The Joy of Kindness

And so I insist–and God backs me up on this–that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd…that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well-instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything–and I do mean everything–connected with that old way of life has got to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life–a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
Ephesians 4:17,20-24

I read an interesting article last week written by a middle-aged woman, discussing her week of attempting out-of-her-way kindness. It started out rough, awkward, and not necessarily rewarding. A few days in, she realized that when she wanted to be kind to others intentionally, not just because it was right, she felt the joy that comes with it. Her acts became more selfless and took less thought. The kindness flowed out without much effort.

I like to think of myself as a kind person. But really, I think it’s more accurate to say I keep myself in safe situations. Situations that don’t warrant a lot of effort, interactions with others that don’t bring the possibility of grand commitments, and places that are familiar and surely not “crawling” with people I feel uncomfortable around. I play it safe because safe is easy. And it’s easier to be kind to people when they reciprocate it.

I don’t think God wants from me a grand show of my kindness. He doesn’t even want me to show it off and tell the whole world about it (Matthew 6:1-4). The prize of kindness is seeing other people’s joy, and I have to be real when I say that I don’t always let kindness flow through me. I clog up that artery with some doses of selfishness and excuses, selective blindness to those in need, avoidance of commitment. And the thought occurs to me:  who am I to stop the flow of serving others when I was so selflessly served, loved, and rescued by God? A King died for me. And I’m wary about serving in situations that make me uncomfortable. I can’t imagine the cross was a real comfortable, ideal place to be. Puts it into perspective, yeah?

It isn’t overnight that I can become Mother Theresa. But I want His character in me, directing my open arms to needy people. And the needy people could be the richest of them all, and I would miss them if my eyes were looking solely through my human vision. A God-fashioned life is one of continual renewal. Continually allowing the heart of God to overtake our hearts of stone. Continually allowing His character to become our own. Because I know my sin-filled character, the one that clogs up my kindness arteries, filled with hesitation and doubt, looking for personal benefit. I want to be renewed, again and again, until I see Him face to face.

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