Over the last year I have seen more tshirts, bumper stickers, and signs that have some version of the phrase “be kind” on them. I usually do not have strong reactions to little things like this, but every time I have seen them, I have realized what a deep longing and hunger I have for there to be more kindness in the world around us. I don’t think I realized how much I took kindness for granted before it seemed to evaporate from public discourse all around us.
It’s absence has been most noticeable in Christian spaces.
Maybe you are surprised to hear me say that, but I firmly believe that kindness should be a defining trait of people who have made the choice to follow Christ and pattern their lives after him. When kindness is not a part of our lives, we look less like Jesus and more like the worst parts of ourselves.
So what is kindness? Well, Paul wrote in one of his letters that we should “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”.
This tells me that kindness is rooted in something much deeper than simple niceness or politeness. Kindness is possible when we allow our hearts to be softened to feel compassion for others. It is the doorway that love and grace flow through in our relationships with each other. It is rooted in a sense of humility that recognizes that we are broken people who have received mercy and forgiveness from the Divine creator of all things. So we act in kindness as generously as we have received it.
Kindness can be seen in the life of Christ, who many times felt deep compassion when he was with people who were struggling through everyday life and the suffering that can so often come with it. Jesus often gave of himself to heal, to listen, and to serve. This self-giving love is what defines Jesus’ life and it is out of self-giving love that kindness grows. So for those of us wanting to live in the way of Jesus, we need to know that the world is hungry for this type of kindness that was on display in the life of Jesus.
Kindness can shape the way we view the world and can temper our reactions to be judgmental and critical. Kindness reminds us that we are all in need of healing and love, and that we have been set free to share God’s abundant love with every person we meet. Even they don’t deserve it. Maybe especially if they do not “deserve” it. You probably don’t “deserve” either, and even still, it has been abundantly given to you.
So let’s cultivate kindness together! It is the fruit of God’s Spirit flowing and working through us, and I firmly believe that any prayer asking God to grow kindness within us is honored and answered. With God’s help we can make the choice to see others as in need of compassion and care rather than in need of our criticism and quick judgement.
We can encourage one another by letting the kindness of Christ shine through us. May this be a great work of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives!