Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Here’s a question for you: What’s so important about being kind to others? Does it really matter if I am a kind sort of person?
And what is kindness anyway? I think it matters a lot. It was Princess Diana who once commented, “Try and carry out a random act of kindness. Someone, somewhere, might do the same for you”. That’s it.
It’s nice to know that someone has gone out of their way to do something nice or thoughtful for you, and we remember that single act of kindness. Kindness is linked with the popular reading:
I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a pleasant smile, a warm handshake, sending an email or note, inviting someone to dinner, or helping a neighbour with a household project. After all, the greatest thing anyone can do for his/her Heavenly Father is to be kind to his other children.
Kindness in Action
I like the story of the lady sitting in the airport lounge waiting for her flight. She’d bought a small packet of biscuits and sat down to read the newspaper. Then she heard a rustling noise and was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed man helping himself to some biscuits. She didn’t want to make a fuss so she leaned over and took one herself. A few minutes later he ate another biscuit, and she became furious but said nothing. Then, he broke the last biscuit in half, pushed half across to her, ate the other piece and left. She was still fuming, and a bit later on, opened her handbag to get her ticket. There was her unopened packet of biscuits. Little did she realise that a complete stranger had kindly shared his biscuits with an angry woman.
Kindness is like that—it can be unexpected, but leaves a lasting impression. Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner once wrote:
When you carry out acts of kindness, you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, Yes—this is how I ought to feel.
The great leader Mahatma Gandhi was planning to travel by train one day and, because he and a companion were running late, he got on board just in time, but one of Gandhi’s sandals fell off and landed beside the track. They stood there watching his sandal go off in the distance, when Gandhi did a strange thing. He reached down and removed his other sandal, and threw it along the track where it landed beside the other sandal. His friend was puzzled by this rather odd behaviour and asked why he had done it. Gandhi said: “One sandal is no good to me. But perhaps a poor person will come along, discover both sandals, and be happy that he now has shoes”. This is kindness—and a natural part of Mahatma Gandhi’s life. Instead of worrying about his loss, he thought of the poor beggar discovering a complete pair of shoes.
The Greatest Kindness
What is the best example of kindness we can think of? The Bible says that God is the essence of kindness. The psalmist in Psalm 63:3 wrote, “Your love and kindness are better than life itself”. In Psalm 107:1 (TLB) he says, “Say thank you to the Lord for being so good, for always being so loving and kind”. Another verse says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; His loving kindness continues for ever” (Psalm 136:1 – TLB).
It seems a common theme that runs through much of the Bible, a message of praise for the qualities of God’s kindness, mercy—a God who is slow to get angry, full of love and compassion. Here’s another verse: “The Lord is fair in everything he does and full of kindness. He is close to all who call on him sincerely” (Psalm 145:17-18 – TLB).
The wonderful truth is that God is kind because it’s his nature—he can’t be any other. Perhaps you say, How do you know that God is kind? Think of his generosity in sustaining life and blessing us each day with so much we enjoy, even though we take so much of it for granted. Every day God showers down on us his goodness and kindness.
But I think the greatest act of kindness is how the apostle Paul describes it in Ephesians 2:4-7: “God, rich in mercy, brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead in our sins. In union with Christ Jesus, He raised us up and enthroned us with Him in the heavenly realms, so He might display how great is His kindness to us in Christ Jesus”. And then he says, “Because of His kindness you have been saved through trusting Christ” (verse 8).
God took great delight in extending his kindness to you and me by sending his Son Jesus Christ to this world to die on a cross to save us. I can think of no greater act of kindness.
(To be continued in Virtue of Kindness – Part 2)