If you were describing our society, would you describe it as a kind? This past week there was a shooting in Santee, California. I'm sure you heard about it. What you might not have heard is that there were 35 other incidents last week involving children and violence at schools. Our children are taking guns to school and threatening and killing each other. Why? What is it that causes children to act so violently? I think that one factor that leads to this behavior is the unkindness of our society.
Last Monday Andy Williams, a 15-year-old freshman at Santana High School in suburban San Diego, shot and killed two students and wounded 13 others. Why? What pushed Andy to this point?
Friends said that Andy was often teased about his stature, but he never fought back. He would run away or use his quick wit to deflect the taunts. The William's home was vandalized within the past two years, one neighbor said, "And the vandals concentrated on the boy's room, shooting at his television with BB guns." "In another incident, a tree house the boy had built near his home was torn apart by bullies", the neighbor said."He was small and couldn't defend himself, so the punks would pick on him," said the neighbor, who identified himself only as Phil. "Maybe he just got tired of being picked on."
Three-quarters of pre-teens surveyed for a report released last Thursday say bullying and teasing occur at their schools. And about half of the 8 to 11-year-olds said discrimination and violence were "big problems" for kids their age. Sponsors described the survey as a "wake-up" call for parents to regularly talk to their kids about school pressures, and at an early age.
Kids can be so unkind to each other, but then so can adults. But as Christians we are called to be different. We are called to kindness. And in an unkind society, our acts of kindness will really stand out. Notice what the Bible has to say about kindness:
Proverbs 19:22 (NKJV) What is desired in a man is kindness, And a poor man is better than a liar.
I think you would agree that all of us desire people to be kind to us, but are we kind to others?
Proverbs 31:26 (NKJV) She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
One of the characteristics of a virtuous woman is that she speaks with kindness.
Romans 12:10 (NKJV) Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
1 Corinthians 13:4 (NKJV) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
One of the marks of love is that it is kind. This is the Greek work chresteuomai, it means: "to show oneself useful, to act benevolently, to be kind or good." Kindness and goodness are so closely related that they are often used interchangeably. The verb itself speaks of activity; active good will, being useful for somebody else's good (keep that in mind), always trying to do what is helpful to the other person even if it involves sacrifice. Kind people are easy to take, not harsh. In the New Testament, the verb appears only in 1 Corinthians 13:4, but the noun and the adjective for kindness occur repeatedly in Paul's epistles:
Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:12 (NKJV) Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
Clement of Rome wrote an epistle to the Corinthian church in which he quotes a saying of Jesus that has the same Greek verb: "As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness." Just as unkindness sets off a chain reaction of unkindness, so an act of kindness sets off a chain reaction of kind events. Would you describe yourself as kind? As Christians, we are called to be kind.
I heard a story about a woman who was standing at a bus stop. She had just cashed her tax refund check, so she was carrying more money than usual and was a little bit nervous about that. She glanced around and noticed a shabbily dressed man standing nearby. And as she watched, she saw a man walk up to him, hand him some money, and whisper something in his ear.
She was so touched by that act of kindness that she decided to do the same. In a burst of generosity, she reached into her purse, took out $10, handed it to the man, and whispered to him, "Never despair, never despair."
The next day when she came to the bus stop, there he was again. But this time he walked up to her and handed her $110. Dumbfounded, she asked, "What's this?" He said, "You won, lady. Never Despair paid 10 to 1."
Now, I'm sure that you understand that not every act of kindness will pay 10 to 1. But I can tell you that kindness does pay off. It pays off, because as we are kind we are manifesting the character of Christ.
So with that in mind, let's look at a couple of the clearest examples of kindness in the Bible. They are found in Luke 8:40-56. In this passage we see Jesus showing kindness to two people who are entirely different. One is a man and the other is a woman. One is an outcast, poor and unknown. The other is rich and influential and the ruler of a synagogue. And yet, Jesus treats both of them with great kindness.
By the time of this story, Jesus had gained a great deal of fame and was at the pinnacle of his popularity. Crowds were swarming around Him wherever He went. In fact, there were times when Jesus had to go off in secret to get time to rest and to pray.
But despite the pressures of popularity, despite the crowds constantly pushing in around Him, despite all the demands on His time, Jesus, in His kindness, stopped everything He was doing to help them and to meet their needs.
Cal Thomas wrote, "Love talked about is easily ignored. But love demonstrated is irresistible." Jesus not only talked about love and kindness, but He modeled it for us, too.
So, let's look and see the ways Jesus showed kindness to them, because I think those are the ways that we need to learn to show kindness to others.
First of all, Jesus paid attention to them and to their needs.
Luke 8:40-42 (NKJV) So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. 41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus' feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him.
