Love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). I got it. Easy. Can do! Or is it… We typically see kindness as our considerate moments. Those times when we hold the door for someone else. Or when we magnanimously allow someone with a few items to go ahead of us at the checkout. Or give the nod to a merging driver. Those are kindness moments, but Love’s kindness is so much more.
What is kindness? Is it just a smile and a gentle word? Could it be much deeper than a superficial attitude? I think the word hinges on considering others. Seeing and thinking about what would benefit others and accepting the sacrifices or risks needed to provide that benefit. Giving something for someone else’s benefit is the basic exchange of kindness.
I think we all get the considerate kindness of inviting someone to go ahead of us. But there are other examples as well. Listening, really listening, is a kindness. Accepting someone as they are is a kindness. Helping without judgment or belittling others is kindness. Telling someone they have mustard on their shirt is also kindness. As is warning the selfie taker they’ve stepped near the edge of a cliff.
Loving-kindness is more than just gentle words and considerate actions. It is observing, listening, and leaning towards the needs of others at our own expense. Sometimes it means difficult discussions and corrective encouragements. But here we must be careful. Paul didn’t write – love polices and critically watches each other. Yet, to allow someone to step into an important life moment with mustard on their shirt is less than kind. No one likes correction, but sometimes that is the greater kindness.
Loving-kindness is modeled in Jesus’ interactions with people. The human tendency is to interact gently with the powerful, giving all due deference and homage while devaluing and ignoring those on the fringes of life. Jesus, however, was gentle, accepting, and forgiving towards those on the fringes. But to the powerful self-righteous He was earth-shatteringly harsh. That’s the difference between everyday courtesy and love that is kind.
There’ a balance to maintain between the squishy let it ride kindness and harsh correction. That balance is only found in love. Love keeps us looking at what is best for the other person instead of what is best for us. A balance defined in Jesus as He touched the lost, broken, and the ones left out – including you and me.
Jesus taught this basic lesson, ““Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1, NASB95) Here’s the defining question, Am I doing kindness to better my life, my feelings, my stature, or to benefit someone else? The why questions are always the hardest to answer. We can all be kind, and kindness is a good thing in an of itself. But why we are kind is a kingdom question. Is it to be seen as kind? To gain the respect of others? To pay for some inner shame? Or is it because we see an opportunity to show love to someone through an act of kindness?
Love cares for others, it acts kindly. With overtones of gentleness, mercy, and grace. To be kind requires recognition and action towards the needs of others at our own expense. Loving-kindness fills the gap between what should be and what is.