The Power of Kindness … and unkindness

Perhaps you have seen the signs outside church buildings “Every Member a Minister”. While you may doubt the truth of this affirmation you shouldn’t doubt that this is God’s plan for his Church. Too often church looks like a hockey game in the third period of overtime; a small group of exhausted professionals needing rest while thousands of spectators, who could probably use some exercise, watch on from their seats. When I began ministry in the inner-city I knew I wanted to encourage this ‘every member ministry’ but I knew if I used the word “ministry” that my friends would feel unqualified and opt out. So I never used the word ministry. I spoke about being kind. We issued kindness challenges and I would ask people the next week how they were able to show kindness. Before they knew it they had joined the ministry team! Kindness isn’t too hard. Anyone can be kind.

The church I attend has had a series on the Fruit of the Spirit and a couple of weeks ago the topic was on ‘Kindness”. Since then I have been thinking a lot about kindness. It seems to me that kindness is a tangible expression of our obedience to the Great Command to Love God and our neighbour. We can all be kind is a fact. That this world is often a cruel and unkind place is also a fact. While we are capable of kindness as evidenced in calamities or snow storms, are we kind often enough to ameliorate the cruelty of the world?

A friend of mine experienced very little kindness after his father’s death, until he met Christians while in prison. He tells the story of his first bank robbery as a young man. The idea of performing this armed robbery occurred to him as he walked the streets of Toronto. He saw an elderly man trip and fall on the sidewalk. People walked by without taking notice or helping. This young boy said that at that moment it occurred to him that he could rob a bank and no one would even bother to stop him. The unkindness and absence of kindness had so influenced him that this single example set him on a course of crime.

A simple act of kindness to that nameless elderly man might have averted a life of crime. We will never know. So it is with all of our acts of kindness. We will never know what effect the smallest kindnesses may have on others or even for ourselves.

Years later the kindness of a whole string of chaplains and volunteers finally broke through to my friend. He discovered a new life and has dedicated himself to acts of kindness.

God is kind and we reflect our Creator’s image most closely when we too are kind. This takes no financial means or theological training. It takes simple obedience. The next person I meet is the one to whom I ought to show kindness and then the one after that. I don’t even need to ‘feel like it’ but as I am kind I become kind. It is true that you cannot out give God!

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