The Call To Kindness: A Christian Perspective"Kindness brings people together even if they have nothing else in common."
When I think about kindness, Commissioner Sharon Tillsley comes to my mind. As a cadet, I had an eye infection, and I couldn’t make it to my classes that day. Then-Major Sharon Tillsley visited my living quarters on the College for Officer Training campus. She comforted me and took me to a doctor’s office, then to the pharmacy to pick up my medication and finally back to my room. It took almost half of her day to do so, but she was cheerful and led me in fun conversation even though my English was pretty limited at that time. Her kindness was not just in her words of compassion and comfort but in her loving and caring actions.
Kindness in the Bible is not just a feeling but an action and a way of living. It is closely related to the concepts of love, mercy and compassion. The Hebrew word for kindness, hesed, is often translated in the Bible as “love and kindness” or “mercy,” emphasizing affection and caring. The Greek word for kindness in the New Testament is chrestotes, which includes the qualities of goodness, gentleness and helpfulness. The Bible is full of examples of kindness. We can learn kindness from how Jesus treated people with a compassionate heart. He did this even when He was not necessarily pleased with how they lived. Take for example Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Rather than “cancel” Zacchaeus or use him as an example of how a “bad” person lives, Jesus was kind to him and brought Zacchaeus back into the family of God. Kindness is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23-24) and is a significant characteristic of the Christian faith. Kindness is the way to show love and compassion to those in need, and it is what we are all called to practice as followers of Jesus. Ephesians teaches us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). The Bible teaches us that kindness is something that we must strive for, not just something we must do. We are called to be kind, loving and merciful.
Kindness is very alien to today’s modern cancel culture, which sees others not as friends and compatriots but as enemies and opponents who should be stopped if they do not agree with one’s own opinions. The tendency of this culture is never to assume the best but to always assume the worst in others. This unkind attitude makes practicing kindness to anyone outside one’s immediate family and close friends virtually impossible. We see it regularly in the news and on social media sites, where people are routinely demonized for holding opinions that others find distasteful. These people are “canceled” and vilified for not agreeing with those who attack them. Sadly, this sort of behavior has become increasingly common. The biblical stance on dealing with others is very different.
Kindness is often overlooked in modern society because the world has been extremely self-centered and materialistic. Assumptions are made about individuals (because of their appearance, social standing, identity, and so forth) without any evidence to support them. Kindness can’t exist in this environment. In the world, as God designed it, people were to see themselves as part of a family. Others were to be seen as potential members and to be treated with kindness and respect. People were to assume the best of others. Kindness is a selfless and biblically valued virtue that could make our world a better place and has the power to transform other’s lives. It is an attitude of caring, compassion and understanding toward others. And it can take many forms, from a simple smile or good-natured words to generous acts or thoughtful gestures.
It is worth noting that this degree of cancel culture may not be as extreme in the Christian Church as it is in the surrounding culture. However, many still consider kindness a show of weakness or an inability to deal with the harsh truths that the Church must engage. For some reason, the Church has allowed the prevailing idea that harshness is strength and that kindness is weakness to make its way into the Christian community. We may need to rethink our view of kindness and look to Jesus and His kindness, even to those who hated Him. Think of who He was kind to and the mercy He showed to everyone He met. How are we like Jesus in this respect?
Against the prevailing societal norms, we must be kind to even those who do not share our beliefs and faith. We must be kind to our enemies, love those who hate us and do good to those who mistreat us. It is a challenging calling but one we must strive for!
Boaz was a man of some considerable wealth who resided in ancient Israel. He eventually would come in contact with Ruth, the widow of one of his relatives. Ruth was a Moabite and not of the house of Israel. She was destitute, and he was not required as a kinsman to help her as there were those of the family who were closer, relationally, to her dead husband. Despite this, Boaz showed kindness to her and went through the trouble of speaking with the closer relative so that he could become her kinsman redeemer. His kindness would have profound repercussions and Jesus would one day be counted as one of his and Ruth’s descendants.
Throughout the Bible, we see God being kind to humanity. He is long-suffering, slow to anger, full of mercy and grace. We see Jesus being kind to the outcasts and those in need. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and cared for the outcasts of society. He was more than happy to be measured with the outcasts and oppressed. We can also see many biblical heroes of kindness, such as Abraham, who welcomed strangers into his house; David, who showed mercy to his enemies, and Paul, who preached the gospel with meekness and love.
Kindness is not difficult. It’s something we can practice in our daily lives. We can be kind to friends and family, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers. We can show kindness by being helpful when needed, being patient, being understanding and speaking words of encouragement and firmness. You can do small acts of kindness, too—like by sending a card to someone going through a difficult time or paying for someone’s coffee.
Kindness is a powerful force for good that can make a big difference in someone’s life, because even a small act of kindness can change a life. Kindness can bring joy, hope and peace to those who receive it. It can help build relationships and promote understanding.
In Acts 9:36-42, Peter is visiting believers in a town called Lydda. A woman named Dorcas has passed away in the nearby town of Joppa. The community is devastated by her loss because of her tremendous kindness to the other citizens. When the people of Joppa hear that Peter is visiting nearby Lydda, they send two men to ask him to come. Upon his arrival, the widows of the town, who were recipients of Dorcas’ kindness, show him many of the things she had made for them out of the kindness of her heart. Dorcas had been especially kind to the poor and other marginalized members of society, like the widows. Peter ushers all the people out of the room and prays for Dorcas to be returned to them, and God hears his prayers bringing her back. Nothing is recorded to recommend Dorcas as an extraordinary person beyond her kindness to those around her. Kindness brings people together even if they have nothing else in common. Dorcas brought the entire community together through simple acts of kindness.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be kind to one another as God has been kind to us. By cultivating kindness, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can become more Christlike, showing His love and mercy to others instead of contributing to the culture of cancellation. Kindness goes hand in hand with the gospel; both should be present when leading others to Christ. Therefore, we strive to cultivate kindness in our daily lives and reflect the character of Jesus to the world around us. With this focus, our kindness can have a strong influence on our community and bring glory to God by reflecting His kindness to others. As we grow in kindness, may we remember Paul’s words in Colossians 3:12 (NIV), “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Illustration by Janie Hao