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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

1080: No More Mr. Nice: Pastoral Reflections on Kindness

Day 1080: Wednesday, March 1, 2023

No More Mr. Nice: Pastoral Reflections on Kindness

Kindness may be one of the most overlooked pieces of the fruit of the Spirit. But it shouldn’t be, for it takes us to the very heart of the gospel.

My family didn’t make much of birthdays. In fact, with the exception of the year we went to Pietro’s Pizza to play video games, none stand out. But on October 4, 1996, my wife made reservations at a steak house for my birthday. When we arrived at our table, a handful of friends yelled, “Surprise!” That was a good day. They spent time and money celebrating God’s gift of another year to me.

What did my wife and friends demonstrate that night? Kindness. It’s a simple virtue, one that’s easily overlooked. However, the presence of kindness is preeminent evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world.

Kindness is the presence of compassion and generosity toward others. The kind person is helpful, useful, and lovingly working for the well being of others. If goodness is the light of God shining within the human heart, then kindness is the light of God shining from the human heart. Kindness exists for the benefit of others.

To put it bluntly, a person sitting at home simply remembering my birthday isn’t being kind. Kindness has feet and hands. Kindness gets in the car, goes to the restaurant, and waits. Kindness pulls out a credit card and cheerfully pays the price of enjoying an evening with a friend. Goodness is. Kindness works. Kindness isn’t being Mr. Nice; it’s making a difference.

In Romans 1, Paul paints a startling portrait of humanity’s darkness. Wickedness explodes in the heart untouched by saving grace: “They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Rom. 1:29b–31). Like a skilled attorney building his case, Paul leaves no room for doubt: our condemnation is deserved. In Romans 3:23, he summarizes his argument, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Kindness melts the coldest heart. Kindness ran toward us when we walked away in unbelief. As Paul states in Romans 2:4, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” While we were set in our rebellious ways, God’s kindness appeared in a manger in Bethlehem (Titus 3:7). When we were flooded with anger and racism, God’s kindness grafted Gentiles into his family tree (Rom. 11:22). In Christ we are promised his kindness as an eternal gift (Eph. 2:7).

We should expect those filled with God’s Spirit

to be kind as well.

Kindness erupts in our hearts. We challenge and comfort others with the truth of Christ. Kindness, Paul explains, led him to share the gospel in the midst of “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, [and] hunger” (2 Cor. 6:4b–5).

Kindness is the virtue that leads us to act toward others the way Christ Jesus acted toward us—with love, care, compassion, and concern.

I'm a pastor and there is so much more to pastoral ministry. The old Suffolk preacher, Charles Bridges, noted: “The ministry is not . . . a work of contemplation, but of active, anxious, devoted employment. The spirit, business, and delight of doing good must therefore form an essential part of preparation for the work.” He went on to call the daily opportunities to visit the sick, share the gospel with kids, and engage one’s neighbors “treasures of inestimable price.” Bridges was right.

A kind pastor does more than preach, she enters into the lives of those entrusted to her care. She does so without favoritism and guile an d engages with members of the body: the old and the young, the rich and the poor, those who look like her and those who don’t, the confident and the doubting. In short, as Bridges would put it, she is actively, anxiously, and devotedly employed for the good of her flock.

Are you marked by kindness? Are compassion and generosity toward others present in your life? What would it look like for you to grow in kindness?

• Get to work in your sphere of influence. Kindness, properly understood, will cause you to reach out to your workmates, your neighbors, and your friends. Show them kindness.

• Create some margin. Between work, family, and screen time many of us have lost the capacity to act in kindness toward our neighbors. Those everyday opportunities to serve, what Bridges called “treasures of inestimable price,” go sadly unnoticed. A little margin in a busy life will go a long way. Consider reading Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy.

• Let your kindness be evident in practical acts of service toward brothers and sisters. Kindness will show itself in everything from a word of encouragement to a brother in despair to a grocery store gift card for a needy family. Open your home to a small group.

• If you’re anything like me, you’re tempted to take pride in your kindness. Self-righteousness stalks all of us. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Our kindness to others is always rooted in our God who is kind enough to save us.

Kindness may be one of the most overlooked pieces of the fruit of the Spirit. But it shouldn’t be, for it takes us to the very heart of the gospel.

Reflection by pastor Charles Bridges who wrote the book: The Christian Ministry

Good News about the Boycott Film -- now much more widely available:

Boycott is a documentary film about three Americans' lawsuits against their state governments in response to anti-BDS laws which caused said governments to cancel their business contracts after they refused to pledge that they would not engage in a boycott of Israel. The film is directed by Julia Bacha; it premiered in 2021.

I wanted to share an update that Boycott is now streaming worldwide on Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon and Vimeo on Demand.

It’s really meaningful for our team to be making Boycott widely available at this moment and we'd like to ask for your help spreading the word. You can find our digital media toolkit here. Since 2015, 34 states have passed laws punishing boycotts of Israel in an effort to silence those advocating for Palestinian rights. While the original anti-boycott laws passed with wide bi-partisan support, beginning in 2021, Republicans began to introduce copycat bills inspired by the Israel-focused anti-boycott bills, taking aim at boycotts of the fossil fuels and firearms industries. Most recently, legislators modified the bill once more to target those organizing for transgender peoples' rights, abortion access and workplace equity. Since the start of the year, over 30 copycat bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country. Tomorrow, March 2 at 1:00 pm ET, we are hosting a webinar to discuss what's next in the right to boycott in America. The webinar will feature the plaintiffs who have challenged anti-boycott laws, legal experts and the team behind Boycott. It's co-sponsored by Jewish Currents, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and Just Vision. We hope you can join us for this timely briefing and would appreciate your help spreading the word. Here are Just Vision's posts about the webinar if you’d like to reshare them (Twitter / Instagram / Facebook). Thank you for taking this request into consideration and let me know if you have any questions. We'd love to count on your support in sharing the film's launch with your network.

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