“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:32
Be kind. This is a simple command, but for some inexplicable reason in today’s culture it is seldom obeyed. Josh Wilson, the Christian singer and songwriter, in his song, “Revolutionary”, says,
Maybe you’re not like me, Maybe we don’t agree, Maybe that doesn’t mean we gotta be enemies. Maybe we just get brave, Take a big leap of faith, Call a truce so me and you can find a better way. Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen, yeah. And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different, yeah. Why does kindness seem revolutionary? When did we let hate get so ordinary? Let’s turn it around, flip the script, Judge slow, love quick. God help us get revolutionary
Notice that St. Paul lays the groundwork for the exercise of kindness in the one verse quoted above. To be kind, we are to be “tenderhearted, forgiving one another”. And we have been given the pattern for what that looks like: “as God in Christ forgave you”! That should not be revolutionary. It should be our default behavior as one whom Christ has forgiven.
Kindness, in the biblical sense, is not an occasional act. It is a lifestyle. It is a daily practice. It is a choice. As Christians we are to grow in the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – and growth takes time. A seed does not transform into a tree overnight, but with careful watering, tending, and patience, a seed will slowly grow day-by-day into a strong towering tree. It is the same with kindness. We must be faithful every day to bear the good fruit of kindness. Being kind should be our default mode. Paul’s lists of virtues in his epistles are not a formula for a general humanitarian effort. In them the apostle is expressing that God’s love which is revealed in Christ is to be nurtured in the hearts of His people by the Spirit, then manifested in them as kindness towards their neighbors.
If kindness needs faithful practice every day, kindness also requires intentionality. Kindness is not when we feel like it or a random act here or there when we happen to think of it. Kindness requires a seeking out, a looking for the needs of others. How often do we miss opportunities to show God’s love to others?
Let me share a personal example. On my way to church one very rainy Sunday morning, I passed a man walking. I was preoccupied with thinking about the upcoming service and sermon. About a block later I thought, “I could have picked that man up.” I turned around and drove back, but the man was gone! Where could he have gone? There were no houses there. He just vanished! The verse from Hebrews 13:2 passed through my mind: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” I missed an opportunity to show kindness, and God taught me a lesson.
Slow down and open your eyes, look for opportunities to minister to the needs of others. Be intentional in showing kindness. So, what does Biblical kindness look like? It looks like Christ. It is Christ at work in and through you. It’s a habit, a lifestyle, a continual practice.