On our way back to the car after leaving a store recently, my wife and I were chatting about some things we planned to do later. I was focused on what we were talking about and not paying much attention to people coming and going around me. Abruptly, my wife turned aside and walked away, as though whatever profound stuff I was saying didn’t matter as she headed over toward a woman sitting in a wheelchair at the edge of the sidewalk. She seemed a bit frail and had no one with her. My wife approached with her characteristically friendly smile and asked if she might need some help. The woman’s face brightened as she returned the smile, and thanked her for asking. She said she was okay and just waiting for her ride to come.
It was a simple exchange, an easily forgotten non-event that went unnoticed by everyone except the ones involved. It didn’t last more than a few seconds and produced no measurable impact. No strategic objectives were accomplished and no major sacrifices were involved. No lives were saved, no injuries were averted, and no one’s circumstances were altered, but it occurred to me that something with remarkably Biblical overtones had just taken place. It was just a random act of kindness, but for those few seconds, the atmosphere around a small piece of sidewalk in an insignificant Virginia town felt better. Someone with nothing to gain went out of her way to check on the welfare of someone she didn’t know, and that simple gesture made that little part of the world a more pleasant place to be.
A Stark Contrast ~
I mention that simple incident because it stands in such stark contrast to the confrontational aura that pervades so much of our nation these days. Unprovoked rudeness is commonplace, and people are becoming more and more reticent to engage in spontaneous conversation with those they don’t know. With social media trolls lurking everywhere, the digital world offers no secure escape. Almost every article we share through Gallagher’s Pen runs the risk of triggering a verbal assault from some unknown person who finds our words, actions, beliefs, or political position intolerably “offensive.” Personal kindness seems to be a vanishing quality, and that void needs to be filled.
Looking back, you might even think the Apostle Paul had been given a prophetic glimpse at the rude, hateful, belligerent, and disruptive behavior on public display in America these days. The admonition he presented to the Ephesians certainly has relevance to us here and now.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV)
More than a Call to Be “Nice” ~
That directive from God is more than just a suggestion that we should all try to be “nicer.” It’s a call to engage in a behavioral revolution that is consistent with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The behaviors and attitudes Jesus directed His followers to display are designed to offer hope and encouragement to those who are overwhelmed by fear, distrust, and despair. Those who follow Jesus are challenged to accept a view of themselves so radically different that God describes it as putting on a “new man.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NKJV)
Part of what God expects is that the “new man” be “kind.” That’s not a directive to dodge people who disagree with us in order to avoid a difficult conversation, or to offer tacit approval of behavior that is morally, socially, legally, or ethically unacceptable. It’s not a call to ignore evil in order to avoid making the perpetrators feel badly. The underlying root for the word translated “kind” or “kindness” in the New Testament carries the connotation of behavior that is useful and whose objective is to accomplish results that are good. That means that kindness is more than just pleasant. It is also productive.
Kindness is an effort to make hard things as easy as possible and to facilitate any “good” that can be achieved. Kindness does not engage in twisting or ignoring the truth in order to sound appealing, and it is not defined by a timid demeanor, nor the diminished volume and tone of our voice. Engaging in disingenuous congeniality, approval-seeking, or flattery may mimic kindness, but will never accomplish the objectives God intended. Kindness is behavior governed by a heart that wants to achieve resolution to conflict, not just an avoidance of it. Kindness as God designed it seeks to develop thoughtful, useful, helpful responses that result in the cooling of tempers and the reduction of strife.
Strength, not Weakness ~
In this upside-down culture, kindness isn’t always granted the value that God places on it. It’s frequently misconstrued as weakness or even cowardice, but kindness, as God defines it, is one of the greatest strengths we’ll ever encounter. It’s hard to think about kindness when we’re faced with rudeness, insensitivity, hatefulness, arrogance, or worse. Our impulsive tendency is to retaliate and treat others as we’ve been treated. That’s a normal response, but Jesus didn’t call us to be normal, and He didn’t send us to change the world by duplicating its methods.
Kindness isn’t achieved by taking a course in applied psychology or joining a kindness group on Facebook. Kindness is listed among the characteristics of the “fruit” of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22), and as such, it is not achieved by human effort alone. Kindness has the power to transform the angry, rude, selfish atmosphere that defines our culture, and sometimes even our churches. But it is also a divine attribute and like all those qualities of God’s nature that He offers flawed human beings, it is only achieved by surrendering our natural impulses to the One whose love and kindness toward us led Him to die in our place. Simple acts have powerful possibilities when we yield to the One who chooses the unlikely, inspires the imperfect, and empowers the unnatural. We never know when God may use a commonplace gesture to express His love in a way that leads to changing someone’s eternal destiny.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “Those who follow Jesus are challenged to accept a view of themselves so radically different that God describes it as putting on a ‘new man.’ ” Eph 4:22-24 (NKJV) @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Kindness isn’t always granted the value that God places on it. It’s frequently misconstrued as weakness, or even cowardice, but kindness, as God defines it, is one of the greatest strengths we’ll ever encounter.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “…like all those qualities of God’s nature that He offers flawed human beings, (kindness) is only achieved by surrendering our natural impulses to the One whose love and kindness toward us led Him to die in our place.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Simple acts have powerful possibilities when we yield to the One who chooses the unlikely, inspires the imperfect, and empowers the unnatural.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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