For most of us, physical distancing is getting old. We are tired of being cooped up at home. We are ready to get back to family, friends, work, school, and fun that has been put on hold. And the longer we are separated from “normal life”, the crankier some of us are becoming.
Since much of my recent interaction has been on social media, that is where I have noticed this trend the most. (But I know it is happening in our homes, too.) People are criticizing friends and strangers. They are making assumptions, defensively over-reacting, and just plain being rude to others. It is exhausting to take part in these conversations and heart-breaking to observe them. They have the potential to rob us of far more life and steal our joy. But that does not have to happen!
How do we keep our own negativity in check? How do we respond to others, especially those who are attacking us? As we look to God’s Word for guidance, we recognize that WE can be negative and attacking toward Him during our times of fear, worry, and doubt. He sets the perfect example with His response to us:
Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God’s generosity and patient mercy towards you as weakness on his part? Don’t you realise that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, PHILLIPS)
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us… (Titus 3:4-5, NIV)
It is tempting for us to think we need to fight back, put others in their place, or ensure that we are understood. We can even think those show our strength. But those are often fleshly emotional responses. God had every right to blast us with His righteousness, yet He offered us kindness. Because He loved us. Since God’s Spirit lives inside those who have accepted Christ, we have the power to offer kindness, too. Far more life responds to offenses in love with kindness.
The Greek word translated “kindness” in Romans 2 means “usefulness”. This word can also be translated as goodness or gentleness. Kindness is practical, it meets needs. My pastor describes kindness as the initiating part of love that blesses others by meeting practical needs. Sometimes kindness is expressed by doing things for people: taking a meal; babysitting for free; giving them a ride; or helping them with physical projects like moving, home/car repairs, or yard work. At other times, kindness is expressed through words that are helpful to them: checking on them when you have been out of contact; praying with them for a burden they are carrying; encouraging them during a hard situation they face; or speaking the truth in love with gentleness and respect when they are seeking input.
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25, NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind… (I Corinthians 13:4, NIV)
God looks beyond the surface to the heart, and we are wise to do that, too. Often negative speech is driven by emotion; fear, anxiety, or feeling threatened causes people to be defensive and territorial. Conflict resolution strategies start with listening and stating agreement with something the other person said. Reigning in our emotions and communicating that we value the other person (even if we disagree with their statement or action) is a practical way to show love and offer kindness. Sometimes that alone de-escalates the situation and opens the door for further communication and understanding. Other times that starts us down a good path, but we must invest time and more kindness to bring things back to an even keel. But there are times the kindest thing we can do is to graciously leave the conversation and pray for God’s wisdom on how to best express love and kindness moving forward.
What else does God’s word tell us about kindness?
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)
…When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly… (I Corinthians 4:12-13, NIV)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:6-8, NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NIV)
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:24, NIV)
Kindness is a gift we have received from God. Not because we deserved it, but because He chose to give it to us. And He asks, expects, and empowers His children to bless others with this gift, too. The goal of our kindness is to reflect God’s character. This not only gives us far more life but demonstrates God’s love to others. Kindness is one of our Christian superpowers!
Far more life is a benefit of conforming ourselves to Christ’s character. It makes us happy because it brings us into fellowship with God. But His purpose in granting us far more life extends beyond our happiness. It enables us to display the light of His character to a world that is shrouded in spiritual darkness. Our expressions of far more life — our kind words and actions — are a beacon that illuminates God’s presence and power. In this season of widespread fear and uncertainty, kindness shines bright! Let kindness be a way you share far more life with those who are seeking Jesus!
How have you experienced God’s kindness?
When has someone shown you kindness? How did it impact you?
Think of the times you are tempted to be unkind. What negative emotion(s) drive you in those moments?
Which verse on kindness hits home and inspires you?
Seek far more life and watch for opportunities to be a beacon of kindness!
Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso