Several years ago, there was a popular song with a chorus that went something like this:
“You’ve got to try a little kindness. And you’ll overlook the blindness. Of the narrow-minded people. On the narrow-minded street.”
Well, I may not have those words exactly right, but you get the general idea.
Are you a kind person? Did you ever stop to think about it? What exactly does it mean to be kind?
My dictionary says that to be kind is to be “gentle and benevolent, of a sympathetic nature.” My Bible says that we should be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32), and also that one of the main characteristics of love is kindness (I Cor. 13:4).
So what does the Bible mean when it says “be kind”? Well, didn’t we just look it up in the dictionary? It means to be “gentle and benevolent,” with a “sympathetic nature,” doesn’t It.?
Well, no – not exactly.
When the apostle Paul told the Ephesians and the Corinthians (and us) to be kind, he had something very special in mind.
Most of you know that the books of the New Testament were originally written in Greek. What you have is a translation.
If you are learning a foreign language at school, you know how hard it is to translate one language into another. It’s easy enough to change simple things, like “hello” or “good-bye.” But words expressing thoughts and ideas are harder to translate.
Take a common word that we all know – fiancée. There really is no one word in the English language that exactly expresses what that means. So we take the easy way out – and simply borrow the French expression. We do the same thing with other words like siesta and boutique.
Sometimes many words are needed to explain exactly what one word means in another language. The funniest one we ever heard was from an island in the South Pacific. Missionaries had brought a piano to put in the little church on the island.
“What is it?” asked the natives.
“We call it a pianoforte,” replied the missionaries.
The missionaries tried to explain that the instrument’s full name, pianoforte, came from two Italian words meaning soft and loud. “So we call it a pianoforte because of what it does.”
“All right,” said the native chief. “Then in our language, we will also call it after what it does.” So they called it a “big brown-box-got-many-white-teeth-you-bang- ‘em-him-sing-out.”
What’s all this go to do with kindness?
Just this, In the Bible, the Greek words translated “kind” don’t’ mean exactly the same as the English word. One Greek word is spelled something like “chresteuomai” (you should see it in Greek letters!), but don’t worry about that. What is more important is what these words mean: “good” or “useful.” So what Paul was saying was that a kind person makes himself or herself useful.
To be “kind” in the biblical sense. You have to do something. It isn’t just a case of thinking about doing things, or wanting to do them.
Since we can’t transfer one’s thoughts around, thinking nice thoughts isn’t going to help anyone except perhaps yourself. But if you translate the thought into action, it can really make a difference.
And did you know that kindness is contagious? Ever watch a stream of people going through a door – like at school or an office at closing time? Most people are in a hurry, and they just let the door slam shut after they have passed through. It shuts in the face of the next person. This annoys him, and so he does the same thing, and soon.
But if someone waits add holds the door open for the person coming after him, and gives a pleasant smile, it makes the next person feel good. He is more likely to stop and hold the door open for the person following him.
Kindness is like that. When you make someone feel good, they feel like doing good. It brightens up their whole outlook on life for a while. How can you make people feel good – if you notice your friends with some nice new clothes, tell them they look nice. Taking the time to notice new things and to give sincere compliments is an often overlooked form of kindness.
See that older lady, having some difficulty getting up the stairs? Offer her your arm for support. That’s kindness.
While at church you may see a young mother, with two young children and a big diaper bag. Perhaps her husband isn’t in the Church, or perhaps he’s out somewhere parking cars. Anyway, this morning she’s all by herself, and struggling a bit. Offer to carry that bag. That’s being kind.
Kindness doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Often it’s the little things that make the difference. Like polishing your dad’s shoes when you know he’s in a hurry.
Or taking a few minutes to go, and talk to a person who looks lonely. Really listening to someone can be one of the kindest things you can do, because so many people just pretend to listen.
In the New World to come, kindness will be the way of life throughout the whole world
The Feast Tabernacles pictures the New World to come. By making the effort to be kind, you can actually help people to enjoy a bit of the Millennium in advance.
So like the song said, why don’t you “try a little kindness?”