This morning I attended the men’s breakfast at my church, which meets once a month. We have been doing a series on the (9) fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” as listed in the Bible (Galatians 5: 22-23). Today it was our turn to consider kindness.
There is of course a theological angle to this: God is kind and shows this in his dealings with humankind, and therefore we must be kind too by our acts of kindness (the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate etc.) to others. Sadly, Christians have often failed on this score and this has often been pointed out by those looking on in disappointment, often pointing to examples of people who show little religious inclination, yet who are kind. I am writing not to support or refute this assertion or even get too religious. We can all think of many examples of kindness and no doubt come up with our own reasons why kindness matters. What causes one to be kind is an interesting question but not one I want to go too deep down the rabbit hole in arriving at answers, whether out or religious conviction or not, other than to express regret when kindness does not happen when it could / should and it becomes a stumbling block when this is picked up. Nor am about to put myself forward as a paragon of kindness, noting I have often failed – but I am trying …
A few days ago, a “friend” posted on his Facebook page a meme that especially resonated with me and happens to be pertinent to this discussion. It was about a man who attended church and during a solemn part of the service his mobile phone, which he forgot to turn off, rung. Following this there were words and acts of indignation toward him by all sorts people, and it left the man so deflated such that he never attended that church again. Later on and still reeling he visited a pub and while there he spilled his drink. Rather than being taken to task he was supported and uplifted in a variety of ways. That experience led him to become a regular patron of that pub. Over the years I have heard similar stories and even recall my own father, who was not a regular churchgoer, comment that he came across more Christians in pubs than he did in churches. Not that I am a pub advocate but it seems to me they can serve a purpose that churches ought by being a place people feel accepted as they are and respected without being judged etc.
One of the changes I have had cause to make over the years is when it comes to ranking qualities, accomplishments etc. in order of importance. No longer is it academic attainment, having a successful career, being good at something, being seen as popular, having a great personality etc. but what is more important is being kind. I can think of many examples of those who were none of the above, but they were kind, and this was a far greater accomplishment than anything else. Seeing kindness in action, sometimes by unlikely people who one would not give much by way of a second thought is good for the soul and makes life worth living. I recall an incident in the week of being in an embarrassing situation with no obvious way out. I was in a car park and my car went over an object I hadn’t seen, forming a wedge between the car and the ground such that it could not move. Several would have seen me but none offered to help except these two men who I had never met, who jacked my car up and removed the object before going on their way. The fact they had a Middle East complexion and accent and, who knows, they could have been Muslim, got me thinking about the story of the Good Samaritan and the injunction that we go and do likewise.
No one has a monopoly on being kind and often the least likely are the most kind and it is such people I salute, more than all sorts of people who are lauded as being people to admire, and especially if lacking kindness. If there is a moral for Christians it is being kind is very important – for they will know we are Christians by our love.