When you hear the word kindness, what image pops into your head? Is it an encouraging note? A timely phone call? Is it those special chocolate chip cookies that Grandma always made? Or the best friend that stood up for you in middle school?
Maybe you’re like me and you think of Jesus chicken. You know, Chick-fil-a “How may I serve you? It’s my pleasure to serve you.”
(If you’re reading this on a Sunday, I’m so, so sorry.)
Whatever you think about when it comes to kindness, it probably gives you the warm fuzzies. That’s what kindness does, right? When we’re kind to others, they likely experience the same thing. But have you ever thought about why we’re conditioned to feel that warmth?
Paul, one of the early church leaders, seems to think that is has something to do with who God is. He wrote:
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy (Titus 3:4-5)
When you give or receive kindness you are experiencing the character of who God is.
The kindness of God appeared through the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the greatest demonstration of kindness that the world has ever or will ever know. God saw us — lost and lonely people with no hope of freedom from pain and suffering — and offered us a solution.
There wasn’t any logical reason for God to do it. No one can earn or deserve the kindness of God. But, God blessed us with His kindness through Jesus Christ without us having to do a single thing.
As I studied this week I came across the Greek for Kind which is Chrestos. This was a common word used for kind or good in scripture. Additionally, Christ in Greek is Christos. Doesn’t that look familiar? Jesus Christ (Christos) was the embodiment of God’s kindness (Chrestos) towards people.
God knew what we needed — kindness — before we ever knew to ask for it. Recognizing the needs of others and taking action to meet those needs is kindness. It means understanding a need, being compassionate around that need, and then taking action to meet the need.
That’s what God did for us. God understood our need for hope. God loved us and was filled with compassion for us. God sent His Son for us.
This is God’s kindness — the ultimate definition of kindness.
How has God been kind to you? Perhaps you don’t feel like God has ever been kind to you, but I urge you to dig deeper and listen closer: God wants to know you. God wants a relationship with you. God sent Jesus to embody kindness for you!
God is kind and God loves you. So with these two truths, how do we respond? How do we live out what love is asking of you?
Let’s take a look at the letter called Ephesians. Paul was writing this letter to the church at Ephesus and detailing transformation that should take place in us.
No matter if you believed all your life or If you don’t believe the Bible at all or if you are skeptical, if we could just live out this next verse our lives, our homes, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our nation, would be so much better.
Ephesians chapter 4 starting at verse 31:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
God is kind because He sent Jesus. Paul is giving us some insight on how we can live this out in our lives. I mean, he’s given us specific action steps!
Paul says to get rid of:
- Harsh Words
- Evil Behavior
This is a heavy list, am I right? It’s way too easy to be bitter. I’m bitter at people that I don’t even really know. Like, when some couple stops my Instagram scroll with their happy smiling picture on some tropical island. Come on, they don’t deserve to be that happy.
I know somebody is with me.
Yet, Paul is saying we have to get rid of bitterness in our lives.
Oh, and the next on the list: rage. Drop a hidden camera on us while we’re waiting in the school drop off line. If you’re not there yet, parents, it’s coming. We need to learn to chill out if we are going to live out kindness.
And…anger. You know that coworker who seems like they need 3 more cups of coffee, but no one gave them any? How you gonna be kind, bro? Somebody get ‘em a cup of joe. Paul actually says in verse 26, be angry and do not sin.
Maybe that’s easier said than done, but instead of letting it fester, let your anger move you towards justice and righteousness. Get angry and then make a difference. Do something positive and use your anger to be part of the solution.
The next step includes harsh words and slander. We have all have opinions, but they aren’t always beneficial. What if we thought before we spoke? What if we didn’t talk about someone behind their back? What if we held back an opinion that wasn’t helpful?
Paul says to get rid of those things, and he doesn’t just leave it there. He offers an additional challenge to take the place of bitterness, anger, harsh words and the rest. Paul says, “Instead,be kind to each other. “
HOLD THE PHONE PAUL: Are over here telling us that bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander aren’t being kind?
Confession: this blog topic is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to write. Why? Because I suck. I feel like I do all of those things daily. If we are completely honest with ourselves, how often are we kind to our parents. Our spouse? Our kids? Our coworkers? Strangers?
Even though we have specific steps to follow and amazing reasons to do it, it doesn’t always feel better to be kind. It’s so easy to remember when someone was kind to us. God is kind to us. So, why is it so hard for us? Well, I think Paul also thought this was gonna be a hard one for you, so he gives us some simple ways we can be kind.
He says, Be Kind. Then Be Tenderhearted. I love this word. It means to be easily moved towards love, pity, sorrow, or compassion. Be easily moved towards care, understanding, compassion, and always choose love over hate. Be Tenderhearted.
Have you ever been described as tenderhearted? We all know that one person that you can just look them in the eyes and feel like they care about you from the depths of their soul. “That guy is such a teddy bear!” “ that girl always seems like they have time to talk and listen!” These are both examples of being tenderhearted.
Tenderheartedness isn’t a super emotional state that causes the person to be moved to tears at the drop of a hat, but is a deep character quality that takes work. It takes time. It takes replacing some of the things Paul asked us to get rid of.
Next, Paul urged us to Be Forgiving, and not just your average, everyday, run of the mill, “It’s OK you ate the last of the Pringles” kind of forgiveness. He asks us to forgive as Christ has forgiven you. How has Christ forgiven you?
He did it in a way that is undeserved. He didn’t have to do it, but He did. We didn’t deserve it; We can’t earn it. But Jesus gave His life anyway.
He did it in a way that takes sacrifice. Jesus’s kindness towards you was the ultimate sacrifice. He laid down His life for you.
Are you kind towards others by being forgiving? Or are you still holding on to anger, bitterness, and always looking for an opportunity to talk bad about someone?
We are called to be kind because God is kind. When we are kind to others, we are displaying a character of God, showing others how He loves us so very, very much. So, this week, choose to get rid of bitterness, anger, rage, harsh words, slander, and evil behavior and replace it with the kind of kindness that reflects God into a world that so desperately needs it.
Because kindness — true, tenderhearted, forgiving, Christlike kindness — can change everything.