Kindness

Preaching and Worship Resources about Kindness

Kindness shows itself when we treat other people deferentially, going beyond being merely polite in order gently and tenderly to extend warmth and love. Kindness involves a generosity of spirit, a desire to say or do something that ennobles another person and makes them feel cared for and cherished. Somewhat surprisingly, Scripture frequently claims that at the core of our very salvation is the kindness of God.

In Scripture

Ruth and Naomi "Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, `Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!' Naomi also said to her, `The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin'" (Ruth 2:20).

David and Jonathan "David asked, `Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan's sake?'. . . `There remains a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet' . . . Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David . . . and David said to him, `Do not be afraid, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan; I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you yourself shall eat at my table always'" (2 Sam. 9:1-8).

God's kindness "Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4).

"But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — [ ]and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7).

God's chosen ones "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Col. 3:12).

God saved us "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:4-5).

Points to Ponder

Not Just Being Nice: There is a sense in which kindness and niceness are similar. We are nice to colleagues at work when we stop by their office just to see how they are doing following a death in the family. We are nice to someone when we don't publicly embarrass him by pointing out that he has a mustard stain on his shirt from lunch earlier in the day. We are being nice when we compliment the potato salad someone brought to the potluck even though we found it to be utterly bland. There is kindness in all that niceness, but kindness is more powerful, more pro-active, too. Kindness has some real strength behind it when it helps us to elevate and dignify someone whom others ignore or belittle. When we are able to treat even someone who has been cruel to us with love, we are going way beyond just being nice. When we love our enemies, few would describe that by saying, "Well, that was nice of you." No, it was beyond nice. Loving the unlovable reveals a deep and strong kindness at work. Kindness is also what leads to bigger actions, like devoting one's life to assisting someone on account of the love and respect we had for that person's father or mother (as David did in 2 Samuel in taking in Mephibosheth for the sake of David's dear friend, Jonathan). Kindness and niceness may be first cousins, but kindness is the more lasting virtue in ways that go beyond just saying to someone, "Have a nice day!" That said, however, it should also be pointed out that although being a Christian means far more than being a nice person, it ought not to mean less.

The Opposite of Being Cold and Selfish: Kindness can be seen in the simplest acts that make the world a more pleasant place. We are kind when we share our umbrella with a stranger during a sudden cloudburst of rain. We are kind when we give up our seat on the bus to someone carrying a heavy package or to an older person who seems unsteady on his feet. Kindness makes us hold the door open for someone. Kindness prompts us to hand someone a Halls Mentho-lyptus drop when they are having a coughing fit. Kindness lets the other person take the last piece of dessert from the dinner buffet. The playwright Wendy Wasserstein was once heard to say that people expect New Yorkers to be cold and uncaring and so are surprised to find out that kindness is, in fact, how folks in the big city survive, and they really do extend it to others. "To be kind isn't to be soft but rather humane," Wasserstein was quoted as saying in a New York Times book review once. "Cold is simple. Kindness takes far more courage."

Saving Kindness? More than once in the New Testament, the very salvation we receive through Christ Jesus is said to have sprung from God's kindness. But how can God's ultimate triumph over sin, evil, death, and the devil stem from God's just being kind? If someone gives you a tissue because they noticed you are getting emotional while watching a movie, you say, "Thanks, that was kind of you." But if someone donates a kidney to you, saying, "Thanks, that was kind of you" seems too limp a way to sum up so costly an act. So how can salvation stem from kindness? It can because what we forget is that at the biblical core of kindness there is a moral power, an uprightness of character and a generosity of vision that can finally be transformative. In a sermon, Tom Long once suggested that kindness is what allows us to see every person as an image-bearer of God, a creature of such weight and worth that if we could see now what this person will become in the kingdom of God, we'd be tempted to fall down and worship so luminous a being. God sees us this way too. While we were yet sinners and so deserving of only punishment, the kindness of God allowed God to see each one of us as a frightened, damaged child who still bore, deep down, the divine imprint placed there in the beginning (cf. Hosea 11). In a kindness that is as fierce as it is tender, God stooped to us in our weakness and lifted our faces so that our eyes could meet his eyes. And in that kindness-inspired moment, we were saved by grace. And by kindness too.

From Frederick Buechner: "Henry James once told a nephew, `There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, the third is to be kind.' Be kind because although kindness is not by a long shot the same thing as holiness, kindness is one of the doors that holiness enters the world through, enters us through — not just gently kind but sometimes fiercely kind" .


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.