By Libby Farmen
We all want more kindness and compassion. Especially in the climate of today, we see an absence of love for one another. The concept of love is complex, and we often equate it with emotion. We love a lot of people because it makes us feel good. However, this means that our ability to love one another well fluctuates based on our feelings of the moment or our feelings toward a particular individual. The type of love that Jesus asks us to demonstrate to the world is not based on feelings. It’s not designed to be bestowed on those who “deserve” it or who give us love in return.
In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 Paul provides a list of the attributes of love. We could easily replace the word love with the word Jesus and get, “Jesus is kind and patient. Jesus does not envy or boast, etc.” God is love and these are His attributes. We are called to display these attributes because they are of God. Jesus is the creator of love, kindness and patience. We are of our creator. Part of the process of sanctification is the call to pursue a lifestyle that looks more and more like Jesus. As we display the characteristics of love to a broken world and to broken people, we show the world Jesus. Now, more than ever, the world needs kindness, because ultimately, the world needs Jesus. Showing kindness is showing a road to our Savior.
As Jesus walked the earth, he was a living example of kindness. He showed us that kindness is simple. Kindness is spending time with children. Kindness is helping the sick. Kindness is watching over widows and the vulnerable. He showed kindness to both genders, to the young and to the old, to people of different races and cultures, and to the rich and to the poor. Quite simply, Jesus showed us that no one was to be outside of our reach when extending kindness. When I think of Jesus, I am so compelled by the kindness He showed people. The way he was fully present. How He rejected a worldly system of top down wealth and prestige and put ordinary people at the heart of His mission.
The word kindness in the original Greek is chrestos. There really isn’t one English word that completely encompasses the definition, but it’s essentially the concept of being kind and good simultaneously. Chrestos is not just being nice. It’s about working toward the good of others — an implied action that compels us to serve. There is a quote by Bob Goff that perfectly illustrates chrestos, “Loving people the way Jesus did means constantly taking cuts to the back of the line.” Kindness is acting in a way that benefits others – often requiring sacrifice on our part.
If we are truly to live in a way where we are disciplining ourselves to be kind, first we must recognize that we are exhorted to be kind to all. If we believe some people don’t deserve our kindness, then we need to do some heart work and identify where we have let pride or selfishness creep in. Second, being kind takes personal sacrifice. It means waking up each day thinking more about others than about ourselves. It means leaving enough margin in our daily and weekly lives so that we have time to be kind–to be of service to others. Jesus took the time to be kind to people as he went about His day. He didn’t restrict himself to serving in a soup kitchen once a week when it fit into his schedule. People and their needs are inconvenient to our schedules, to our agendas and to our goals. But when we put schedules, agendas and goals in front of people, we’ve lost sight of love.
The only way we can be even remotely successful at this work of being kind is because we have the gift of the Spirit. We love because God first loved us. We can be kind because God was first kind to us–in a way that none of us can ever top. If God was willing to die for every single human being on the planet, then that is a clear signal to you and me that each person has enough worth and value in them for us to show them kindness.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.Titus 3:4–5 (NASB)