Many times as a dad I’ve played the role of mediator in a spat between siblings. When it becomes impossible to figure out who started it or who the true victim is, I recall reaching the end of my resources in that moment and settle on the counsel, “Just be kind to each other!”
I wish that actually worked – just to give a command and see my kids walk in loving-kindness. It would be wonderful if all of us who quarrel and fight would end up like that 1971 Coca-cola commercial, on some hilltop singing together, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” A simple act of kindness has great potential.
Of course life doesn’t happen that way. Telling someone to stop arguing and to be kind instead doesn’t work. At least not in my experience. Fighting, quarreling, coldness and bitterness, to name just a few of the relational sins, can’t be cracked or thawed merely by one kind act. A bottle of Coke hasn’t yet ended wars on Earth. Each of us who wish to walk in the Spirit and show the kindness of Christ need the power of our Lord in us, motivated by the loving-kindness He showed us.
How can we become the kind people that God wills us to be? Let me suggest a few things to think through.
- Think about the kindness of God toward you. Romans 2:4 asks us, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (ESV). After arguing in Romans 1 that all the Gentile world is lost in sin and deserving hell, Paul reminds the Roman church that the reason they escaped this judgment was the fact of God’s kindness toward them. God did not give any believers what we deserve, for that would be hell. He instead, in kindness and compassion, called us to be His chosen children, holy and beloved (Col. 3:12). Think long about what you deserve, and think now of what by God’s kindness you have. That is the motivator to compel your kindness toward others. It won’t happen merely by fulfilling a command. You can’t be kind enough to please God. He is pleased when we rest on His kindness to us in Christ. That abiding in Him begins the work of making us kind like He is kind.
- Consider who you can show kindness to right now. I love the story of King David remembering his covenant with Jonathan, son of King Saul. David asks, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” (2 Sam 9:1;3). He tracked down Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth and gave him a portion of the king’s own wealth. The story in 2 Samuel 9 ends with “So Mephibosheth… ate always at the king’s table.” I think of how earth-shattering the kindness of David was to Mephibosheth. He expected death but received the “kindness of God.” Who do you know that right now could be surprised by kindness? To whom can you show the kindness of God?
- Measure kindness not by random acts but by abiding acts. The series theme for these articles is “abide” and comes from John 15. When Jesus called on us to abide in Him and bear much fruit, He intended for us to abide in kindness toward one another. Our culture celebrates random acts of kindness: leaving 5 bucks in an envelope on a park bench, giving an unusually large tip, or mowing a neighbor’s yard by surprise. For the Christian such acts should not be random (“Where did that come from: that’s uncharacteristic of him/her!”) but abiding (“Wow! How can he/she be like that so often?”). Hopefully an abiding presence of kindness can turn our society around by pointing people beyond ourselves and to the Lord.
- Exercise kindness in all of its manifestations. One “kindness” passage really surprises me. It doesn’t seem like the others. Especially when “kindness” gets muddled in my brain with just being “nice.” David says in Psalm 141:5 “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” Kindness shows up when we give, when we serve, when we forgive, but also when we enter a person’s messy life and speak a hard truth lovingly for that person’s healing and spiritual good. May the Lord give us all grace to grow in this area: expressing the kindness of open rebuke and receiving it humbly as a gift of the Lord.
I conclude today with Micah 6:8 –
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (ESV)
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control