Be Kind To One Another (revised)
An Inspiring Act
Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
With this statement, Paul stresses that kindness is more than just a casual and superficial act.
In your understanding of the word kind, do you include room for being tenderhearted?
What if anything does kindness have to do with being forgiving?
In Aristotle’s volume of work entitled “Rhetoric”, the second book identifies kindness as an emotion and defines it as an act of helpfulness performed for the benefit of one in need and not to the gain of the one performing the act. In other words, you receive no advantage and nothing in return for your act of kindness. An act of kindness must be void of any hidden agenda; it’s a gesture that is carried out for the reason of providing help and assistance for the person in receipt. Friedrich Nietzsche, the German Philosopher attached kindness as a close second to love and states the two as being the most powerful acts of human involvement. Kindness is the threshold over which love must cross in order to go forward. It is included among the attributes in the list of the “Seven Heavenly Virtues.” These virtues are also known as the “Contrary Virtues”, because they stand in opposition to the “Seven Deadly Sins.” In this case kindness being the direct opposite of envy. According to the description here, kindness not only is an act towards others, but also a quality which has the ability to inspire the act of kindness in those to whom it is given.
In our last discussion we looked at Philippians 2:4 as it related to bearing the burden of others… it also applies in our understanding of being kind; after all, the bearing of another’s burden is in itself an act of kindness.
Philippians 2:4 (NIV)
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
To fully illustrate kindness as it relates to being tenderhearted and forgiving; let us consider the relationship of three men in the Old Testament. As we look into their story, see if you can relate the elements of our scripture passage… as well as the concepts surrounding them in the events that take place.
David, Jonathan, and Mephibosheth
The relationship between these three men clearly shows how kindness can be of great benefit as well as a quality that is contagious; extending itself far beyond the one who initiates the act first. At the very least the interaction that takes place does not fit the times or the situation under which they take place.
David was the Shepherd boy who killed Goliath and the servant of Saul, the first King of Israel. He was also anointed by the prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as the next King of Israel. Because of this, Saul plotted to kill David, and David knew it. David should have been motivated to try and kill Saul before he himself was killed first; yet David acted with kindness in his dealings toward Saul the first King. Even while on the run for his life and having opportunity to make deadly assault against Saul, David still turned to forgiveness and kindness as his choice of action.
1 Samuel 24:4-7 (NIV)
The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.' “Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.
David’s frame of mind and his actions went against the situation that was threatening his life. He would not gain any worldly benefit from sparing Saul’s life… doing so could very well put his life at further risk. Aside from being a benefit to Saul, his enemy, what other reasons could there have been behind his action? To better understand his motivation, let us take a look at the second figure of the relationship.
Jonathan was the son of King Saul and in line to succeed him as King according to birthrights. He was also a warrior and leader among men, accustomed to making tough decisions that were at times hard. However, Jonathan was also David’s friend. When he became aware of his father’s intentions… his actions were quite outside the norm for one in his position. Instead of siding with his father to secure his birthright and position as the next King; Jonathan came to David’s assistance.
1 Samuel 20:4 (NIV)
Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you."
The friendship between these two men formed a bond and created a love that was unshakable. They vowed a covenant between them that reached beyond death and included others besides them alone.
1 Samuel 20:12-16 (NIV)
Then Jonathan said to David: "By the LORD, the God of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? But if my father is inclined to harm you, may the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father. But show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth." So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account."
David knew both Jonathan and Saul. He understood the costs involved and the burden Jonathan was assuming. His actions would cause friction between Jonathan and his father Saul; it would probably be viewed as rebellion and dishonor. In a real sense it approaches treason. Jonathan was in effect acknowledging David’s access to the Kingship and renouncing his own claim. How much more tenderhearted could one person possibly be? Listen to his language in these verses.
1 Samuel 23:16-17 (NIV)
And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. "Don't be afraid," he said. "My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this."
Perhaps David was sympathetic in his assessment of Saul’s state of mind. Maybe he remembered the agreement made between him and Jonathan. It could be that he just realized that Saul had been anointed and chosen as the first King by God and to harm him was just plain wrong. Whatever his reason, one thing is for sure, he acted with kindness and continued to do so when it came to Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan.
Mephibosheth was the cripple son of Jonathan, David’s friend. He had been made lame at the age of five when his nurse fell and dropped him as she was fleeing; having heard the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death. It was common practice to kill the household of the fallen King; ensuring no claim to the throne or efforts by his heirs of revenge. It would seem that the panic of the nurse would be understandable under the circumstances. As David became King, it would also be understandable and proberly expected that he would follow this customary practice. Instead, however, David’s actions went in a totally different direction and followed an unexpected manner of course. Mephibosheth was brought to David who not only spared his life but restored his lands and took him in as a member of his household. All this was done because of an act of kindness, and as a result of that kindness in an extended sense.
2 Samuel 9:7 (NIV)
"Don't be afraid," David said to him, "for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table."
The God we serve is a merciful God. Encompassed within that mercy is a divine quality called kindness. It has been heralded as virtue; second only in nature to love, and as a condition that has the power to offset the deadly sin of envy. We can certainly see why it is something worth developing, and why probably because of it David was known as a man after God’s own heart.
Over the course of life there will be many of opportunities where the choice to be kind... or not... will present itself. it is my hope and my prayer that the virtues of kindness will resonate in your understanding. It will be within those moments that a lifetime of benefit can be birthed... perhaps for generations on end.