Just this afternoon I read a post on my community Facebook page about someone paying for someone else’s coffee. It was a kind and generous gesture on the part of a stranger that blessed a mom who had a rough start to her Monday morning. Her post was followed up with lots of huzzah’s and general encouragement to pay it forward.
At the surface this felt like genuine kindness. But it got me thinking: was this what God had in mind for kindness, a fruit of His Spirit, or might there be a little more to it?
The opposite of kindness
You can’t talk about kindness without talking about its opposite; it helps us understand what kindness isn’t. The antonym of kindness can be summed up with some very sobering words: brutality, barbarity, greediness, inhumanity, malevolence. Yikes, right?
Last Saturday as we brainstormed a few things in our world that we would associate with these words, things like ISIS, chemical warfare, murder, rape, social media backlash and abortion were mentioned.
Jason T. shared about “friends” who gave him a nickname in high school that he thought just made him one of the guys. Instead, he learned they were just making fun of him behind his back. Understandably, he felt vengeful towards those boys.
Jason went on to tell us about the bullying his brother endured that contributed to his eventual suicide.
Brutality, inhumanity, malevolence. It can be shocking what other people are capable of, whether they understand the repercussions or not. So what do we do?
How do we face such brutality in light of God’s Word?
Responding to brutality
As we become more Christ-like we also must be kind to the ungrateful and evil. Even while our heart seeks justice, we have to understand that the most just thing is to do the most God-like thing, to not seen vengeance.
Going back to Jason’s story, he told us about how once he began to make friends who were believers he found the genuine kindness he was looking for. At the Bible study he is a part of, he knows that no matter how long he is away from them, he can return and be extended dignity and respect and sincere friendship from them.
As we began to reframe our ideas about kindness, we talked briefly about the story of the Prodigal son. If anyone had the right to hand out consequences, it was the father. And as you can read in Luke 15, we learn that he instead throws him a party!
There’s one last place where I’d like to take you to truly understand the dichotomy of kindness vs. brutality. As we bow at the foot of the cross, we come face to face with the horror that was Jesus’ crucifixion. The heartless execution of the only truly just and righteous human, complete with spit in the face, having his clothing stolen, and his friends abandoning him. And yet… it’s His great kindness that is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It’s because of the cross that we have absolute and undeserved forgiveness. When we choose to follow Jesus, it becomes a part of our very nature to extend that brand of kindness to everyone, even those who don’t deserve it.
We go from treating others in kind, to in kindness.
So should we buy a stranger a coffee? Sure! It’s a nice thing to do. And if that stranger turns around and throws it at your car? We still have the same calling to extend Christ’s kindness for the sake of the cross.