Kindness and Everything Nice A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

Kindness.  The ability to care for all people, whoever they are.  The character trait of being radically others-focused.

Is it a lost art?  Was kindness ever really all that prevalent?

I’m not sure, but my experience tells me that true kindness is so foreign to the typical human condition that most of us experience it (as giver or receiver) all too rarely.  But the interesting irony is that when we finally do experience or hear about kindness, it is radically life-giving.

A few examples are in order:

  • My mother-in-law recently complimented a stranger’s dress, which led to a several-minutes-long conversation that was mutually beneficial for my mother-in-law and the woman in the dress.  They ended up talking and walking together for more than a block!
  • This past weekend a football coach was on the way home from a game that his team won.  It was raining like crazy when he saw two people who looked scared and lost.  He pulled over and offered them a ride.  The two men jumped in the coach’s SUV and over the ensuing conversation it became clear that the two strangers were fans of the team that lost to the coach’s team.  Both of the strangers reported to the media that they were genuinely surprised by the kindness of the coach.
  • Lastly, a friend recently told me of how having someone help him un-wedge his bag from a seat on a plane while he was trying to make his way to his seat renewed his faith in humanity.

Friends, the simple truth is that kindness really can go a long way.  And, I think this is in part because we experience it so rarely.

However, each time we do experience it, it brings a smile to our faces like just about nothing else can.

 

Why Kindness?

So, here’s the big idea: As we are led by the Spirit, he will make us more and more kind.  And as we are more kind people will be drawn to God, whether toward a closer relationship with his as followers of Jesus or toward beginning a relationship with him if they are far from God.

We see this in Jesus’ life very clearly in many places.  One of my favorite places is in Mark 1.40-42:

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

What is meant by the first part of verse 41?  Why was Jesus indignant?

  • Some translations have “filled with compassion” instead of “indignant.”  And while there are some ancient manuscripts that agree with that phraseology, “indignant” is the better reading.  There are two reasons: 1) “indignant” generally appears in more reliable manuscripts than “full of compassion” does; and 2) the harder reading is to be preferred.  Let me explain that second point.  When there are two readings, both with some ancient manuscript support, the one that is harder to understand is thought to be more likely to be original.  The reason?  Well, the theory goes that if an ancient scribe came across “indignant” in this passage, he might think it doesn’t fit.  And intentionally or not, he may change it to something that fits better, like “full of compassion.”  So, based on these lines of reasoning, “indignant” is probably the right reading.
  • So what do we do with this reading then?  Was Jesus mad at the leper?  No.  This doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t fit with what we know about Jesus from the rest of this Gospel or the rest of the New Testament.  Jesus is consistently kind to ostracized people, including several other people suffering with leprosy.  Jesus being mad at the leper doesn’t fit in this particular story either.  If Jesus was mad at him, why would he touch him (which was a great act of kindness…think about it!), have a conversation with him, and ultimately heal him?
  • So what was Jesus indignant about?  Here’s my take: Jesus was mad at the situation that leprosy had put this man in.  His whole world had been crushed — he was separated from his family, friends, jobs, religious experiences, etc.  He was isolated and desperate.  In fact, his situation was so bad that he was relegated to begging from strangers for help.  Jesus was indignant that a man who was made in God’s image and for whom he would soon die would be demeaned in such a way.
  • So Jesus saw this man, treated him like a human, felt deeply about his situation, and then acted in order to bring about wholeness and health.  That is a true act of kindness!  Not a random act of kindness; no, an intentional act of kindness to a person who seemed to have randomly crossed his path.

We would do well to imitate Jesus!  As we are led by the Spirit, whose pain and suffering do we need be be indignant about?  To whom do we need to show kindness?

This next paragraph is the one paragraph that I hope to internalize more than all the others in this post: You and I can’t will ourselves to be more kind.  We can’t and we know we can’t.  We know that in our own strength we are going to act selfishly more often than we’d like to admit.  So we must submit to the Spirit, listen for his lead, and then obey!

 

What do you think?  How can we demonstrate kindness more and more as a result of being led by the Spirit?  Let me know in the comments below!

Waiting for the Drop

The Drop in Dubstep

Dub-what?  If you’ve not heard of dubstep, don’t worry.  It might not be for you.  Or it might.  Who knows?

But if you want to know what it is, well here’s the best way I can describe it: It’s a genre of electronic dance music which generally starts out slow but after a short while a large bass sound hits and the song’s aggressiveness increases.  Dubstep’s is chiefly characterized by its 140 or 70 beats per minute pace, its use of lots of “wub” and “wah” sounds, its sampling of vocal tracks (rapping or singing), and its “the drop” (that big bass sound at the beginning).

And it’s the drop that I want to talk about here.  Why you ask?  For one reason: the way some people dance to dubstep.  (Note: I rarely dance and never to dubstep, at least not to date.  All of my dubstep dance knowledge is due to So You Think You Can Dance? and YouTube.)

