Monday, May 18, 2015

The Value of Kindness

  The older I get, the more  I appreciate the kindness other Christians have shown me over the years, and the more apparent it is to me how little kindness I have given out.  When I first got saved, I was, by all indications, a handful, and  that probably hasn't changed as much as I  think it has. I said stupid stuff, and I did stupid stuff. I mishandled probably  just about every  situation I was faced with.  I knew just enough Bible to be dangerous.  Other Christians, mostly older and mostly women, were very kind to me, and that kindness allowed me the chance to grow into the slightly grayer, slightly more nearsighted handful that people are kind to today.
  The first appearance of  the word kindness in your Bible is in Genesis 20:13 which says "And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come , say of me, He is my brother. ". The context is interesting in that Abraham is trying to  pull a 'fast one', but the definition is valid; kindness is treating someone like they are your brother. Kindness is defined in 1 Samuel 15 as having the ability to destroy, but refraining from using that ability. In Joshua 2, Rahab tells the  Israelite spies that she has shown them kindness in not turning them over to the men looking  for them, and she expects  kindness in return in regards to her family.  David showed Mephibosheth kindness, taking him into his house and  making him as one of his sons.   God says to Israel over and over again in the Old Testament that, in the midst of apostasy and idolatry that he has shown 'kindness' to them. The Proverbs 31 woman is  said to have "the law of kindness" in her tongue.
   Kindness never involves glossing over sin or misrepresenting the truth of God.  In fact, in 2 Samuel 2:6, kindness and  truth  are paired together, and kindness and mercy are paired together repeatedly in the book of Psalms.   In the New Testament we are  commanded to "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved , bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;"  with Jesus Christ  being our example. We are admonished in a similar vein in Ephesians 4 to "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers ."
  Just as a scalpel can both heal and destroy, truth without kindness can actually be quite destructive, It's clear from the verses cited here, as well as  scores of others, that kindness involves treating someone  as a brother while  imparting to them the truth for their edification, not their destruction.  It is having the ability to hurt, but refraining from doing so. It is exemplified by the behavior of God towards us, and it is a behavior we are commanded to emulate.
  In a previous post, I tried to highlight my own failures as a young parent.  It's worth mentioning that, in the midst of all that, there were people who showed me great kindness. There were people who were obviously on my side even as they occasionally took me to task.  As we felt we were doing a horrible job, and maybe we were, these people never  pointed out our shortcomings just because they could. One of them was an older lady named Miss Barbara. One  of them was an older mom named  Mary.  One of them was a  younger lady with her own passle of kids named Emily. There was a Miss Robby, who didn't go to church with us.  One was the mother of  some dear friends. One of them was my pastor, who over and over in the office let me know that  I could do this, and that he was on my side.  Even if I disagreed with his recommendations ( most of which I followed anyway) , I always left knowing that we were all wanting the same thing, even if we didn't agree on how to get it. If I was remiss in mentioning them, the fault is entirely my own.   The post was supposed to be about my failures, not other people's successes.
  I said all that to say this; in light of that last post, I have been the recipient of both kindness and cruelty. My wife spent most of the day crying as people of our acquaintance weighed in on my failures, both past and present. Some people's remarks were  surprisingly personal given our shared history.  Apparently a poor opinion of me and my family had been latent in their hearts for quite some time, and having an  opportunity to make it known, they did. That's fine, I'm a big kid, and I 'm certain I deserve a certain amount of that, having been so unkind and so harsh on other people in the past.
  You see, we like to quote the verse in Galatians 6 "Be not deceived ; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth , that shall he also reap ." outside of it's context. The context of Galatians 6 is  that  kindness must be shown to others if you expect kindness in return. A brother in error must be treated a certain way  or , when it's your turn to be the  idiot, nobody will be kind to you.  I have decided, in light of all this, to assume that I am simply reaping off of seeds sown long ago, and this affair has made me more mindful of how to act in the future.  So to both the kind and the cruel, thank you.
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