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LOVE IS KIND - by Ted Schroder


By Ted Schroder
January 14, 2007

When King Saul was trying to take the life of David, his son Jonathan pledged to protect his friend, and warn him of what his father was planning to do. (1 Samuel 20) In return Jonathan asked David to promise to "show me unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not cut off your kindness from my family."

Later, when Saul's sons, including Jonathan, were slain by the Philistines in a battle on Mount Gilboa, and Saul took his own life, David grieved for their deaths. (1 Samuel 31) He was anointed king over Judah and eventually united all the tribes of Israel under his kingship. Twenty years after he made his promise to Jonathan, he asked, "Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?" (2 Samuel 9:3)

"God's kindness!" This is the quality of kindness that St. Paul talks about as descriptive of love: God is love, love is kind. God demonstrates his loving-kindness to us in what he has done for us in Christ. "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." (Titus 3:4) The Gospel is God's kindness to us, "the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus," to do something for us that we do not deserve. (Ephesians 2:7) It is God's loving kindness that woos and wins our hearts to respond in like manner.

It is brought to the attention of David that there is a son of Jonathan, who is crippled in both feet, from his nurse dropping him as a baby. David has Mephibosheth recalled from exile to the court and said, "Don't be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belongs to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table." Overnight Mephibosheth became a rich man, and part of the royal court again.

This is a beautiful picture of the kindness of God. Like Mephibosheth, all of us have been crippled by the Fall. We have fallen short of God's purpose and plan for our lives. We are crippled in our minds, and emotions, and wills. Like the prodigal son, in a distant country, we have experienced spiritual exile, for there is distance between us and the kingdom of heaven. Then God in his kindness comes to us in Christ, and invites us to sit with him at his heavenly banquet in the palace of his presence.

It is this generosity of character and action that God's Spirit wishes to produce in our lives. Paul tells us that we should "clothe ourselves with kindness." (Colossians 2:7) Dr. Harold Koenig, in his book, Kindness and Joy: Expressing the Gentle Love, writes, "Real kindness is altruistic and generous at its core. It involves a giving of oneself to another in a completely other-centered way. Kindness is honest and up front. Kindness expects nothing in return, and is wholly focused on the other person's good. The kind person must intend to do good for the other." (p.4)

When General Robert E. Lee was president of Washington Academy, which was renamed Washington and Lee University, a new student came into his office and asked for a copy of the school's rules and regulations. Lee replied that the school had no printed rules. He said, "Our only rule is kindness."

Abraham Lincoln said, "Kindness is the only service that will stand the storms of life and not wash out. It will wear well and will be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away."

How do we clothe ourselves with kindness? For many of us it is very hard. Our personalities, our temperaments, our experiences of life, make it very hard for us to be kind to others. A person may be a devout Christian and yet find it very difficult to be kind. The competitive world of business, the school of hard knocks, and the lack of kindness in our childhood, seem to cripple us, and make us almost incapable of kindness.

If kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, it can only be produced by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it is nurtured by being in communion with Jesus. Our hearts and habits have to come under the control of the Spirit every day if we are to be kind. Kindness is desiring to live out the Golden Rule of Jesus: "To do to others what you would have them do to you." (Matthew 7:12) It is to treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves. It is the essence of encouragement.

Clothing ourselves in kindness requires cultivating the habit of kind interpretations. Our tendency is to judge one another, to be clever in our comments, to the point of sarcasm. Instead, love that is kind gives the other person the benefit of the doubt. It is to opt for charity rather than suspicion, to learn to inwardly praise rather than to criticize. This doesn't mean being naïve, and lacking discernment. But it forces us to see people in Christ, and to think the best of them. It could transform our attitude to others.

Kind words cost us nothing. They are the stuff of encouragement.

It was but a kindly word,

A word that was lightly spoken;

Yet not in vain

For it stilled the pain

Of a heart that was nearly broken.

It strengthened a faith beset with fears

And groped blindly through the midst of tears,

For light to brighten the coming years,

Although it was lightly spoken.

Frederick Faber has written that "it is harder for a clever man to be kind, especially in his words. He has the temptation to say clever things; and somehow, clever things are hardly ever kind things. There is a drop of acid in them.... A man who lays himself out to amuse is never a safe man to have for a friend... There is also a grace of kind listening... Kind listening is often an act of the most delicate interior mortification, and is a great assistance towards kind speaking."

Kindness in speaking and listening is an act of humility. It is also more effective than sarcasm. Faber writes, "Satire will not convert men. Hell threatened very kindly is more persuasive than a biting truth about a man's false position."

Kindness should never be confused with weakness. The world's kindness can lead to indulgence which encourages denial of problems, failure to act for the good of others, and excuses bad behavior. Kindness sometimes requires forcing an addict to go through the hell of withdrawal. Kindness means saying 'No' to a spoiled child. Kindness may mean reporting a crime committed by a friend, and making them face the consequences. It may be necessary to be tough in order to be kind. That may be the loving thing to do for the good of the other.

We strengthen ourselves with kindness when we recall God's kindness coming to us through people in our lives, many of whom, though dead, yet speak through their kindness to us in years past. Our hearts are filled with gratitude as we thank God for them. As David thanked God for his loving kindness shown in Jonathan's friendship, Mephibosheth thanked God for David's kindness. "I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."

A Prayer: Help us always to be kind; always to make people feel that they are welcome, and that we care; always to think of the feelings of others as much as we would wish them to think of ours; always to respect and never to laugh at the things which are important and sacred to someone else. Help us to walk, looking unto Jesus and to make him the pattern of our lives. Amen.

(William Barclay)

Ted Schroder's new book, SURVIVING HURRICANES: DELIVER US FROM EVIL, is now available from www.Amazon.com or Amelia Island Publishing, (info@ameliapublishing.com) 904-277-4414, for $24.95 plus $2.55 for shipping. It deals with the problem of evil and suffering from the point of view of the Armor of God, and the Lord's Prayer, and provides prayers and questions for reflection and discussion.

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