“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. ” Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend.
For the past few weeks, Kingdom Bloggers has been reviewing the gifts of the Spirit, according to Paul’s list in Galatians 5:22. Paul is distinguishing the authenticity of those who claim to be followers of Christ--those who truly have the power of the Holy Spirit should be exhibiting fruits like love, peace, patience and kindness. Earlier in his letter to the Galatians, Paul instructed these believers to “love your neighbors as yourself” (the Great Commandment, Matt. 22:37-39).
This week, we examine kindness. In the Greek, the transliteration of the word used for kindness is “chrestotes,” which means goodness, kindness, mercy: what is right. Kindness is always the “right thing.” The quote from Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend is, I think, an apt description of kindness--an effort to lighten the burdens of others.
Sometimes, that kind of effort means giving a smile and forbearance when a sharp word might be deserved; giving up a restful afternoon to instead help a friend in need; biting your tongue instead of criticizing. There are countless ways to show kindness. How often do we instead display the opposite?
“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” Job 6:14
I have a friend with an amazing capacity for kindness toward animals--she foster-parents dogs that most of us would consider dangerous: pit bulls. The incidence of dangerous pit bulls, however, has more to do with the individual owner than inherent traits in the dog, and with breeders who deliberately try to create a more aggressive animal.
What about people? Studies have shown that effects of abuse against children is cumulative--these precious ones experience more depression, mental health problems, suicide attempts, physical and emotional symptoms, and engage in more high-risk behaviors.
“You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.” Job 10:12
Kindness (goodness, love and mercy) from adults toward children goes a long way in producing a stable, contented society. Just as cruelty to animals produces aggressive, defensive behaviors in them, so may cruelty and neglect produce children of its own kind.
I have some distinct memories from childhood of kindnesses shown: a relative praying over my injured hand, an aunt who loved to hang out with us, my grandmother slipping me some money to buy something I wanted, a teacher encouraging me in my creativity, my mom talking to me on the phone every day after school from work. Kindness builds cumulatively.
Kindness is not necessarily “niceness.” Sometimes the kindest thing is to be lovingly honest or direct, even when doing so may mean incurring the anger or wrath of the other person. God does that with us--it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He truthfully reveals to us our faults and failures, yet at that very same moment, tells us of His great love for us.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:4