … I have since only rarely seen the tree with the lights in it.  The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.”Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Note: All Scripture references taken from the New International Version (NIV)