It’s a wonder I ever got married. Actually, what’s more amazing is that I married a wonderful woman who checked every single box I had when I was younger. (As a shameless plug, you should do yourself a favor and check out her blog here.) It’s truly an act of God’s grace that she wanted to marry me, because I’ve been a jerk for half my life.
Some of those who know me are nodding right now.
“Yep. You were. Indubitably.”
I’m still growing and learning how not to be a jerk, but thankfully, when I was in college I mellowed quite a bit. I shed the zeal and intensity, and I softened. Where I used to intellectually beat others into submission, now I just pin them.
That’s not exactly true. I don’t really engage in debates often, unless it’s with my wife and we’re discussing important issues such as how we should vote or whether the toilet lid stays up or gets put down. For those interested, the correct answer is down.
(We also have disagreements about driving in inclement weather. As an aside, I discuss how much I like storms in another post. You should check it out How Not to Be Afraid. For those interested in this topic, my judgment can’t be trusted.)
Why I Don’t Argue
The reason I don’t engage in debates much anymore is that I rarely see the point. Maybe I don’t see the value because the topic doesn’t matter. Or maybe the topic is worthwhile but I don’t believe the other person has the will to change his or her mind regardless of the soundness of my logic.
Even greater than my pragmatic approach though, is this gnawing passion for my own way, my own opinion. It’s that passion that got in the way so frequently when I was younger. When I interacted with others I served my zeal instead of them. I fanned the flames of my own opinions rather than encouraging others to grow their own.
As I mellowed, I realized that I cared less about my own opinions and my rightness, and I cared more for others. Sure, I’m still passionate. It’s how I’m wired. But I’ve never won someone over to my way of thinking by browbeating them with sound logic and facts. In every instance of convincing and converting someone, it has been through kindness.
People Don’t Follow Logic
No matter how logical we think we are, we are slaves to our hearts. People make decisions not based on reason. People decide based on their wills which are informed by experience. If I have never experienced snow, it doesn’t matter how many pictures I see or stories I hear. I must be in it to believe it.
So kindness is the means by which we reason with another person’s heart. It is the language of God. Kindness sees a person for who they are and what they need, and it translates our thoughts and experiences into something the other person can understand for their own benefit. It is a universal language independent of nationality, social status, and gender. It has no consideration for creed, color, or culture. Kindness is heat to melt the hardest hearts and coolness to calm the most inflamed passions.Kindness is heat to melt the hardest hearts and coolness to calm the most inflamed passions. #twelve2nds Click To Tweet
Lessons from Dad
As a father I am routinely reminding my kids to be kind to one another. My wife and I reframe comments they make to ensure they see there is a kind way to say things. Even when they’re upset (or especially when they are) we want to show them their words are powerful.
If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. It is a constant battle to demonstrate kindness. Ironically, it makes me impatient and frustrated that they don’t learn the lesson. Then in my impatience and frustration I try to force them to be kind. How lost am I?
I’ve been doing a series on the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. I wanted to outline how I model and teach these things to my kids. You can read the series for yourself (and if you haven’t done so, subscribe to my blog). But being a dad is a journey with lots of detours (probably for potty breaks) and occasionally wrong turns.
What’s the Meaning of This?
To properly understand why kindness is so important in God’s kingdom, we need to understand the word. The word in Greek is used hundreds of times in various forms throughout the OT and NT. It generally means kindness, but it can also mean serviceable, useful, or good. I think these alternative meanings are really cool.
To truly say you are a “good person” as so many of us do, you need to be kind. But the meaning of good gets a little lost on us as well. Good by what standard? I think goodness here is measured circumstantially. It depends on how useful our behavior is to someone else. Do our words make a difference to another? Do they have a positive effect for change? Does our behavior help another become a better version of themselves?
Beyond the Greek
All of these are incredible thoughts about kindness.
But beyond the Greek, I want to focus on the English word.
When we talk about the word kind what comes to mind? Given the context of this post, you’re probably thinking of how we treat one another. But there is another meaning of kind. It means a thing’s variety or nature.
A person is a kind of mammal.
A Christian is a kind of theist.
A Patriot is a kind of demon.
Kind in both cases comes from an Old English word gecynde which means nature. So kindness is behavior which treats another according to how they were made, according to their nature.
What Do We Believe?
As Christians we believe that all people are made in God’s image. Our nature is a divine thumbprint, pointing us back to a loving Creator.
So to treat someone with kindness is to treat someone as if they are made in the image of God.To treat someone with kindness is to treat them as if they are made in the image of God. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet
But that’s really difficult. Some people don’t look as though they were made in God’s image. The things they do and say look so different than the righteous image of God. How are we supposed to treat others if their nature is so corrupted?
If only there were a pithy saying for what we are supposed to do unto others.
Jesus Weighs In
Thank heavens Jesus gives us the bumper sticker slogan we’re looking for. In Luke 6, Jesus says the following:
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Jesus Ups the Ante
It’s easy to think we’re kind when we treat good people nicely. But Jesus ups the ante. It’s not enough to love those who love us. Even those far from God do that. If we claim to love God, we should demonstrate it in the same way God demonstrates his love for us, by sacrificing our very best and by loving the hateful, serving the spiteful, and blessing the vengeful.
Kindness between people cannot simply be niceness. Niceness is easy. Kindness—treating our enemies as though they were made in God’s image—that is the fruit of a Spirit-filled life.
Let’s Get Practical
You might be asking what some practical steps are to grow in kindness. Here are some things to think about:
- Love your enemies—not just in an academic sense, but actually demonstrate love for and to your enemies. Speak kindly to them and about them. Stop retelling the same old stories about how they hurt you and begin to bless them.
- Pray for your enemies—it won’t come easy to demonstrate love for people who have hurt you. I’m not advocating unhealthy or dangerous exposure to our enemies, particularly if they shouldn’t be trusted. What we should do is ask God for help in forgiving them and ask God to change them and bless them.
- Let God handle the outcome—in many cases you won’t see the returns on your investment. In fact, I wouldn’t count on your enemies changing at all. What does happen is that in the process of praying for our enemies, God changes us.
What do you find the most challenging about being kind to our enemies? What’s the best way to teach this to those under our influence? Please feel free to comment below, and as always, make sure to subscribe to continue getting more great posts like this.