…God has always had a disposition of kindness toward us. … God doesn’t just dispense mercy. He is merciful (Lk 6:36).
God “sees every sinful action, motive, and thought we ever have, yet still relates to us in love. God loves sinners, simple as that, and certainly not because of the sin, but in spite of it. His love expresses itself in kindness toward sinners, and that kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The phrase “lead us to” tells us his loving-kindness meets us prior to repentance and draws us forward. What a lavish demonstration of mercy toward those who, left to themselves, would flee from God! …
Such kindness…makes a claim upon us: We are called to continue in the kindness we have received (Romans 11:22). We don’t wait to be sinned against and then try to respond with mercy. Rather, we adopt the posture of being willing to experience sin against us as part of building a God-glorifying marriage in a fallen world. Kindness says to our spouse, “I know you are a sinner like me and you will sin against me, just like I sin against you. But I refuse to live defensively with you. I’m going to live leaning in your direction with a merciful posture that your sin and weakness cannot erase.
How can you be kind knowing that there may be another sin against you right around the corner? Because kindness does not have its origins in you, but in God. It isn’t a personality trait, it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12) and an expressions of biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4). Kindness recognizes that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). There is fresh grace for each failure for both the sinner and the one sinned against.” (84-85, emphasis mine)
Which way are you leaning?
- Are you leaning toward your spouse with merciful kindness?
- Or are you leaning away from your spouse with an easily irritated, critical posture?
Your spouse is not on trial! Repent of your folded arms, “if you’re lucky,” critical, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, prosecuting attorney posture. Fire that inner lawyer, get your eyes on God’s GREAT mercy toward you in Christ, and allow that mercy to incline you in the direction of your spouse with the “gospel lean” of merciful kindness.
Harvey gives a few examples of what this everyday merciful lean looks like (on p85):
- the coffee run for the husband having to work late
- the washing and cleaning out of the mini-van for the busy mom
- the intentional words of encouragement in an area of weakness
What acts of kindness can/will you do this next week? (Stop! Don’t just read on! Think about this and make plans to follow through with it this week! One suggestion: make it something out of the ordinary.)