A couple of days ago, I proclaimed that God is love (Well, the Apostle John helped…), so I figured that a natural way to explore what that means would be to take a stroll through 1 Corinthians 13, the Love is patient, love is kind… passage that’s often read at weddings.
It started off well enough yesterday, with God is Patient, but now we come to kind.
And I’m kind of stuck.
It’s not that I’m unconvinced that God is kind, but I have doubts that ‘kind’ is a big enough word.
Merciful, generous, forgiving, benevolent, gentle, caring, compassionate and a few dozen other synonyms spring to mind, but kind?
Kind is wiping a tear when a child skins his knee. Kind is helping a co-worker with something that’s not your job, knowing you’ll gain nothing from the action. Kind is letting someone else go in front of you in the grocery store checkout line, even though you were there first. Kind is smiling at the cranky motorist who gives you ‘the finger’, even though he’s actually the one in the wrong. Kind is (shudder) letting your teenage daughter pick the radio station.
Kind is a million little, earthly acts of selflessness we (hopefully) do without thinking, a dozen times a day, because we’re nice people – whether we’re Christians or not! ‘How do we connect something as trivial as that to God?’ I wondered today.
So I did what all 21st Century writers do when they’re stuck. I Googled it.
I landed on the blog God Is Kind, which explores our topic-du-jour quite well. (Give it a read if you can.) It points to a number of Bible verses that discuss kindness, but don’t put a lot of flesh on the bones. In paraphrase and summation, they say, ‘God is kind,’ and say ‘Be kind, like God is kind’ but don’t get into a lot of detail about what heavenly kindness does, or earthly kindness should, look like.
However, the Apostle Paul hints at an explanation for this uncharacteristic biblical brevity in Ephesians 2:7, when he talks about “the incomparable riches of (God’s) grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
The kindness of God looks exactly like Jesus.
The act of tearing Himself out of the Trinity to endure the trials of Christmas (for Him, it had to be monumentally unpleasant compared with what He was used to), Easter and everything inbetween; to suffer mockery, indifference, scorn, torture and murder (among other things) at the hands of the people He came to save – and then turn around and use that appalling injustice as the instrument of their redemption: THAT’s God’s version of kindness?!?
Maybe I need a new dictionary.
Perhaps ‘kind’ is a big enough word after all, but our earthly version of kindness is a pathetically soft whisper of an imitation of the real thing. What does the real thing look like in earthly terms for regular people? Well, what did the kindness of Jesus look like?
Consistently (even well before the end), He humbly put others ahead of Himself, even when it cost Him.
Jesus welcomed children. He dined with outcasts. He rebuked people when they were wrong (maybe kindness isn’t always agreeing to disagree). He put people ahead of rules and regulations. He cared for the sick. He fed the hungry.
And He did it all on their schedule – not His. I find it nearly impossible to be kind when I’m constantly being interrupted, but that’s when Jesus was at His kindest (See Mark 5:21-43 and John 2:1-5)!
So OK, providing an example of Jesus being kind is easy. But let’s look at this in reverse: give me an example of Jesus being unkind.
Can’t be done.
Maybe the Bible doesn’t need to spend a lot of time overtly spelling out the details of what earthly kindness should look like, because Jesus’ life was one, uninterrupted, 33-year example of exactly that.
And maybe what distinguishes holy heavenly kindness from ‘trivial’ earthly kindness isn’t the magnitude of the acts, but the number and duration of the spaces between them.
God is kind.
We are called to go and do likewise.
Peace be with you.