Kindness—true kindness—Fruit of the Spirit Kindness isn’t easy. But, there is a sort of lower case “k” kindness that I do with relative ease and consistency. Things like regularly opening doors for people, loading grocery bags into the trunk of an elderly person’s car, giving someone a ride to the airport or mall, and smiling when passing by a stranger. This kind of “kind” is easy to me. This kind of kindness doesn’t require me to change my opinion on something—or even make room for someone else’s opinion. This kind of kindness doesn’t require me to have to accept an undereducated, over-opinionated person as my equal. It doesn’t require having to spend time with people I have nothing in common with, or accepting someone into my immediate family or circle of friends who thinks or acts differently than me. If I’m blunt about it: the kind of kindness I’m good at doesn’t require leaving my comfort zone to comfort others.
Fruit of the Spirit Kindness—Capital “K” Kindness, however, is a lot more challenging to me. This Kindness has people living and acting with people in mind. It’s a lot more than doing “random acts of kindness,” as they say. Sure, random acts of kindness are good and part of what it means to be kind, but these acts only scratch the surface of the kindness Jesus speaks of throughout the gospels. “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sister; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:13-14).
This isn’t a tame request. It means making personal decisions that also include securing goodness in the life of my neighbor. This is what Jesus meant by “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt. 6:10). So I have to dig deep and unearth the roots of my selfishness. It requires giving of myself in ways far more profound and inconvenient than a “quickie” kind act. “Jesus Kindness”—“The kingdom of heaven” Kindness is much more—it is a way of being. As scripture reads: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16).
To be “Jesus Kind” means I have to do the “right thing” for my neighbor for a living –as a way of life. It means I have to peel myself away from my comfort zone and not only mingle with the types of people I don’t particularly enjoy being with but also try to see them how God sees them—as one of God’s own. Since I’m being so confessional, I might as well admit to you who these “types” of people are. They are “The know-it-alls.” (This could include me) It is those who talk with authority about things for which they are neither educated nor experienced in. This is the heaviest part of my cross to bear. And, when I find myself with these types of people and personalities, I fail more often than I succeed at being “Jesus Kind.” And, there are others…
Last Wednesday morning I went to the swap meet to sift through other people’s treasures and trash. I’m a swap meet junkie. Looking for treasures and interesting objects gives me a better jolt than a stiff cup of coffee. As I walk through the aisles, taking in deeps breaths of the cool morning air, I’m alive and filled with adrenaline—it is a super rush. I anticipate Swap meet mornings the way I use to anticipate going to school with a new pair of shoes. And, when I come across a unique find for a bargain, the rush is exhilarating.
This particular morning, however, I was more aware of the people at the swap meet than I was of any treasures I might find lying around. I found myself feeling out of place—like a foreigner or alien. I almost felt above my fellow “swap meeters.” The majority of people appeared to be uneducated and poor. Most had children while still children themselves. Several wore shirts emblazoned with the famous Marijuana leaf. I over heard cursing as well as a few sexual innuendos as I walked by. I watched and listened and then asked myself, “Do these people care about making a difference in the world?” And then instantly I felt ashamed of my thoughts and feelings. It’s true, for anyone of these people, I would have helped them carry a heavy object to their car, or given a dollar if they were a dollar short, and Yes, I would have, and did smile while passing them in the aisles. But, I couldn’t help thinking that I wanted nothing more than to retreat to my car and escape.
If Jesus were alive today, I dare say that that swap meet is exactly where I’d find Him on Wednesday mornings. Maybe he’d be looking to buy something he needed. Or, maybe he’d be selling something someone else needed—like a used stuffed animal or blanket to a young mother—a child herself—for her baby to sleep with. I’m sure he’d be the guy everyone felt comfortable with. He’d be the guy talking it up with saints and sinners alike. He’d be the guy people were drawn to—even if they didn’t know exactly why. But I’d know why. Because the Kindness I find difficult to display at times is the Kindness he lives all the time. And where my thinking can cause division, his builds bridges. And for the times I see myself as different, He sees himself in every person he talks to, bargains, cries, or laughs with. Because after hanging out with Jesus people feel better about themselves. They feel alive.
Indeed, if Jesus were alive today I’m convinced that neither education, or lack of education, neither the Queen’s, or ghetto English, neither shirts bearing the Cross, or those bearing a Marijuana leaf, neither those who speak words of life, nor those who curse, nor anyone or anything would be able to separate the love of God in Jesus from his fellow swapmeeters—from his fellow humanity.
I was there to find treasures in the lined up piles of stuff for sale. I was buying things I wanted. They were buying things they needed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. And, blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:3,5). May I learn to live more gracefully every day. And, may my life—my kindness be spelled with capital “K” more often than not.
Inspired by Romans 8:38-39