Fifteen years ago our family of three traveled to Pennsylvania to visit my sister and brother-in-law. When we arrived at her street and were getting out of the minivan, I heard a helicopter flying low overhead. I knew it would be a great chance for Grace to see a helicopter flying very low to the ground as it was either taking off or landing.
Grace, at that age, loved airplanes and helicopters, and so when I got her out of the minivan I pointed out the helicopter to her. She was thrilled. Then we noticed a second helicopter. What a treat we thought – two helicopters flying low overhead. And then would you believe it, to my 3 ½ year old’s amazed eyes, there was yet another helicopter flying overhead!
My amazement turned to dread though, as my sister came out of her house to meet us and announced that there had been a shooting at an Amish school just a few miles away. And that thelocal hospital was just a few blocks away from my sister’s house. There was not much information coming out about what had happened, but I knew the awful reality was that those magnificent helicopters we were so fascinated with were transporting little hurt Amish girls.
Even though the Amish live a very different life than I do (they use no electricity, no automobiles), simply being so geographically close to this tragedy made a huge impact on me. One of the most outrageous factors to come out of this tragedy was that this madman had chosen to terrorize this Amish school house because he knew they were so vulnerable to attack. No metal detectors, no school guards. In fact, he wouldn’t even be seen as suspicious to them because he was the one who delivered fresh milk to many of their homes every day. He lived just a few miles from the school house, on the very edge of this Amish community. He killed five Amish girls, and then himself.
And then, as if this story could not get any more bizarre than it already was, strange news started coming out of the Amish community over the next few days. I’m talking WEIRD, outlandishly BIZARRE news. This Amish community forgave this madman for his actions. This Amish community embraced this madman’s family. And while any other community would have driven his family away from them, the Amish asked this family to please stay so that they could mourn together. And to show that these were very much more than just words, half of all the people who showed up at the madman’s funeral were Amish. That Amish community proved that they took Jesus’ call to mourn with those who mourn, and to forgive those who have harmed them, literally.
I cannot think of any better example of Biblical kindness.
Kindness is one of those words that we do not hear much anymore. Kind people are kind of like the Amish – they don’t fit in very well in our world. In our world of busy schedules anddemands to succeed, in our world that says “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,” in our world where “you had better look out for #1 because no one else will,” kindness just doesn’t fit in very well.
As we have seen in past weeks, all of these manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit are really expressions of the one Fruit of the Spirit: love. And this is especially true of kindness. Kindness is love in action. It is allowing God to deal with any bitterness and anger we have so that when we interact with others, it is solely for their benefit. When we are kind we have a deep respect and consideration for others because we are well aware of how great the forgiveness is that Christ has shown to us. Therefore, we want to share that great forgiveness with others.
So what does living a life of kindness look like in your life? What does living a life that focuses on humbly serving others look like? How, in your schedule, at your job, in your home, at your school, does kindness translate into practical and real actions?
Let me give you some suggestions on how to develop a life of kindness this week.
1. It begins with a right relationship with God. Are you running away from God, or are you trying to be good enough to repay God? Either way, you are going to find it very hard to be kind to others, because you will be so caught up with yourself, you won’t be free to be kind to others. So ask for God’s forgiveness, accept God’s cleansing, and ask for God’scompassion and love to be made real in you.
2. Secondly, look for small needs in other people’s lives. Maybe they need someone to talk to, maybe they need help financially, maybe they need a babysitter for the evening so they can spend time with their spouse, maybe they need someone to help them carry their groceries to the car. Don’t look for the big needs all the time. We want to be people’s saviors, we want to be the one who rescues them and makes the defining difference in their lives. But a lot of times people don’t need to be rescued as much as they just need to be helped. And the people who do need to be rescued don’t often know it until they are first helped in small ways. Who knows how big or how small kindness can be this week. But if you will look, if you will ask God to show you how you can be kind to others I am convinced he will make it clear to you how you can put the art of kindness into action.
3. Keep an attitude of prayer. Acts of kindness can quickly digress in works of righteousness. It is easy to be kind to others and then get upset when that kindness is not recognized or appreciated. Remember, the point of kindness is not so that you can be appreciated, the point of kindness is so that the person you are serving can be appreciated. The person you would want applause from is not that other man or woman, but Jesus. The person you want to be thanked for your actions is not yourself, but Christ Jesus living inside of you.
If you choose to live this way, you won’t be as weird and bizarre as those Amish families…but you will have made a great start!