Many years ago, I was in an early morning prayer meeting. A dear elderly saint, who often carried a sandwich board on the streets of downtown Saskatoon with scripture on it, was praying. Of recent, he had been the recipient of some abusive behaviour from bystanders. He prayed this: “Dear Lord, I am going to kill them!” We were momentarily shocked by the outburst from this mild man until he continued, “I am going to kill them with kindness!”
I am not sure of the effectiveness of either the sandwich board ministry or the propriety of the prayer, but his heart was in the right place.
As we wrestle through this COVID season, kindness, even among the saints, is becoming more and more of a rare commodity. Yet, it is part of the fundamental fabric of Christian behaviour.
Harvard University, Berkeley University and the Gallup pollsters have all studied the idea of kindness. It shouldn’t surprise us that what they have discovered lines up nicely with the instructions of the New Testament.
Here are some of the conclusions they have reached:
It is unlikely that a person will express kindness to others effectively until he/she understands what it means to be kind to oneself. [It is important to learn to treat ourselves with the same respect God shows for us.]
Much of our self-appraisal comes from observing our own behaviour. We draw inferences about our own value by evaluating our own actions. When we express kindness to others, we see ourselves as more acceptable.
Kindness to others creates a personal sense of purpose. We see ourselves as investing in something bigger than ourselves. When we sow kindness, we reap a rich sense of fulfillment. When we are kind the derivative benefit is a sense of personal well-being.
Studies show that being kind to others gives us greater pleasure and happiness than receiving kindness from others. Jesus said it: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Kindness begets kindness. One of the interesting parts of research is that an individual’s act of kindness stimulates others to acts of kindness. It has a snowball effect.
The Harvard, Berkeley and Gallup studies, all secular in perspective, nonetheless verify the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.”
These words are more than a nice suggestion. They are an indispensable part of our creed.