Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
Even as I write this, there are some who come to mind that just make me cringe over the way they treat those they claim to love. Insults, vulgarities, and general mean-spiritedness define those relationships. Could this really be love? Is it even possible that these people who treat each other worse than enemies have anything resembling love for each other? And I know it isn’t just me. You’ve seen them and know them too. Sometimes…it might even be us.
I know I’ve had my moments, especially as a rowdy, gangly teenager who thought the world was hers to conquer and one who didn’t agree with her parents’ household rules and decisions when it came to curfew. I thought I knew better than they did and I remember lashing out in rebellion. A few choice words were loosely thrown around in the barn or behind another’s back. There were even a few moments I’m not so proud of.
Love is so much more than just the way we feel about each other. The way we treat each other, however, is a direct reflection of what our true view is of those we “love.” It’s not possible to love someone in the true definition of the word and treat them with contempt or unkindness. When you love someone, you want to be kind to them. It should be a natural want. You should want to treat them as though they are important and worthy of respect (no matter what they do). There is no room for intentionally hurt feelings, manipulation, or making them feel worthless.
I’ve grown up some since having moved away from home for college and my own life (I know what my sarcastic friends are thinking right now…I can almost hear the “no ways, reallys?, and are you sures?…coming my way). My relationship with both of my parents has grown and I actually have something tangible with all of my siblings.
As I mentioned in my last entry, I’ve been reading through The Love Dare, a book borrowed from my mother. Chapter two’s writing says, “Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones one which many of the other attributes…are built.” (p. 6)
Just as patience will take anything from others, kindness will give anything to others. To be kind means to be useful, serving and gracious. It is active goodwill. Love not only feels generous; it is generous. Love not only desires the welfare of others; love works for it.
Kindness is gentle, helpful, willing to work on challenges together, and take initiative. Think back – was kindness one of the qualities that attracted you to your spouse? Or to your current best friend? The book reminds us, “It is difficult to demonstrate love when you feel little to no motivation. But love in its truest sense is not based on feelings. Rather, love determines to show thoughtful actions even when there seems to be no reward. You will never learn to love until you learn to demonstrate kindness.” (p. 8)
Kindness only takes a moment of our time…So, why don’t we engage in this simple act more often? It’s hard to come by in today’s society; what, with people thinking only for/of themselves and their own personal gain. Some kind acts are even done for selfish reasons…what can I get out of it?
We must remember that if we are to truly bear the fruit that God has in mind, we must act in kindness out of love, not out of selfish ambition. Our motives matter to God. Our focus should be on bringing Him glory, not ourselves. After all, He’s the only one that sees your heart.
Kindness is picking up the phone and calling a friend or a relative who may be going through a hard time and letting them know that you’re there.
Kindness is simply stopping to listen to the homeless man who greets you every day on your way to work.
Kindness is the cost of pretty card and a stamp to send a quick note of encouragement to a person you may not have thought of for a while.
Kindness is showing up at a church function (like Hope for the Community at Kingswood Church in Blaine, MN on Thursdays) or a charity and asking how you can help.
Kindness is placing a fresh, nutritious sandwich into the hat or box of a person on the street, who is begging for money.
Scripture is full of God’s kindness, with Jesus being the ultimate example that we can look towards. He was, is and forever will be the only perfect man to ever walk this terrestrial ground who treated His loved ones with the utmost kindness and respect.
Remember the woman at the well? (John 4:1-26)
In Jesus’ day, it was custom for Jews and Samaritans to not socialize together. Also, men didn’t openly speak to women in public. Based on those two facts, it would have been quite easy for Jesus to avoid Samaria all-together.
But Jesus is different. In going, Jesus showed the world there is no reason for a barrier between two races. He demonstrated kindness to another race of people by purposefully going to Samaria.
While He was there, resting at the well, He strikes up a conversation with a woman. Not just any woman, but an outcast, despised, lonely and sinful woman. Jesus shows kindness to her and elevated her value in society when He spoke to her. He considered her important by virtue of spending time speaking with her when no one else would.
Jesus demonstrated that both Samaritans and women should not be treated as though they were some contagious disease, something to avoid or steer clear of, but as real people with real needs.
Is there anyone that you avoid on a daily basis or during any given week? As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been given the opportunity to plant a church in Uptown Minneapolis. There are cultural differences within the same city block. Are we, as the body of Christ, ready to breech those boundaries and treat everyone we come in contact with with kindness? Even those whose worship styles, whose very lifestyles, differ from ours? Are we ready?
He expects us to do the same; not just for those we love, but to those He loves. And don’t wait for the emotion to come. If you do, you’ll never experience kindness. Remember that love is active. Love is kind. So just be kind, even when you don’t feel kind.
Scriptures to encourage you:
- Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the table of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3, 4
- An anxious heart weighs a man down but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25
- A kindhearted woman gains respect. Proverbs 11:16
- But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness. Acts 20:24
- If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take your responsibility seriously. And if you have the gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:8
- Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 1 Thessalonians 5:15
- But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Titus 3:4-5
- The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Today’s Challenge: In addition to yesterday’s challenge, add at least one unexpected act of kindness. Thank someone for doing something today.
Work cited: Kendrick, Stephen and Alex, The Love Dare (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2008)