"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Everyone today is telling us to be kind, to be nice, to be good. Organizations promote “niceness.” Schools train children how to manage their behavior so that they will not offend anyone. Behavior modification, anger management, sensitivity training, and more are taught to employees, students, executives, and families in an effort to make people nicer and more friendly.
The world will tell you that being kind means never doing anything that offends someone else. It means doing the things that will make other people like you. It means doing things in a friendly, helpful way rather than doing things that will hurt others. But is that genuine kindness?
If kindness is just not hurting someone or not offending them, then it would be “kind” to see someone getting bullied and just turn and walk the other way because “I’m not hurting them, so I’m still being a kind person.” Or it would be “kind” to ignore it when your friends are getting into trouble because “I’m a kind person – I don’t want to offend them, even though what they are doing is wrong.”
If kindness is just not intentionally hurting someone or not offending anyone, then we have a world full of “kind” people who are ignoring the deepest hurts and needs of the people around them.
To truly be kind to someone means to be good, generous, and helpful toward that person. Not just one of those – all of them combined. True kindness involves being good because to do something kind is right, true, and commendable. Ignoring someone who is being bullied might mean you are not hurting them, but is it right? When Jesus chose to follow God’s will and go to the cross for us (Luke 22:42), it wasn’t the fun thing to do but it was the good thing to do. It was the right thing for Jesus to do so that we could receive the forgiveness for our sins that only Jesus could accomplish.
True kindness involves being generous because kindness must come from deep in your heart and flow beyond a self-centered perspective. Being generous might be uncomfortable because no one is naturally noble and unselfishly bountiful toward others. It takes guts to be kind, to be willing to say “Hey, not only do I not want to hurt you, I don’t want you to hurt yourself, so I’m going to try to help you.” When Jesus chose to spend time with the socially marginalized and chose to help those that the majority rejected or refused to help (Mark 2:14-17; Matthew 20:30-34), it wasn’t the socially accepted thing to do but it was the generous thing to do. Jesus acted with kindness by being unselfish and compassionate.
True kindness involves being helpful because you can help someone even if you offend them. It might offend your friends if you try to stop them from doing what is wrong, but true kindness means helping them anyway. Kindness can’t stop with trying to avoid hurting or offending someone. It must carry out into positive actions of generosity, goodness, and helpfulness even when that means doing something right when others are doing wrong. When Jesus chose to heal the sick or raise the dead back to life (Matthew 12:10-14; John 11:38-48), he wasn’t doing these things to make the religious leaders of his day happy. It wasn’t his goal to make everyone like him. Much of what Jesus did made people angry with him. Jesus’ motivation wasn’t to get people to like him. Jesus acted with kindness by helping others because of his grace and mercy and because of his purpose for coming into the world – to rescue the lost (Luke 19:10; John 12:46).
If you want to truly be kind, you’ve got to be motivated for the right reasons. Take a look at the Bible’s idea of true kindness: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us . . . because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-5). Jesus is genuine kindness. Though we daily hurt him and turn against him (our sins), he still loves us. Even though he knew all the bad things we would do to hurt him, he still died on the cross to rescue us from eternal suffering (Romans 5:8).
Why should we be kind? Out of gratitude for the kindness that God has shown us. We should be kind because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). Even when someone intentionally hurts you, be kind to them, remembering that you have hurt God infinitely worse and he has still forgiven you through Jesus. Keep your focus on Christ and the kindness he has shown you and let that kindness flow through you to genuinely being good, generous, and helpful toward those around you.