Should Christians be careful about everything we say and do? The answer is “yes,” but reality is something less than perfection. We teach our kids to be kind, even though they will experience unkindness from others. We make kindness a standard of behavior but live with the free will that enables us to choose another standard when we want to.
We listen to campaign ads and debates filled with anger and malice. We respect and love people who voice differing opinions. We listen most intently to conversation that take place with lowered, secretive voices. The quiet words are often what we remember most. As Christians we know what God has called us to do but all of us are living as imperfect examples.
Every now and again it is good to reexamine the standards we have accepted for our lives. Many of us have felt that if we are kinder than others, we are doing well. But who are the others and should they be our standard for comparison? Are Christians acting with greater kindness than others or are we acting with God’s kind of kindness? Is it possible for imperfect people, surrounded by imperfect people, to live with his standards for our lives? When in doubt, I like to look to past wisdom to gain perspective on the future.
Here are a few standards for kindness from some wise leaders:
— Henry Drummond said, “The greatest thing a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of his other children.” When we are kind to others, we express kindness and gratitude to God. All of us would like to think we have made God smile. Who will you treat like God’s child today?
— Blaise Pascal said, “Kind words do not cost much; yet they accomplish much.” We might be slandered by a few people, even for a kind act. But we will be liked and respected by most people for that same kind act. Kindness might cost a little, but in the end, it earns us much more than we paid.
— Steve Groll said, “If I treat people with the same courtesy and kindness I would like to be treated with, it may change some people, but the person it changes the most is me.” We are often kind, for our own sakes. We really do “reap what we sow,” and kindness is one of our most valuable crops. But, the best way to become a kind Christian is to act with Christian kindness toward others. Jesus did not need to be treated like God’s Son in order to be God’s Son. We don’t need to be treated with Christian kindness in order to be Christians.
— Martin Luther King Jr., speaking about the parable of the Good Samaritan, said, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'” We know to be kind so that God will bless our lives. Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we are aiming for the higher standard: Are we expressing Christian kindness so that God can use us to bless others?
Paul provided some spiritual advice on the subject of kindness. Paul explained that kindness was a gift of the Holy Spirit. In other words, true biblical kindness is produced by God’s Spirit, more than by our good intentions. If we want to be kind Christians, we will need to be filled with the kindness of Christ. But that is true of all the character qualities the Holy Spirit wants to produce. Paul wrote, “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” (Galatians 5:22–23). The fruit of the Spirit will never be our best efforts. Spiritual fruit is always God’s perfect effort in us.
If the Holy Spirit prompted our conversations, how would they change? Do we set the same standards for our homes as we do for our time at church, or work, or social occasions? Is kindness a natural byproduct of our Spirit-led lives? We can never be perfect, but we can make sure we are living with God’s kind of kindness. The sure way to lower our standard is to never reach for God’s. His character can infuse ours, through the power of his Holy Spirit. Let’s aim for God’s kind of kindness.
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