“Love is…kind.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
My dad and I share a lot of things in common. We are book nerds, coffee addicts, introverts, and huggers. Even though I turned 20 several weeks ago, I still sit on his lap. Every once in a while I go psycho on him; I feel comfortable venting to him because I know he takes the time to listen. We refer to him often as a “big teddy bear” (sorry Dad) because although he’s very tall, he’s very gentle. I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever heard him say anything harshly. Not too much rattles him; he is dependable and strong. I know I can count on him to be there for me when I need someone to lean on. My dad is a kind man.
This beautiful chapter written by Paul tells us that love is kind. To love is to be kind. Kindness is a word that most likely brings a picture to your mind. Everyone has a different idea of what it is to be kind, and so sometimes it’s hard to formulate a common definition. But if we want to please God in our relationships, we need to understand what God’s definition of kindness is. Kindness is both passive and active.
Kindness is passive. Being kind begins with an attitude, a state of mind, a pattern of thinking. To be kind in the passive sense is to be gentle and considerate. I don’t know about you, but for the longest time I thought that the passive side of kindness was just related to personality. Some people get the kindness genes, and other people don’t. But this is simply not true; if kindness was just a part of your personality, it would not be commanded in the Bible. God doesn’t command you to do something that you have no control over. Kindness isn’t determined by your personality; it is a choice.
Choosing kindness means choosing to have an attitude of blessing others. I mentioned my dad earlier, but my mom also comes to mind. She always has the mindset of, “How can I bless other people today?” It may not come naturally, but it is a choice that she chooses to make. People can be difficult, you know? Choosing kindness is not so easy when other people are cranky, demanding, or ungrateful. People may not appreciate or even notice your attitude of kindness. Choose kindness anyway.
Kindness is active. Kindness starts with an attitude, but it doesn’t end there.
Consider this quote from Les Miserables: “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” Your actions should be the natural outworking of your attitude. “
Kindness” is also defined by the British dictionary as being generous and helpful, both of which are action words. Giving and helping.
Have you ever seen either of these before? #RandomActsOfKindness #PayItForward – These are examples of what our culture (specifically social media) would identify as kindness. I remember participating in an “RAOK” several years ago; we stood in the Aldi’s parking lot and handed out quarters and plastic bags to shoppers. Once when my brother needed extensive dental surgery, a member of the community anonymously donated some money for his surgery, marking the check “RAOK”. Those are good things. Doing something selfless for a member of your community is always worth it. However, is that really what God means by “kindness”? Is God’s command limited to a few bucks spent for someone else’s Starbucks drink? I don’t think so. Look at what Jesus did for people. He went in among some of the filthiest, evilest people to do kindness. He even touched a leper’s hand (which was contagious and gross) to heal him. The Bible says that he looked at those people and had compassion on them. As an ultimate act of kindness, Titus 3:4-5 tells us that Jesus went to the cross for us. Makes #PayItForward seem a little trivial, doesn’t it? Doing kindness involves doing the biggest, hardest things imaginable.
But that is not to say that kindness doesn’t involve little things. Not all of us will go to another country to help people suffering from AIDS, but we all have the little things that we have to do. As Victor Hugo said, it is possible to give without loving. We can do those little tasks begrudgingly, with minimal effort. Or we can do them from a heart of kindness. You decide which would please God the most.
One final thought: Who are we doing this kindness for? In the writing of this post, I came across hundreds of quotes about kindness from people like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Confucius, Aesop, Plato, Mark Twain, and so forth. The overall consensus was unanimous: kindness is highly recommended. I don’t think you’ll come across any person, atheist or Hindu or Christian, who will disagree with the fact that we need to be kind to one another. What sets us apart as Christians is the motivation that lies behind WHY we choose kindness and do kindness. Is it because humans deserve it? Is it because we want to build up a supportive community? Is it even for other people at all? The Bible tells us clearly that our goal in showing kindness is not to magnify ourselves, nor is it entirely to benefit others; the ultimate goal is to please God and to point to him. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are motivated by the kindness God has shown to us through Christ: that is what should cause us to be kind.
As He has done for you.