By, Isam Itson III
Love is Kind.
My wife, Lori, is my superhero. Her example of God fearing love for others has taught me so much over the years. We had just finished shopping for our first Christmas together and she asked me to drive to one of our local sporting goods stores because they had sleeping bags on sale. Being the responsible husband I said,”We bought all of our gifts, and we already have good sleeping bags. We don’t need new ones.” Sweetly and immediately she responded, “Not for us, for the homeless.” “Oh, yeeaahh, yeah, yeah, for the homeless. Sure.” I said.
I had never bought anything for the homeless before. I had given money to people on the street and made financial donations to homeless shelters, but I had never done anything like what my wife was doing. A few years later on one of those mornings when we woke up too late and had to rush out the door, I heard her pray, “Lord help me be kind today.” I was speechless. I had never prayed that for myself before. But I have prayed that for myself almost every day since. Purposeful and voluntary acts of respect and consideration for the needs and concerns of others that honor their value to God demand that we be kind.
The word we translate as kind is an action. It means to show mercy and provide something beneficial for someone in a gentle manner. Be gentle and merciful and courteous as you meet the practical needs of people. Be an open, gracious, friendly, helpful and giving person. Be kind. This is the same word used by Jesus Christ in Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the most high (God), for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” In other words, love is kind, even when others are not kind.
This is really difficult because unconditional kindness does not come naturally. Kindness is developed over time and demands encounters with disagreeable people and uncomfortable situations. I really hate this part of it. I have to practice kindness under stress. It’s like any strength training. We have to engage against resistance to build strength. But the stress does not build our muscles. It only tears them. Strength and muscle are built in recovery.
When I train for strength I eat well and drink lots of water. I warm up and stretch. Then I push and pull against resistance. Afterward, I stretch, and eat well, and drink water, and allow my body to rest and recover so I can train again the next day. To keep getting stronger and to stay whole and healthy, we have to admit and embrace our fundamental weaknesses and limitations. I need rest and nourishment and hydration as much as I need regular exercise.
In the same way we need to prepare ourselves to engage with disagreeable people. Because if we do not interact with disagreeable people on a regular basis we cannot develop unconditional kindness. So we have to meditate on the fact that we represent God. We have to meditate on God’s kindness to us. We have to pray to God to help us honor him. We have to ask God to fill us with his Holy Spirit before we engage with other people so he can help us love them.
Then, we have to be observant, attentive, considerate, and responsive to the people around us. After our encounters we need to catch our breath, relax, and recover. We need to go back to God, meditating on his love and kindness toward us and asking him to speak to us through his word and by his Spirit living within us. We need God to show us what we did right and what we did wrong so we can do better. Then we need to pray and sleep and move forward, grateful for God’s kindness and goodness toward us.
We engage with others, we succeed, we fail, we learn, we grow, and we re-engage. That’s how we really get stronger and become more active and faithful representatives of God’s love and kindness toward other people. Just like my wife, over time, we can become people who express love and kindness as a way of life that glorifies God and honors God’s love for others.
1. When you think of kindness what does that represent to you?
2. Do acts of kindness come easily to you or is this something you need to work at?
3. How can we prepare ourselves to interact with disagreeable people?
4. Take a moment to meditate on God’s kindness towards you. How has God shown his kindness to you? How you can in turn share his kindness with others?