Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”
Luke 6:35-38 (CEB)
When I think about kindness, I think about Doris. Doris is an elderly woman at my church where I previously ministered in Iowa. She has a smile about her that brightens any day. For me, she is the embodiment of kindness because of how much she does for others without ever asking for anything in return. She has been retired for decades now, but continually keeps busy serving the people of her community. Though health problems have limited her recently, she still devotes countless hours visiting people in the hospital, holding Bible studies in various nursing homes, and working with children through the local 4-H program.
Here’s what strikes me about Doris: she often serves people who can offer nothing back. Some literally have nothing. Others don’t realize what she’s doing because she does them in secret. Some aren’t grateful even if they do know. Doris gets nothing out of all of the time, energy, and work she puts into the week…and yet, she continues on relentless. Why? Because Doris is kind. Doris is a child of God.
In the passage above, Jesus talks to his disciples about what it means to be children of the Most High: love your enemies; do good; lend expecting nothing in return; be compassionate. These are all things that God does for all people unconditionally, regardless of who they are. “God is kind to ungrateful and wicked people.” What a thought! As bearers of the divine image who have been made in His likeness, this is how we too should be. As people who are followers of Christ, we are called to imitate the life of Christ, including his kindness. The standard for our behavior is in the character of God himself. Not only do we experience God’s kindness, but we demonstrate it to the world.
Kindness is found in the heart and attitude of Christ. As Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” The “others” he speaks us are not only those whom we get along with and whom we call friends. Consider even your enemies as better than yourself. When we look to the interests of others instead of our own, we find the power within us to be kind even to those who do not deserve it. In these kind acts, it is not about what we are to receive or “get back” from doing them. It is about the act itself and the good that it does in this world.
In a world that is so often focused on the “bottom line” and investments and returns, practice the kindness that expects nothing back. To paraphrase Jesus elsewhere, let the kindness of God be reflected in your life, so that when others see your good deeds, they will glorify your Father in heaven.
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Father, we praise you for your kindness. You have demonstrated to us your goodness, even when we were still sinners. May your Spirit be at work in us to demonstrate kindness to others in a godly, unconditional way. Amen.
Mike Miles is the student and family minister at the Livonia Church of Christ in the western suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. He attended Abilene Christian University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry in 2009. Mike is currently working on his Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership at Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan.
Mike has a love for community and for bringing people together, especially across society's dividing lines. Born in the Philippines, he has since lived in over twenty different places but happily calls Michigan "home." He is unashamedly nerdy. He has tried to maintain a blog for years, but has decided that he is just too lazy. He is married to Blythe and has a son, with a baby girl on her way in early 2017!
“If two friends ask you to judge a dispute, don't accept, because you will lose one friend; on the other hand, if two strangers come with the same request, accept because you will gain one friend.”
-Rev. Sarah Renfro-
He said, "May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter! You have acted even more faithfully than you did at first. You haven't gone after rich or poor young men.
Ruth 3:10 CEB
Almost twenty years, comedian Chris Rock had a special that included a bit about those wanting credit for things they are “supposed to do.” Using plenty of expletives, Rock made fun of those who say, "I take care of my kids." Well, “You're supposed to…” he shouted on stage. The 1996 special is not for family viewing, but the essence of this statement is true. There are some things we are just “supposed to do.”
We are supposed to take care of our family members. Naomi was trying to take care of her daughters-in-law when she told them to go back to their mothers after their husbands died. That was caring and kind. And expected at that time and in light of a famine. It was not unkind that Orpah said good-bye, but Ruth would not leave her mother-in-law.
A foreigner in her MIL’s homeland, Ruth provided for her family of two, and in turn, Naomi made sure that Ruth would be taken care of in the future. Boaz had shown kindness to Ruth by letting her glean from his fields of grain. And he thought Ruth was kind for taking care of her MIL and by proposing marriage to him, an older relative. He would do what he was supposed to do, by marrying a relative in need, and he praises Ruth as one who exhibits hesed, loving kindness, loyalty, faithfulness.