Now we're not told exactly what Jesus was planning to do, but since there was a multitude there, I imagine that he would have taught them. I'm sure he had a plan; he was always ministering.
But as soon as Jairus, came and told Him about his daughter, the very next words we read are "As He went..." Evidently, Jesus immediately changed directions and started following Jairus because this little girl's situation was much more pressing than whatever else He had scheduled.
How well do you handle interruptions? When you have your plans all laid out and all of a sudden someone interrupts, how do you handle it? Are you quick to lay aside your plans to minister to others? Or are you quick to lay aside others to carry out your plan? If you are concentrating on carrying out your plans, and someone interrupts you, do you consider that an intrusion or an opportunity?
As Christians, we must see interruptions as sent by God. You do believe in the sovereignty of God, don't you? If you just go on with your project and don't allow yourself to be interrupted - if you aren't flexible enough to change directions and go in another way, you will miss great ministry opportunities that God has given you.
Jesus paid attention to Jairus and changed His plans and direction. But Jairus was not the only interruption, and Jesus was flexible and kind enough to pause and meet another need as they were on their way to Jairus' house:
Luke 8:43-46 (NKJV) Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. 45 And Jesus said, "Who touched Me?" When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, "Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" 46 But Jesus said, "Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me."
There were crowds of people surrounding them, and everyone was in a hurry. Yet Jesus was able to differentiate between the touch of the crowd and the personal touch of the woman who needed His help.
Our world is becoming more and more impersonal, isn't it? Go to a modern service station and you don't even have to talk to anybody anymore. Just put your card in the slot, pump the gas, and you can drive away without ever looking at another human being. And it's the same way at the bank ATM, isn't it?
How about the airlines? In any major city, call and you'll hear a computerized voice, "If you want information regarding departing flights, push 1. For arriving flights, push 2." You push 1, and it says, "If you know your flight number, push 1." You push 1 again, and it says, "Punch in your flight number." You punch that in, and the computerized voice then tells you the correct gate number. You never have to talk to another living, breathing, human being. It's become a very impersonal world
Can you imagine what would happen if they did this to "911"? You dial 911 and hear, "If your emergency is a murder, push 1. If it is a burglary, push 2. If the burglar is still in the house, push 3. If he has a gun, push 4 real quick."
It has become a very impersonal world. But Jesus took time to stop in the midst of a crowd to give a woman His personal attention as though she was the only one there.
Then, secondly, He expressed kindness by affirming her:
Luke 8:47-48 (NKJV) Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. 48 And He said to her, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace."
First of all, you need to realize that because of her disease, this woman was an outcast in her society. They treated her like they treated lepers, and because of her disease, she had not been with her family or able to worship at the temple for 12 years.
She must have been very lonely and feeling pretty worthless. So Jesus affirms her. He affirms her first of all by listening to her story of woe.
This may have been the first time she has had anyone's attention for a long time. So, I imagine that she just poured out her heart, and Jesus listened. And by listening, by looking her in the face, by clinging to every word, He affirmed her.
Are you a good listener? Most of us probably aren't. We pass each other and say "How are you?" And we expect an automatic, "I'm fine." But have you ever been caught off guard and someone really tells you just how they feel?
Erma Bombeck told about a time when she was so tired of listening. She had listened to her son tell in minute detail about a movie he had just seen, punctuated by at least 1,000 "you know"s and "okays."
Then she had received several telephone calls filled with mindless chatter that never seemed to end. So it was with genuine relief that she was able to tell the last caller that she just had to rush off to the airport.
She got into a taxicab, and as the taxicab driver took her to the airport, he told her all about his son who had won a scholarship to college, and how he was making straight A's. Erma had to sit there and listen to it all.
She said, "But once I got to the airport and realized that I was 30 minutes early, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, `I have 30 whole minutes when I don't have to listen to anybody. I can just sit here and read my book and not be bothered at all."
"But no sooner had I opened my book, when an elderly female voice said to me, `I bet it's cold in Chicago.'" "I suppose" Erma Bombeck replied without looking up from her book.
"I haven't been in Chicago for 3 years," the woman said. "My son lives there." "That's nice," said Erma. Then the woman continued on, "My husband's body is on this plane. We were married for 53 years. I don't drive, you see, and the funeral director was so nice. He drove me to the airport today."
Erma recalls, "Her voice droned on. Here was a woman who didn't want money or advice or counsel. All she wanted was someone to listen. And in desperation she had turned to a total stranger with her story."
Erma said, "She continued to talk to me until they announced that we were boarding the plane. We walked onto the plane, and I saw her sit down in another section. And as I hung up my coat I heard her say to the person next to her, `I bet it's cold in Chicago.'"
