Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I spoke about the topic of kindness. When Billy Graham once said, “Kindness is an essential part of God’s work and ours here on earth”, I think he was spot on. Because God is kind, it follows that we, his children, should also be kind.
People like Albert Schweitzer understood this to mean that constant kindness accomplishes so much. He compared it to the sun making ice to melt. He said, “Kindness causes misunderstanding and hostility to evaporate”.
You may remember a movie called Pay it Forward, based on a book by the same title. Trevor McKinney, a 12-year-old student, decided that he wanted to do a kind deed for three people. When they wanted to return the favour to him, he said, “No, don’t thank me. Pass your act of good deeds onto three other people”. And that’s what happened; and today there is a worldwide organisation called the Pay it Forward Foundation, which helps school students understand they can change the world through acts of kindness.
A World Where Kindness Is Normal
Can you imagine a world where kindness is considered a normal experience? What a difference it would make to countless numbers of people. Instead of evil, greed and a hunger for material wealth, we would have a world where people choose to live their lives devoted to love and unselfishness. Maybe it sounds too good to be true; but think for a moment about Jesus Christ who lived 2,000 years ago. As you read the Gospels, you suddenly discover a man who was different to everyone else.
He showed love to all he met, especially in a society where kindness was not tolerated. Jesus lived in a time of brutality and selfishness and, when he came with a different teaching, people suddenly wanted to hear more. He was like a breath of fresh air. If a person was despised, like Zacchaeus, the tax collector, Jesus made a point of becoming his friend much to the amazement and disapproval of the religious establishment.
When the hungry crowds flocked around to listen, he took pity on them and provided food for them from almost nowhere. Another day, a prostitute came to see him during a meal with Simon the Pharisee, unannounced. She was distraught with guilt and anguish over her lifestyle and needed divine forgiveness, and Jesus took the time and showed compassion and told her, “Your sins are forgiven”. He was kind to her when others saw her as a nuisance and would have nothing to do with her. All of his life, Jesus showed this powerful kindness that knew no limits. He washed the dirty feet of others, touched and healed lepers, and reached out to the forgotten people.
Kindness—Love in Action
When he said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve, and give my life a ransom for many”, he meant it. In the end, at age 33 years, he was taken to a place called Calvary and nailed to a rough cross. Even there he showed kindness to a man who hung next to him on another cross. He was concerned for the welfare of his mother Mary even at the time of his own terrible pain and suffering. No wonder Jesus has been described as the most influential person in human history. His acts of kindness alone show him to be different to anyone else.
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Jesus told the story we call The Good Samaritan in Luke’s gospel. It was about a Jew who one day travelled from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by bandits and left on the side of the highway. They attacked him so badly it looked as if he had died. Two religious leaders came by and ignored him, but a Samaritan man—who was part of a despised race—came by and took pity on him and gave first aid and took him to a place for help. He even paid for the cost. Jesus used the story to explain that everyone should extend kindness and mercy to their fellow man, because it’s the right thing to do.
In the days of Jesus, anyone who heard the story would have been surprised that the Samaritan not only stopped to help, but put himself in danger. But Jesus said this is a great example of the way we should show love and kindness to others. In trying to define what kindness is, I can think of nothing better than this.
Kindness is ‘love in action’. That says it all. It builds up rather than puts down and focuses on the needs of others rather than ourselves. It works for peace and unity and is sensitive to the feelings, hurts, pains and joys of others.
(To be continued in Virtue of Kindness – Part 3)