In Ruth’s eyes, however, she is just doing what she is supposed to do, as a devoted daughter-in-law and child of God. She embodies the hesed of God, who also “takes care of [Her] kids” because that’s what God is “supposed to do.” God doesn’t brag or boast or ask for a special blessing, and neither does Ruth. Ruth is praised for going beyond mere niceties. Hesed may be displayed by human and Divine, and it does not discriminate. Ruth was, after all, a foreign widow. God demonstrates divine care for all who seek refuge.
Who in our world needs hesed? How can we practice loving kindness? Aren’t we called to take care of our family of faith (brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles in Christ), just as God takes care of us? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?
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God of hesed, encourage us to practice loving kindness, loyalty, and faithfulness, beyond borders and boundaries, not just because we are related by blood or marriage, but because we are “supposed to” as members of Your family. Amen.
Rev Sarah Renfro is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Geist Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Fishers, Indiana. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Sarah formerly modeled internationally, was ordained into ministry in 2010, is married to Rev. Kyle Brown, mother to Miriam, March Madness fanatic (Go Big Blue!), and writer at m-bodied.com. Her ministry includes leading body image workshops and preaching on embodiment and faith.
-Rev. Joanne Walker Flowers, PhD-
A sensitive answer turns back wrath, but an offensive word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 CEB
I lived in a small town, Sierra Vista, Arizona while working at Cochise College many years ago. It took a while for me to adjust to the dry, brown desert terrain but I grew to love it. There was such openness to the land, it was vast and untamed and living there gave me the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted to do, ride horses. Of course, first I had to learn how.
As a beginner, the quarter horses I rode were larger than I expected and a bit daunting. How could I possibly control this huge animal? But as every experienced rider knows, the secret to controlling the horse rests in the control of its mouth, that is, its bit. To illustrate the power of the tongue, James wrote about the bit controlling the horse and a small rudder turning a large ship. (James 3:3-4)
In Proverbs we read, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) If the tongue is so powerful, why are we so careless with it?
Lord, I ask you to grow in me the fruit of kindness that I may speak words of love and healing rather than hurt and scorn. Control my tongue as I submit to your will in my life. Lead me, guide me, direct me, and please use me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Joanne Walker Flowers is ordained clergy in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with a ministry of health and healing.
Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 CEB
Drivers mashed their horns and swerved around me. My little blue car sat right in the middle of the off-ramp, and it wasn’t going anywhere. Just as I was exiting to head back to my new job, my car just stopped. The engine wouldn’t turn over, and I didn’t know what to do. I was nineteen, without a cell phone, and living on my own in a new city. I’d never had to deal with a broke-down car on an off-ramp before.
A soft tap on my driver’s side window startled me. I assumed the middle-aged man outside my window wanted to holler at me for blocking the ramp, so I only cracked my window a little. “Put it in neutral,” he said.
I did. He pushed my car off onto the shoulder, and then offered me a ride to a phone.
He probably doesn’t remember me. But I remember him. He could have gotten agitated by my inconveniently parked car. I was in his way just as much as I was in any other driver’s way. Instead of honking at me or flipping me the bird, he chose to be kind and help me out.
And kindness is a choice, isn’t it? We can choose to put ourselves into another person’s shoes. We can choose to act out of kindness and compassion instead of acting out of anger and judgment.
If we allow ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit, our first instincts won’t be to lay on the horn and drive around. Our first instinct will be to listen to the problem and offer to help.
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God, please help me to choose kindness, even when it’s not convenient. Allow the Holy Spirit to work through me and influence my actions.
Kristy Burmeister writes about stalkers, church-related trauma, feminism, and pie (pretty much in that order) at kristyburmeister.com. She's currently working on a memoir about a church that almost got her murdered when she was a teenager. (Spoiler: She's still alive.)