“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Over the past several weeks, I’ve found myself doing some unexpected but rather exciting in-depth study of this word “kindness” and how it is used in Scripture. Our English translation of this Hebrew and Greek word leaves much to be desired, as it is difficult to really capture the full meaning in just one word. I’ve had my mind blown as I’ve dug a bit deeper, and I want to share that thrill with you today. I do hope that God’s Word thrills you!
I don’t think that it’s much of a surprise to you that kindness is a fleeting trait in our society. This would explain why we are so shocked every time we encounter an act of true kindness because they are becoming more and more rare. Being cut off on the freeway or in line happens every day, so when someone actually ushers us to go ahead of them, our eyebrows raise and something sparks in our hearts. When the car in front of us pays for our order in the drive-thru, shock and surprise are commonly expressed because the reality we’ve come to know is that this world is not a very nice place. We rarely miss the wrong done to us, but how many times do we overlook our own lack of kindness in every day, normal encounters? This is where I want us to go today. Let’s look inward, shall we?
The word translated into “kindness” in our modern day versions of the Bible embodies a host of descriptions that I believe add an enormous weight to the call to kindness that is expected of every person who claims to follow Jesus Christ. This one word assumes all of these others:
Love, mercy, covenant loyalty, goodness, grace, gentleness, benevolence, faithfulness, generosity.
Really? Yes! All of that and some more is packed into the meaning of this one word – kindness. It kind of raises the bar, does it not? How is genuine, biblical kindness displayed in your every day life? How is kindness present and apparent in your interactions with your spouse? Your friends? Your co-workers? Your boss? The barista taking your coffee order? The waitress bringing you your food? The customer service representative on the other end of the phone? Are you kind? Because if you take another quick look at our verse from Ephesians 4, kindness is the catalyst that propels you towards the rest – tenderheartedness and forgiveness. We know we’re called to forgive, but too often we jump to that step while completely ignoring to call to kindness, not realizing that genuine forgiveness must accompany kindness. How are we to forgive when we refuse kindness? When we disregard kindness? When we overlook kindness?
The reality is that this unpacked definition of kindness is exactly the affection that Christ has poured onto us. Isn’t it great to know, then, that He isn’t expecting us to come up with it all on our own but rather to tap into the tank of kindness that He has filled us up with first? We live in a cruel world, one that has rejected Christ and His Word and one that prioritizes self above selflessness. The art of kindness must be on display in the life of the believer, in the extraordinary and in the mundane. Where else are they going to see the face of Jesus if not in us? “Be kind” is a command, not a suggestion. How are we doing with this?