When I talk with my grandchildren I always discover new words that are popping up. Some are a great deal of fun, but others may leave me scratching my head. For example, one of my grandsons will often respond to something good that is being suggested as “solid.” Another grandson is known to say something is really “bad” and that now means “good.”
It seems like just yesterday that many of us said something was “cool” at similar times. Oxford Dictionaries Online say we add about 1,000 new words per year and other words disappear or appear to shift in meaning or usage.
One word I hear far less than I once did is the word kind. I recall hearing admonitions to be kind to others not only from my parents or Sunday School teachers, but also my school teachers. I even heard it on some of the popular TV shows of the 50’s.
In the turbulent 60’s the word kind seemed to begin to fade from common usage. I specifically recall it reappearing when President George H.W. Bush called for a “kinder and gentler” nation in accepting his nomination to the presidency in 1988.
As I go about daily life I am persuaded that we need more kindness than ever before. If I ask someone what kind means, he or she will often say it means being “nice.” That is somewhat of a vague description when the dictionary states plainly that it means, “being friendly, generous, and considerate.”
Proverbs 11:17 (NLT) makes a strong case for kindness:
“Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.”
Given the state of the world, society, our neighborhoods, schools, and government that could point to why so much destruction is occurring.
I recently was reading Romans in the Message and in chapter 2 as we near the end of verse 4 Paul gives insight into the kindness of God and its use:
“God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”
I wonder if kindness began to dim when we were deceived into believing it reflects weakness.
Andrew J. Bauman noted in Stumbling Toward Wholeness:
“Love precedes kindness. Without love we cannot be kind.”
That suggests the core issue is love or the lack of it, love that comes from One greater than us. Too often we love (or try to) based on a feeling. The Lord loves because He is love.
And here’s the deal. We need to start with accepting it from Him and appropriate his kindness toward us to be transformed into someone who is kind. Somehow we get that part mixed up and either let ourselves totally off the hook or hold ourselves hostage despite his offer of grace.
“Kindness to self is a lost art in Christendom, yet without it we become stuck in the early part of the restoration journey. Kindness is the grease of God to get our transformation moving. Kindness gives us the ability to press on even in the darkest of times.”
Andrew J. Bauman
Maybe we get mired down in that belief I mentioned earlier: kindness means niceness. It is not mere kindness.
Bauman says: “Kindness is not for the faint of heart nor the chronic people pleaser.”
If we are looking for examples of kindness in scripture, we can start with the father in the parable of the prodigal son. We can also see it in the confrontation of Nathan to David when David orders Uriah the Hittite to the front lines of battle for a certain death so David won’t be exposed for sleeping with Uriah’s wife.
Nathan loved David. His loving confrontation is an example of kindness toward David. Why? It led to David’s repentance. There could be no greater kindness to someone Nathan loved. There you see again that love is the source of the kindness.
If our daily life is not showing evidences of kindness, it’s time to look beyond the superficial behaviors that appear kind and look at our heart condition.
In Galatians 6:22-23 (NIV) Paul writes plainly that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit at work within us:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Whatever happened to kindness?
When our heart condition is not residing in the grace, mercy, truth, and love of the Lord, it seems unlikely we will see much evidence of kindness in our life.
And maybe that is where we need to start realizing that it starts with each one of us becoming what we say we are, so that the entire world can see the Lord’s transforming grace at work.