So when people dance to dubstep they typically do what is called “waiting for the drop.”  What this means is that the dancer does some light and slow moves prior to the drop.  But when the drop hits, well, things generally get crazy!  There’s lots of flailing, locking and popping, and general silliness!

Sometimes dubstep dance instructions are even given like this: 1. Wait for the drop; 2. Go nuts!

But what if the drop never came or took a long time to come?

Waiting for the Drop in Life

There’s something that I have done in my life from time to time that maybe you can relate with.  I wait for the drop.  What do I mean by that?  Well, let me unpack it a bit.

A lot of us who follow Jesus are convinced that at some point in our lives we’ll get some sort of a uber-clear directive from God (AKA “the drop”), after which we’ll get busy following Jesus for real.  So what do we do in the mean time?  Well, we try to be good by not doing things that we’re told are wrong.  We go about life like everyone else, working, dating, getting married, retiring, etc. (all good things!).  Sometimes we’re in a holding pattern until the drop comes.

But what if it doesn’t come?  What if we never get that uber-clear directive from God, that be-a-pastor, go-to-southeast-asia, lead-a-revolution-for-the-sake-of-the-kingdom directive?  Will we just continue doing what seems right to us, what we think pleases God?  Will we just simply continue to do what everyone in the culture around us is doing?

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been guilty of this many times.  I’ve wanted to hear that call to a BIG obedience and missed out on all the things God might have for me day-to-day.  While waiting for the drop, life passes me by.

Can you relate?

The Drop Can Wait

Let me share with you something I’ve learned during my 25+ years of following Jesus — the drop can wait.  Can you or I control when God might want to call us to some sort of a BIG obedience?  No!?  But what we can control, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is what we do when we aren’t experiencing the drop.

And what does that look like?  How should we dance before (or after!) the drop hits?  Let’s turn to Scripture for some help…

He has told you, mortals, what is good in His sight.
    What else does the Eternal ask of you
But to live justly and to love kindness
    and to walk with your True God in all humility?”

(Micah 6.8 in The Voice translation)

So while waiting for the drop (or the second, third, fourth, etc. drop), let’s do these three things that are good in God’s sight:

1. Live justly.

Translated literally, this phrases says something like this “diligently seek justice.”  But the way the The Voice puts it is great — “live justly.”  Justice is not just something that we pursue only when we feel some super-obvious call from God (“the drop”).  No!  It’s something we live, something we seek with all we are.

And the justice that we are to live out it not our personal version of justice, American justice, Democratic or Republican justice, ethnic justice, or any other sort of justice.  It’s God’s justice — defined by him and his Word and sought after in ways that he sees fit.

So what might God’s justice and the pursuit thereof look like?  There’s one best place to look — Jesus’ life!  Read through the Gospels.  See how Jesus sought God’s justice for people, especially people who had been written off, like sinners, tax collector, religious zealots, work-a-day people, etc.  Then imitate Jesus in your life.  Live Jesus’ human life in your human life.

2. Love kindness.

Things get more sticky with this second idea.  Why?  Because I can try to live justly in an unkind manner.  But we aren’t given that option in Micah 6.8.  We are told to also love kindness.  So while we’re waiting for the drop, not only should we live justly, but we should love kindness.

The word for “kindness” here is one you may recognize: hesed.  It is often translated as follows: “mercy,” “loving kindness,” “unfailing love,” and/or “loyalty.”  The ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is called the Septuagint, translates this word as eleos, which means “mercy” or “compassion.”  So the idea seems pretty clear — hesed is not a one-off kind of word.  It means to show mercy or compassion consistently.

And not just to show kindness to others…but to love it!  How many of us love showing kindness?  I don’t always!  But that’s our instruction.  We are to love having compassion on others.

And what does this look like?  Well, again, look at Jesus’ life and words.  He said “love your neighbor as yourself” and he did just that, giving away his time, his sleep, his comfort, and ultimately his life.

3. Walk with God in all humility.  

Sometimes the best way to understand something is to think of the opposite.  So, what would it look like to walk with God in all pride?  Perhaps you would walk with God only to get out of him what you think is best.  Maybe you would walk with God, pretending like you are an equal with him.  Perhaps you would walk with God in such a way to improve your reputation and not his.

So a good start with walking with God in all humility might be NOT doing those things!  Instead let’s follow God in order to serve him and his will in this world.  Let’s follow God while keeping in mind an honest appraisal of ourselves as sinners desperately in need of his grace and forgiveness.  And let’s follow God in such a way to make ourselves less and to increase his fame.

So while we are waiting for the drop we should walk with God humbly.  Walk.  That implies action, movement, and consistency.  Walking humbly with God is not a one-time decision.  It’s a lifestyle.

 

So let’s stop waiting for the drop.  Let’s start living for God now!  And when the drop comes, when he asks us to something specific and “big,” then we’ll be ready.

 

What do you think?  How should we live as we wait for the drop?  Let me know in the comments below.