Vol. 2 Issue 6 February 7, 2008
The weekly newsletter from True Potential Publishing
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.â€ (Galatians 5:22)
When I told my wife I was writing about â€œkindnessâ€ this week, she choked â€¦ Iâ€™m sure it was just a reflex action; nothing personal. But still, I figured Iâ€™d better do a little more research.
Itâ€™s funny how sometimes a thing can be so important and so obvious and so easy to overlook all at the same time. â€œKindnessâ€ might be one of those things. Especially for men.
Letâ€™s look at the definition of kindness: â€œsympathetic, helpful, friendly, thoughtful, gentle, well disposedâ€ â€¦ it almost sounds effeminate, doesnâ€™t it? Maybe kindness is womenâ€™s territory. Women are the nurturers, the caregivers; they build the nest and care for the young.
Men are warriors, protectors, providers. Theyâ€™re job is to leave the cave, kill something and drag it home. â€œKindnessâ€ sounds a little girlie for a manâ€™s world. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve been taught, right? Listen to the TV psychologists. When they talk about men being kind and sensitive to the needs of others they say that we need to â€œget in touch with our feminine side.â€
My feminine side is my wife. Iâ€™m okay with both halves of me being masculine.
If it sounds like Iâ€™m picking on men itâ€™s because Iâ€™m prejudiced by my own experience. Kindness doesnâ€™t come naturally to me. Rough and tumble comes natural. Battle and conquest, no problem. But not kindness. Itâ€™s not that Iâ€™m a mean or cruel person; itâ€™s just that Iâ€™m a man â€“ and probably a typical man. Iâ€™m sure there are a lot of naturally kind and sensitive guys out there; theyâ€™re just not crowding out the rest of us.
When I say that kindness doesnâ€™t come naturally, donâ€™t assume that unkindness does. Unkindness implies action and intention; that somebody is doing something unkind. What Iâ€™m really talking about is lack of action and intention on the kindness side. Intentionally doing acts of kindness as opposed to not intending anything and letting nature take its course. And when nature takes its course guys tend to fall short on kindness.
Rather than dig myself any further into this hole, why donâ€™t we just get on to kindness in general.
Kindness, like the other fruit of the Spirit, is really an attribute of God. The reason we are to practice kindness is because He practices kindness â€¦ on us.
â€œBut 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.â€ (Titus 3:4-5a)
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.â€ (Luke 6: 35-36)
Kindness isnâ€™t a state of mind or a mood; itâ€™s an action. And until it becomes a natural part of who you are, it needs to be an intentional action. That means until kind actions flow naturally from you because your heart is filled with kindness you have to practice kindness.
Kindness isnâ€™t just a matter of helping an old lady cross the street or rescuing a cat from a tree. Itâ€™s not just good deeds you put into your schedule as part of your â€œpracticing kindness master plan.â€ This kind of kindness really doesnâ€™t get in your way. It doesnâ€™t require that you change your schedule, your lifestyle, or your mood. Itâ€™s Kindness Lite â€“ â€œdo nice things without really changing your day!â€
Sometimes kindness doesnâ€™t work out that way.
Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? (Luke 10: 30-37) I donâ€™t need to retell the whole story, everybody knows it already; letâ€™s just hit the high points.
The beat up guy in the ditch was a Jew. The Good Samaritan was â€¦ well, a Samaritan. These two groups didnâ€™t like each other, they didnâ€™t associate. The Jews reviled the Samaritans and the Samaritans knew it.
The Samaritan had a schedule to keep. He was apparently a man with business to conduct. He wasnâ€™t poor and he was on the road to somewhere so weâ€™ve got to assume he had things to do and people to see. He didnâ€™t have a lot of time for distractions.
Helping the Jew in the ditch was going to cost the Samaritan time and money, and there was no promise of ever getting reimbursed. Knowing the injured man was a Jew and knowing what Jews thought of Samaritans, there was wasnâ€™t much hope of even getting thanked.
The Samaritan dragged the injured man out of the ditch, dressed his wounds, set him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn, where he could have a bed and be cared for. The Samaritan, already late for his appointment, stayed the night with the injured guy at the inn. The next morning he paid the innkeeper in advance and promised to return and pay any further expense for the travelerâ€™s recovery. The Samaritan made sure the guy was taken care of; he followed through and followed up.
Sometime kindness puts you into contact with folks youâ€™d really not prefer to have contact with. Sometimes it forces you to go out of your way and totally wrecks your schedule. Sometimes there are out-of-pocket expenses youâ€™re probably not going to recover. And once youâ€™re involved, kindness often requires some follow-up to make sure the jobâ€™s completed. Kindness can be intrusive like that.
The Good Samaritan story brings up another side to this kindness coin I really ought to mention. God first practiced kindness to us so that His mercy would lead us to repentance. What that means, is that God has given us a massive break that we might, in turn, give others a break. When we fail to show kindness to others, itâ€™s like spitting on the kindness God showed us. And that does not play well with God.
â€œOr do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that Godâ€™s kindness leads you toward repentance?
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of Godâ€™s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God â€œwill give to each person according to what he has done.â€ï»¿ 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.â€ (Romans 2: 4-8).
Remember the first part of the Good Samaritan story? After the guy gets beat up, robbed and thrown in a ditch, two people pass by; a priest and a Levite. Both of these men were Jews; their brother was beaten and lying in a ditch, naked. The first guy, the priest, was a religious leader, supposedly a representative of God. The second guy, the Levite, was a civic leader, folks in town looked up to him. Neither man could be bothered with their brother in the ditch; they had schedules to keep. I would not want to be one of those guys on Judgment Day.
Kindness is a serious business. Itâ€™s serious because of how God showed kindness to us and what it cost Him. We didnâ€™t deserve His kindness; He provided it out of the goodness of His heart. In light of the great kindness He did us, He doesnâ€™t take lightly the little kindnesses we do each other. We practice kindness and we reap immortality. We take His kindness too lightly by neglecting kindness to others and we are subject to His wrath.
One more thing about kindness. Itâ€™s pretty important so stay with me.
Kindness might not have anything to do with helping strangers. It might have to do how you treat those you know real well. Practicing forgiveness and forbearance is practicing kindness. (Forbearance is an interesting word. It means â€œto control oneâ€™s patience,â€ â€œnot give way to anger,â€ to endure,â€ â€œto tolerate.â€) This kind of kindness doesnâ€™t mess with your schedule or your or your pocketbook; it messes with your mood and with your rights.
Listen to your spouse and your kids and your parents and the guy at work who always has something to say. Donâ€™t listen to answer back, donâ€™t listen to show what a great martyr you are by listening â€“ just listen. When a careless word offends you, let it roll off your back like Teflon. When your kid screws up by acting like a kid, donâ€™t blow up; put your arm around her.
Be aware of this: those youâ€™re around every day are the ones to whom youâ€™re most blind to your little unkindnesses and theyâ€™re the ones who will be most profoundly affected by your little kindnesses. Practice kindness with those you know best â€“ your spouse, your kids, your parents, the folks you work with every day. Theyâ€™re the oneâ€™s who know if youâ€™re a hypocrite or not.
By the way, my wife says Iâ€™m getting better at this â€¦ I think sheâ€™s just being kind.
Until next week. â€œBe kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.â€ (Ephesians 4:32)