Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Is the problem that our pace of life today excludes being kind to others? In Parts 1 and 2, I’ve been looking at this business of kindness. The question to consider is, Are we so busy that we overlook acts of kindness?
Many of us have busy schedules but we can use that as an excuse to avoid helping someone in need. Maybe you think, I can say a prayer for that person I saw yesterday. That’s all I need do. But the Bible doesn’t say that. It says, “If you have a friend who is need of food and clothing, and you say to him, Well, good-bye and God bless you. Stay warm and eat hearty, and then you don’t give him clothes or food, what good does that do?” (James 2:15-16 – TLB).
Kindness Requires Action
Kindness is more than a pat on the back and saying, Have a nice day. It means getting involved and getting your hands dirty if you have to. Kindness is visible and active. It moves beyond the spiritual and the emotional, to the physical and practical.
I heard of a chaplain working in a hospital who saw a lady sitting in the corridor having just been through chemotherapy. She looked tired and exhausted and her shoes were untied. The chaplain asked if he could do up her laces and she said, Yes. He sat down on the floor and tied up her shoe laces and the lady said she felt like a young child once again. It was a good feeling to have someone that day who cared for me, she said.
This is kindness, shown in simple ways. In a world where selfishness, pettiness and meanness seem to rule the day, acts of kindness can bring unexpected delight, even in tying up laces for someone.
Kindness moves beyond the spiritual and the emotional, to the physical and practical.
Kindness means getting up close and personal. It’s one thing to watch TV footage of starving children, but it’s another thing to go and work for an aid agency. It’s one thing to donate some of your money to charity—it’s another to hold the hand of a dying AIDS patient. True kindness gets close and bears the burden of another person’s pain. Whilst the watchword for today is ‘don’t get involved’, the truly kind person is prepared to get involved.
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Theologian and writer Henri Nouwen used to say that a true friend is someone who can be silent with us in our time of despair, during our grief, or can tolerate not knowing everything, and share our difficulties. That is a friend who is kind. Often the greatest kindness is knowing we don’t have all the answers, but to still hang in there with someone who is hurting. Perhaps that’s been your experience.
Renewing the World, Person by Person
Jesus said in Luke 6:36-37 (TLB): Try and show as much compassion as your Father does. Never criticize or condemn—or it will come back on you. Go easy on others; then they will do the same for you”. God wants us to live so that kindness is a natural outcome of everything we do. That’s a tall order, I know, but Jesus can change your heart and bring this quality into your life if you ask him. It’s not about boasting to others how good we are—it’s about letting others see that you belong to Jesus. He said, “Let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:15-16 – TLV).
Jesus wants to renew the world, person by person. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians:
Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new life, and because of His deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don’t worry about making a good impression on them but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently.
Let the peace of your heart which comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives… (Colossians 3:12,15 – TLB).
Did you know that in the ancient world, when the Christian faith was in its infancy, those who followed Jesus were called ‘the kind ones’, rather than Christ followers. This was because the Greek words for ‘Christ’ and ‘kindness’ were very similar. Only one letter difference in Christos (meaning Christ) and chrestos (meaning kindness). Those who looked on saw these kind, loving people who truly practised what they preached. They were following the teachings of Jesus.
Take opportunities as they are presented to show kindness to someone today.
This is the same today. We are called upon to show kindness because that’s what God wants. The Bible says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ Jesus forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late”. Take opportunities as they are presented to show kindness to someone today, even if you think it’s not much. Giving and receiving kindness are parts of life that have the greatest impact.
Heavenly Father, we admit we’ve failed to show your kindness when we should have. We’ve taken others for granted, and not acted in love when given the opportunity. Help us to do better today. Amen.