There are so many of us who just need somebody, sometime, to listen, just to focus on us and listen to what we have to say.
Then, I think that Jesus affirmed her not only by what He did, but also by what He said to her:
Luke 8:48 (NKJV) And He said to her, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace."
The word "well" is from the Greek word sozo which is often translated: "save". Jesus literally said, "Your faith has saved you." What kind of affirmation that must have been! An outcast, a woman who could not fellowship with other people, who hadn't felt the human touch for so long. And now Jesus says, "Your faith has saved you, and you can go on your way in peace." Jesus expressed kindness through affirmation.
Finally, Jesus expressed kindness through acceptance:
Luke 8:49-56 (NKJV) While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, "Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher." 50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well." 51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. 52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, "Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping." 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Little girl, arise." 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. 56 And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.
Now, let's concentrate on those last few verses. Notice what Jesus told them after the miracle was over, "He charged them to tell no one what had happened." Why?
Now remember, those people outside the house had mocked Jesus. They had laughed at Him before He went in to raise the girl back to life again. If I were Jesus, I know what I would have done. I would have raised the girl back to life, and then I would have taken her by the hand, and we would have walked up and down in front of all those mourners. And I would have said, "She sure looks alive to me." That would have been a lot of fun. But Jesus didn't do that. He was concerned about how they felt. And in kindness, He says to the parents, "Don't tell anyone what has happened here." He didn't try to get even. He didn't try to get back at them.
Sometimes it is not so much what you say as how you say it. One preacher said, "I have never had to apologize for my position, but I have oftentimes had to apologize for my disposition." Have you ever had to apologize for your disposition?
What you say is important. But how you say it can be even more important. The fact that Jesus didn't want to embarrass them or get even with them speaks volumes, and teaches us how we are to respond to each other, too.
Some construction workers were building a high rise across the street from a hospital. As they were working on the 3rd floor, they noticed a little girl standing in the 3rd floor window of the hospital watching them work.
One day they looked across and saw the little girl hold up a poster that said, "My name is Lisa. What are your names?"
So the next day the construction workers came back with some poster board and magic markers, and they all wrote down their names. "My name is Bob. My name is Bill. My name is Harry. How old are you?"
The next day the little girl held up a sign that said, "I am 7 years old. How old are you?"
Well, this went on for several days. But one day they noticed that Lisa wasn't at her usual place in the window. So at break time one of the workers called the hospital and asked for a third floor nurse. He asked if she could tell him anything at all about Lisa.
The nurse said that Lisa had taken a turn for the worse and was now in Intensive Care. So the workers pooled their money and bought some flowers and a card and wrote a note on it, and sent it to Lisa in Intensive Care.
Several days passed by, and then another sign appeared at the window, "Lisa passed away. Thank you for caring!"
Believers, we are commanded to love one another:
John 13:34 (NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 15:17 (NKJV) "These things I command you, that you love one another.
As believers, love is not an option, we are commanded to love one another, and, as we have seen, one manifestation of love is kindness. We need to learn to be kind to one another even as God has been kind to us through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
Throughout the New Testament we are reminded of how our actions reflect our faith, and the ultimate outcome of the entire discussion is that it doesn't matter how religious you are, it doesn't matter how spiritual you talk, and it doesn't matter how you perceive yourself; your actions talk louder then your words.
Treating others with kindness must start in our families. Kind words, kind attitudes and kind deeds cause our family members to treat us with kindness. There will be peace and harmony in the home. The home becomes a sweet and resting place. On the other hand, if we are mean, harsh and abusive to our spouse and children, it causes them also to become mean, harsh and cruel to us. There will be tension and fights in the home all the time. The home will become a miserable place.
The same is true in our church life. When we are kind to other members of the church, they will be kind to us. Then we will have sweet fellowship. On the other hand, if we are cold and mean to others, others will be cold and mean to us. The same is true in the work place. Nobody likes a cruel person. People will look for the opportunity to fight back and bring trouble to the mean person. That is why Proverbs says: "a cruel man brings trouble on himself"
Herbert V. Prochnow said, "You may be sorry that you spoke, sorry you stayed or went, sorry you won or lost, sorry you thought the worst, sorry so much was spent. But as you go through life, you'll find - you're never sorry you were kind."
Do you enjoy it when people treat you with kindness? I do, and I'm sure that you do, also. Well, if you want to be treated with kindness, notice carefully the words of Jesus:
Luke 6:31 (NKJV) "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
Just think of the effect you can have on those around you if you treat them with kindness. Would Andy Williams have taken a gun to school and killed if his peers had treated him with kindness? I doubt that he would have. Our kindness affects others in a very positive way. May God help us to realize the importance of love and help us to begin to live it out.