God and His Not-So Random Acts of Kindness
Christianity certainly takes its share of bashing in the news. While most of what we hear is politicized rhetoric, the damage is especially devastating when professing Christians themselves contribute rude and unkind sound bites. Even non-believers understand that this defies the essence of our faith.
When we display kindness in deeds, words and attitude, we are emulating God. One of God’s attributes is that He is kind, not only holy, just, sovereign and righteous. The psalmist wrote, “You are kind, O Lord.” (Ps. 86.5) It is God’s kindness that prompted Him to redeem us, and it is His kindness that draws us to Him. (Titus 3:4, Rom. 2:4) So if we are to be “imitators of God,” we must be kind. (Eph.5:1) Otherwise, we misrepresent Him. One of the highest compliments I can receive is for someone to say I am a kind person.
I have been in the ministry for over 30 years, and it saddens me that some of the most unkind people I have known are Christians. I once served on a staff with a particularly mean-spirited man. It was particularly sad because he seemed to think that the Christian truths he embraced and his high level of morality justified, even compelled his behavior.
It is possible to be correct but not kind, to be orthodox but lack grace and even to be truthful but hurtful at the same time. But while it is possible, it is not right. If we are not kind, we lack evidence of the fruit of the spirit. (Gal. 5:22) Similarly, our actions should be driven by pure motives. “Love must be sincere.” (Rom 12:9)
In what practical ways does kindness manifest itself? Here are some ways to demonstrate kindness from a biblical perspective.
- Be gracious, cordial, polite and courteous. (Psalm 111:4) Don’t be rough, rude, coarse, crude or blunt. Even difficult situations can be handled with poise and diplomacy. How many times have we seen store clerks berated for something out of their control because it satisfies our frustration? Too often getting our own way gets in the way of kind behavior.
- Be thoughtful, considerate, helpful, unselfish and solicitous. (2 Cor. 9:2) Don’t be thoughtless, inconsiderate, insensitive or self-absorbed. Many years ago, Danish paddlers were competing in a marathon kayak-racing event at the world championships in Copenhagen. The Danes were leading when the rudder was damaged. British paddlers, who were in second place, stopped to help the Danes fix it. The Danes went on to defeat the British by one second. Acts of thoughtfulness and unselfishness like this should occur frequently in the body of Christ.
- Be understanding and sympathetic. (1 Peter 3:8) Don’t be callous or hard-hearted. A tombstone cutter held on to a headstone for several years because the people who ordered it could not pay. A friend suggested the stonecutter place the headstone where it belonged since he was unlikely to collect the fee. The stonecutter thought that was poor business, but his friend had the last word. “It’s never poor business to be kind to people and to go out of your way to help those who are in trouble.” When the friend returned to the shop a month later, the headstone was gone. The stonecutter explained that his conscience began to torment him, and he knew the headstone should be where it belonged. Afterward when he found out how happy it made the family, the stonecutter completed the story. “I lost my head completely. When the family came in here to pay me for the stone, I refused the money!” The stonecutter had learned a lesson in sympathy and understanding.
- Be patient, tolerant and long-suffering. (1 Thess. 5:14) Don’t be impatient, edgy or easily annoyed. When we get in the driver’s seat, many a Christian throws kindness to the wind. Some how we are under the impression that other drivers deliberately make our lives miserable. Our drive talk speaks loudly to our children and others in the vehicle.
- Be generous, charitable, benevolent and big-hearted. (1 Tim. 6:18) Don’t be stingy, miserly, sparing or begrudging. After World War II, one of the saddest sights was that of orphan children starving in the streets of war-torn cities. Early one morning, a soldier noticed a small boy with his nose pressed against the window of a pastry shop, salivating as the cook kneaded dough for fresh doughnuts. The soldier bought a dozen and handed them to the child. As he turned to walk away, the soldier felt a tug on his coat. He looked back and heard the child ask quietly, “Mister, are you God?” We are never more like God than when we are kind.
- Be compassionate and merciful. (1 Peter 3:8) Don’t be uncaring, unconcerned or callous. Mother Theresa spent a lifetime demonstrating compassion as she cared for the poor and sick in the leper colonies of Calcutta, India. Someone once told her, “I wouldn’t touch those lepers for a million dollars.” Her reply was, “Neither would I.” She did it not out of personal gain, but out of mercy and compassion.
- Be forgiving, tolerant, lenient and forbearing. (Col. 3:13) Don’t be exacting, unforgiving or demanding revenge. A trusted employee who errs and embarrasses his boss can be in for dismissal or a tongue-lashing at the least. But the forbearing supervisor will look instead at the big picture and use this opportunity to acknowledge the employee’s history of contributions for which one mistake cannot erase.
- Be gentle and sympathetic. (Eph. 4:2) Don’t be rough, challenging, difficult or harsh. When Wesley visited a church to preach, he found a child perched on the steps of the pulpit. Instead of being irked, he gently took the child in his arms, kissed her and then placed her on the same spot where she had been sitting. For this child, being in the house of the Lord was a safe, loving experience.
- Be careful with speech. (Col. 4:6) Don’t be tacky, careless or hurtful with words. The Bible has much to say about our speech. If we are to be kind to one another, we must be careful what we say. Every word out of our mouths must first be filtered and then seasoned with grace.
- Be diplomatic, tactful, prudent and discreet. (Titus 3:2) Don’t be oppositional, domineering, forceful or overassertive. British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes, whose fortune was used to endow the Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress – but apparently not at the expense of someone else’s feelings. A young man invited to dine at Rhodes’ home had to go directly to the dinner in his travel-stained clothes. Once there he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time, Rhodes appeared in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had changed from his evening clothes into the old suit in response to his guest’s dilemma.
For this “one another,” there is little ambiguity or mystery. The Bible says, “Be kind,” and the admonition seems straightforward. We know what to do. We just need to do it. As we think about our rough edges that need to be sanded in order to be more kind, let’s also expand the sphere of kindness to every aspect of our lives. Consider this example from Gandhi. As he stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. Gandhi did not have enough time to retrieve the shoe before the train began to move. To the surprise of his companions, Gandhi took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first shoe. When asked why he did that, Gandhi explained. “The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track will now have a pair he can use.”
How many shoes have you left on the track?
Don McMinn, Ph.D. (with Kimberly Spring)
Executive Director of theiPlace.org
The 11th Commandment: More Insights into the One Anothers of Scripture