When the Lord calls me to my heavenly home, i want to look up a Scottish Presbyterian preacher named John Watson who ministered in Scotland and England from 1874 to 1905 and wrote a shelf of popular books under the pen name “Ian Maclaren.” Why look him up? Because he successfully followed a motto that has been a great help to me in my own ministry. I used to write it in a front page of each of my preaching Bibles and look at it regularly. Whether the motto was original with John Watson or borrowed from someone else is immaterial, because the motto is bibilcal and it works.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.
Note that word “everyone” which includes the children and teens as well as the adults and church patriarchs. The faithful pastor knows some of the burdens they carry, but there are always more hidden struggles. We can’t solve every problem or carry every burden, but we can be kind and let people know that we care. When evangelist D. L. Moody was conducting his large Sunday School in Chicago, somebody ask one of the boys, “Why do you pass by three other churches to come to Mr. Moody’s Sunday School?” The boy answered, “They love a fella there.”
When I was in the pastorate, I planned to arrive at church early enough to have time to walk about in the sanctuary and greet people, especially visitors, and chat with the church family, especially the children. It was one of the best ways to catch up on family needs and discover what was really going on. I wrote down what I learned so I could pray for those invovled and perhaps make a home or hospital visit. (Yes, back in those days pastors made house calls.) I used to tell my seminary classes, “People will forget your sermons, but they will never forget your kindnesses.” I hope some of my students believed me.
The kindness of God
The Hebrew word hesed and the Greek word chrestos are usually translated “kindness,” but you will also find “loving-kindness, grace, mercy” and “unfailing love” in various translations. My favorite translation is “sympathetic kindness.” It’s easy to be kind with our words but not put our hearts in gear. God’s kindness is always active and comes from His heart.
The repeated phrase “His love endures forever” in Psalm 136 could be translated “His kindness endures forever.” The first nine verses and verse 25 focus on God’s kindness in nature while the remainder of the psalm describes His kindness in history. Both nature and history have had their stormy times, but God has always brought His people through successfully. But he is also “kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:25) and “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). According to ACts 14:17, these blessings bear witness that there is a God and that He is kind to us, but most people take them for granted or complain when things aren’t what they want them to be.
Of course, God’s greatest act of kindness was sending His Son Jesus Christ to earth to minister the Word, do many good works and then suffer and die on the cross. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4). Not everybody He helped thanked Him or even believed on Him for salvation, but He was kind to them just the same. Even when debating with His enemies, He revealed His kindness in what He said and the way He said it, always seeking to lead them into the truth. While dyin gon the cross, Jesus prayed for His enemies!
For a beautiful picture of “the kindness of God,” read 2 Samuel 9. David was securely established in his kingdom, but he wanted to do something to show kindness to the family of Saul. His predecessor hadn’t show much kindness to him; in fact, he tried to kill him at least twice. But David wanted to do something kind for the sake of his beloved friend Jonathan. Why does the Father show such great kindness to us? For the sake of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ! “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
In love, David searched for Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, brought him into his own home and took care of him. Mephibosheth called himself “a dead dog” (v. 8), but David made him a prince at his own table. Years later, when Mephibosheth was in danger of being killed, David stepped in and protected him (2 Sam. 21:1-11). He did this, not because the young man deserved it, but for the sake of his dear friend Jonathan, the father of Mephibosheth. God had been so kind to David, so David was kind to Mephibosheth, for the sake of Jonathan.
The kindness of God’s children
As the children of God who have been born again and therefore partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), we should manifest God’s kindness in our lives and ministries. “Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves” (Prov. 11:17 TNIV). “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed are those who are kind to the needy” (Prov. 14:21 TNIV). Paul makes this very clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to other believers and to everyone else.” He gives us both the negative and the positive and then commands us to be kind to other believers and to everyone else! It’s almost like a great commission: “Go into all the world and be kind to everybody.” This includes the road-rage driver who almost caused an accident, the customer who pushed ahead of you in the line and the church officer who chewed you out just before the morning services and made it difficult for you to preach. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
Kindness is the fruit of Christian character. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other adn forgive whatever grievances you may have against another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:12-13). Note that kindness is linked with forgiveness both here and in Ephesians 4:32. If we are carrying resentment and an unforgiving spirit within, we are judging and condemning others and therefore can never forgive them. This is why Petere uruges us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18), and he describes this growth in the first chapter of his second letter: “…make every effor to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (vv.5-7). When you put together Paul’s list in Colossians and Peter’s list in his second letter, you can see that kindness is rooted in Christian character in the life of a believer who is maturing spiritually.
Let’s look at another list. Read it carefully.
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, in hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuin, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)
When you get to the word “hunger,” the emphasis changes from what Paul was enduring to how Christ was enabling him, and kindness was a part of that enablement. I once knew a man who kept in a small notebook a record of the people who had offended him and how thye did it, and he was one of the most troubled men I’ve ever known–and he also caused trouble! Paul would have needed a large journal to record what both believers and unbelievers had done to hurt him, but he knew better. His defense was in his purity, understanding of God’s will, patience and kindness. How is this possible? He tells us: “in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.” “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). “God has poiured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…” (Gal. 5:22).
Kindness isn’t necessarily a center stage production that everybody sees. Even giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty child merits a reward (Matt. 10:42), and so does feeding, housing and clothing strangers (Matt. 25:31-40). It’s not the measure of the gift that’s important but the motive behind the giving. We do it for Jesus’ sake, to thank Him and glorify Him. “I tell you the truth,” said Jesus, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). Kindness is a family affair.
(copyright 2009, Warren Wiersbe, all rights reserved, not to be used without permission)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).