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Unusual Kindness

Once safely on shore, we [Luke, Paul and those shipwrecked] found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. (Acts 28.1-2)


Have you ever been shown “unusual kindness”? We have been many times: people have given us their beds to sleep in, cars to drive, houses to stay in, food to eat, clothes to wear, and the list goes on. They have shown what often seemed like “unusual kindness.”


It was unusual and generally unexpected. I might expect my relatives to put me up for a night or feed me a meal, but not someone that I did not know. And yet that is what often happened to Joice, me, and our children. I have seen people slip money into the hands of our children, not to be noticed, but because they were kind. I have also seen the kind look in people’s eyes when they asked us questions.


Spiritual kindness is a gift of the Holy Spirit and not all Christians seem to have it. It is often more common to be harsh and critical, especially of those who do not believe or think like we do. It is safer to stick with those who have similar views to our own.


I believe we are living at a time when kindness is often seen as weakness. We hear statements such as: “give no quarter, do not compromise, don’t let anyone pull the wool over your eyes, we Christians are not doormats,” and so on. Slogans like those can make us feel justified when we are unkind.


There are 259 references with the word “kind” in the NIV, with 55 either marking or referring to “kindness.” A capstone example is Ephesians 4.32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.” Here Paul links kindness with compassion and forgiveness. To have compassion is to have concern for someone and to show care for them and we express it in phrases like “kind-heartedness.” It is also one of the fruits (outcomes) of the Holy Spirit, alongside of love, joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23). In a slightly different wording, we find the same challenge in Colossians 3.12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”


I leave aside the references in the Bible that speak of “kind” and “kinds” in terms of different species and offspring. The first few chapters in Genesis include kinds of livestock, wild animals, birds, creatures, trees, food, and even “tools” (Genesis 4.22).


But “kindness” of the other kind (excuse the pun) is also found in Genesis: God was kind to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many others. The Lord was with Joseph and “showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden," as well as with Lot, whose life was spared. That seems more than simple kindness.


Naomi blessed her daughters-in-law and said “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me” (Ruth 1.8).


Solomon commented on the kindness shown to his father David. But not everyone remembered kindness: King Joash did not remember the kindness shown to him by Zechariah’s father, but instead killed his son (2 Chronicles 24.22) and Hezekiah did not respond favorably to the kindness he was shown (2 Chronicles 32.25). Kindness is not always appreciated by those who receive it.


Job, despite his intense suffering, knew that “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty,” and that “You [God] gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” (Job 6.14 and 10.12). He had a view of God’s kindness from within his pain and suffering.


David also declared: “I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses” (Psalm 63.7).


We should not take God’s kindness lightly--we should instead consider Paul’s question: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2.4). And when I think of kindness, I think of the challenge in Romans 11.22: “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.“


You may be familiar with the verse in Proverbs that says: “In doing this [responding in love to your enemy], you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” A more idiomatic way of saying it might be, “You will kill them [their attitudes] with kindness.”


In other words, you can’t be too kind!


Karl Franklin