Aspiring Meditations: 14. Aspiring to know Kindness
Acts 14:17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
Gal 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is ….kindness
Rom 2:4 do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
With this next ‘aspiration’ we move into a less definite or specific area. Kindness is one of those things most of us accept and say we understand in the English language and yet when it comes to defining it, it is not so easy. So let’s start with a dictionary definition: Kindness = the quality of being friendly, generous, helpful and considerate.
In the first of our verses above Barnabas or Saul, speaking about God, said that the fact that we have rain helping grow crops which provide us with our food, is a sign of God’s kindness, i.e. He is good because He does this. Kindness is clearly something good that can be observed in a person’s attitude or behaviour. There is a gentleness about this word, a sense of soft approach in doing good to another. It has behind it a feeling of well-being towards another which may involve concern and consideration.
When writing to the church at Rome, Paul said it was God’s kindness that worked to lead us to repentance. In that sense God was being gently helpful in leading us towards Himself and to repentance and on to salvation. To Titus, Paul linked it to love and mercy: “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) When it is used in connection with how the Lord dealt with Joseph in the Old Testament, it has the same feel: “while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Gen 39:20,20) Because God was with and for Joseph, His loving mercy was being expressed to him in the way the Lord spoke into the heart of the prison warder to think well of Joseph and see the good in him. Jeremiah put this characteristic of the Lord right up front: “let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” (Jer 9:24) The Lord, he says, delights in being kind, in exercising kindness. It is apt that this study follows on yesterday’s for we see, “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Cor 13:4). Kindness is indeed an expression of love.
All of this so far has been about trying to tie down kindness as seen in the Lord, but what about us? It is interesting that the apostle Paul considered kindness as something that commended to apostles to the church: “as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: …. in purity, understanding, patience and kindness” (2 Cor 6:4-6) Kindness, he implied, is a characteristic of a servant of God. This he spells out to Timothy: “the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Tim 2:24)
But even more than that, it is to be seen in all of the people of God: “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Col 3:12) To the Ephesians he simply said,. “Be kind and compassionate to one another,” (Eph 4:32) and to the Thessalonians he said, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1 Thess 5:15). Of course we have already touched on ‘brotherly kindness’ in Peter’s list in his second letter, but from what we have seen above, it is a requisite for every believer according to the apostle Paul.
We need not ask therefore, why should I aspire to this, for it is obvious from the above. But how do I do this, how can I increase it in my life, how can I aspire to more of it expressed through me? It has to start by the way I view all other people. Many years ago I formulated a church mission statement that started, “To create a growing community of God’s people that is loving, accepting and caring, and which is able to minister God’s love, reconciliation and healing with a servant heart….” If I hold to that statement I will, I believe almost inevitably express kindness to both those inside the church and outside it.
Kindness will be the gentle expression of good-will towards all others, desiring the best for them, but expressed in small and simple ways, showing interest, concern and compassion, being willing to give time and a listening ear and then simply be there with whatever is needed. Again I ponder the question, by what will I be remembered? It almost sounds too soft, but it is certainly a scriptural requirement, so will they be able to say, “He was such a kind man,” or “whenever you were with him you could be sure of receiving kindness,”? If we are kind, people will know it; it is something that communicates, even if we find it difficult to attach precise meanings to it. In the story of Abraham’s servant encountering Rebekah, the servant prayed, “By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” (Gen 24:14) Perhaps we might put that, “By this I will know that you are working for good for my master,” because that is what is being ‘kind’. When you and I are kind to another, we are doing something for their good, something to bless them. May it be so.