Practical Kindness (Ashes day 4)
Now that we’ve spent some time considering kindness, we can see that it is selfless, impartial, and intrinsically connected to love. We’ve seen examples of kindness in the life of Jesus and in how Ember and Ksa act in Ashes. And now, to round out this section of our study, I want to just consider two more Scriptures that give a practical idea of what kindness looks like.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:9-10, ESV). There are a few points that I want to pull out of these verses. The first is that they are using the word “love” instead of “kindness.” The two words are not entirely interchangeable, but given their close connection, this still helps us to have an idea of what kindness should look like. According to Paul, it should be “genuine” and resemble “brotherly affection.” The term “brotherly affection” is particularly helpful to me because I happen to have an older brother whom I love more than pretty much anyone else. To love or show kindness with “brotherly affection” immediately tells me that it is without holding anything back. That, paired with the use of the word genuine, paints a picture of kindness that begins with the heart. It is more than merely a show.
At the end of these verses, Paul says to “Outdo one another in showing honor.” The original Greek of this phrase speaks to tender affection and valuing others as though they are precious. This connects back to the idea of sacrificial, selfless kindness. Kindness is not meant to be conditional. It is meant to be shown without reservation, to go above and beyond, to ignore limits placed by a worldly point of view.
Moving on from Romans, James writes that, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, ESV). One of the great things about this verse is its practicality, and that is a practicality we can apply to what kindness looks like. That is not to say that the only correct application of kindness is to tend to widows and orphans, but a key idea here is that the focus is not on what people can give back to us. The instruction is to care for others, particularly the people who are often overlooked by the world. It goes along with James’ warning against partiality in the next chapter. For kindness to be true, to be genuine, it cannot come from a place of expectation or a transactional mindset. If we consider kindness in the light of how it benefits us as the giver, we’ve missed the point entirely.
Finally, there is a similar point in both these selections that is slightly removed from kindness, but still a necessary point to consider. In Romans, Paul gives the direction to “hold fast to what is good.” In James, verse 27 ends with, “keep oneself unstained from the world.” These phrases contain a similar idea of remaining apart from the usual way of the world, of keeping our focus on what is good and pure. True kindness isn’t easy, and it’s bound to draw criticism from the world around us. To be biblically kind (honestly, to be biblically anything) is to be counter-cultural. And in general, the world does not like ideals that challenge the me-first worldview. If we are to truly discover what kindness looks like in our lives, it is absolutely necessary that we put aside worldly desires and cling to the truth, hope, and love found in God’s Word.
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This particular page is dedicated to connecting my stories with their inspiration in God's Word. One of the goals of my writing is that it would illustrate God's goodness, love, and truth. These posts are designed to make those illustrations just a little more clear.