It’s rather easy to be kind to people who look nice, who smell sweet, who act friendly, and who say pleasant things. It’s even easier to be kind to people from whom we need or want something. The student who needs a letter of recommendation from her teacher may be nicer to her teacher than she would be otherwise. The young man who wants to marry a beautiful, sweet, young lady will likely be very kind to her, in part, because he hopes that she will marry him one day. Is this sort of kindness what God expects from Christians?
Although most people in the world do what “feels good” and “natural,” God wants Christians to learn from Him what goodness and kindness really is. The sort of “kindness” that the world shows is often shallow, selective, and self-seeking. Real, biblical kindness, however, is quite different.
First, godly loving-kindness often involves making sacrifices. James asked, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16). It costs nothing to say a kind word, but to give someone something involves some measure of sacrifice and generosity.
Do you remember what the Good Samaritan did when he saw the half-dead man on the side of the road (Luke 10:30-36)? He did not merely say kind words him; he took action! He spent his time, energy, and money showing kind compassion to a man in need. The Samaritan poured his own precious oil and wine on the man’s wounds and bandaged them. He set the injured man on his own animal, carried him to an inn, and “took care of him.” Then, when the Samaritan departed the next day, he gave money to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you” (Luke 10:35). The Samaritan was truly good and kind because his actions involved making sacrifices.
In Ephesians 4:32, the apostle Paul commanded Christians to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted.” Interestingly, Paul then directed the Ephesians’ attention to Christ, Who “has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (5:2). What lesson can we learn from Jesus? That loving-kindness involves making one or more sacrifices.
Second, our kindness is not to be directed toward only certain people. Divinely defined kindness does not target one person to the neglect of another. In truth, God’s all-loving, perfectly just nature will not allow Him to be kind only to certain people. God is kind toward everyone. Peter said: “God shows no partiality. But in everynation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Even though some people in the first century were considered “influential,” notice Paul’s attitude in Galatians 2:6. He said: “What they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality” (ESV). Regardless if people were “something” or “nothing,” Paul’s Christ-like attitude toward them was to be consistent.
James said that it is impossible to hold “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 1:1-4).
Whether rich or poor, whether family, friend, or foe (Matthew 5:43-44), with whomever we come in contact, may God help us to show real, God-approved kindness to everyone. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?... And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others?... Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48).