A couple of recent messages, one positive and one negative, caused me to reconsider the importance of kindness at a personal level.
A few weeks ago, a friend messaged me about a dream she had about me. In the dream, I was being publicly congratulated for my many acts of kindness. Her message caused more than a little puzzlement. I honestly searched my memory bank for what the dream could be referring to. Had God’s supernatural seeds of kindness actually begun to grow in my life? I wasn’t convinced! Another option seemed more plausible. Perhaps the dream came to cause me to reconsider my ways and spur me toward a greater awareness of the importance of kindness.
More recently, someone else sent a message to confront the lack of kindness she sensed in me. No surprises there! Why? The qualities of gentleness, generosity, and consideration toward others which blend to form kindness seldom flow naturally from my life.
I have sometimes half heartedly joked about my absence when God handed out the gifts of mercy and compassion. While I see them so clearly in others, I struggle to see them here at ground zero — in me!
A small picture assumes a prominent place in my kitchen. It is a treasured gift from yet another friend. Engraved upon the face of the image is Aesop’s familiar phrase, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Unfortunately, the image often goes unnoticed.
Kindness Gives What is Needed
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
God purposefully centres kindness between the distinguished garments of compassion and humility.
The root of the Greek word for kindness bears the essence of “usefulness.” It often occurs alongside the concept of forgiveness or with another Greek word which we commonly translate philanthropy. The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament adds, “It is the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be seen as harsh and austere . . . having the harmlessness of a dove . . . It is the opposite of severity or cutting something short . . . The word is descriptive of one’s disposition.”
I stop and muse over that word — mellowing! Yes, mellowing would certainly be beneficial in me, to me, and through me to others.
Paul includes kindness among other attitudes of the heart, which we should intentionally “clothe” ourselves with — never to be found naked without them.
Kindness offers to others the reflection of God’s heart in the way they need it most.
The Kindness of God
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
God lovingly placed many kind souls in my path who clearly demonstrated His kindness through their attitudes, words, and actions. In spite of my unrefined, far-from-mellowed, overly jagged, and repulsively crude ways, they generously offered me those most useful and needed commodities of forgiveness, gentleness, goodness, and grace.
In fact, the kindness of God, displayed so lavishly in others, helped to lead me to Jesus. Their kindness caused me to turn my broken life over to Him. Paul explained the importance of kindness so well:
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
One must never underestimate the importance of kindness. One finds the evidence of God’s kindness in every transformed life. Every soul that repents and turns their face humbly toward Him experiences it. Long-time enemies of God become His beloved children!
“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 children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
A promised reward awaits everyone who emulates God’s kindness shown even to the ungrateful and wicked.
The Reward of Kindness
“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.”
Kindness implies a refining and purifying that matures into moral excellence — something that just keeps getting better with age. It’s like that “mellowing” we talked about, but better.
We look inward, knowing we have far to go to reach the moral excellence of kindness. God looks at us, however, and sees His continuing work in progress. In the centre of the list of the Holy Spirit’s fruit, we find kindness:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
If we quickly skim over these familiar verses, we easily miss a key element. The Holy Spirit supernaturally produces kindness, along with all the other fruit, in our lives. Yes, we play an important role by cooperating with what God is doing. Ultimately, however, He receives the credit for His development of His fruit in each of us.
Kindness is Spirit led! It begins with Him and comes only through His deep working in our lives. We reap the rewards only by His grace.
What if, like in my friend’s dream, God anxiously waits to commend us for kindness? What if failing to reflect His kind heart, as my second friend challenged, carries far more serious consequences than we think?
Understanding the importance of kindness forms the foundation. Activating kindness builds on that understanding. But how?
First, let’s pray, asking Holy Spirit for His supernatural movement, planting and watering kindness seeds within us, removing any remnants of the old crusty nature, and replacing it with tenderness and compassion.
Second, let’s focus on what others need? What would be the most “useful” thing we could offer? Do they need a helping hand or financial support? Perhaps, forgiveness stands as their greatest need. Maybe helping them develop a skill would prove most beneficial. Would a word or note of encouragement help carry them through a tough season? The greatest need any of us possess is the need for Jesus in our lives. Sharing our faith will always be the most useful and profitable thing we offer anyone.
Third, thank God for the mellowing with age and the building of moral excellence evident in you. Whether dramatic or subtle, recognize and thank Him for the supernatural shaping and movement toward kindness.
And fourth, remember
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,”
What God said first, Aesop reminded us of. Kindness affects others after it first affects us. May we never question the importance of kindness. May it flow from our continually transformed lives by the tender loving heart of God.
“Love is patient, love is kind . . .”
1 Corinthians 13:8