Kindness in Action

Here is a simple rule-of-thumb guide for behavior.
Ask yourself what you want people to do for you,
then grab the initiative and do it for them.
—Matthew 7:12, The Msg.

Kindness in Action

By Pat Knight

In the orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room, several of us were anticipating an X-ray prior to our first post-surgical visit. Seated near me was a man holding a fistful of medicine bottles, nervously rolling them in the palms of his hands. He was muttering angrily in broken English to his companion that he couldn’t understand the necessity of having another X-ray, and he was “planning to tell them so.” Just then, a young, vivacious X-ray technician addressed the distraught man by name and announced, “I’m going to take a quick X-ray before you see the doctor.” With great effort, he stood up, flashing a side-long glance at the technician, as if reconsidering his defiant approach.

The technician offered her outstretched arm for him to grasp, asking, “Can I help you?” Even before he replied, she steadied him as they began walking, cheerfully chatting about the beautiful weather that day. It was apparent the man had reformulated his plan of opposition in response to cheerful kindness. If I were to venture a guess about the outcome, I think they had a pleasant visit, with the man’s anger dissolving as quickly as the melting winter snow on his boots.

In God’s Word, the Golden Rule is the most universally known command guiding our behavior, though not commonly practiced. The rule instructs us to treat others as we want to be treated. One Bible translation takes our responsibility a step further. “Here is a simple rule-of-thumb guide for behavior. Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them” (Matthew 7:12, The Msg.). Since everyone craves kind treatment, it is each believer’s function to disseminate kindness to others. The vehicle of kindness operates with the fuel of cheer, propelled by good works. Imagine what a pleasant world it would be if each individual made kindness a priority.

Some acts of kindness are premeditated when we are alerted beforehand to a need. Joshua secretly sent two spies to the walled city of Jericho to assess how best to attack and capture the inhabitants and the land. The king was apprised of the presence of spies in his city, so he confronted Rahab, a prostitute and innkeeper, as to her knowledge of the stranger’s whereabouts. She admitted the spies had been in her establishment but that they had left before the gates of the city were closed at dusk. Rahab deceptively directed the soldiers to follow the spies toward the Jordan River. In reality, she had hidden the two spies underneath flax drying on her rooftop.

Rahab informed the spies that her people were well aware of the continual miracles their God had performed to rescue and protect the Israelites. She specifically mentioned their knowledge of the parting of the Red Sea, causing the citizens of Jericho to melt in fear because of the Israelite’s God. Rahab professed her personal faith: “‘The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below’” (Joshua 2:11). Then Rahab offered to help the spies if they saved her family before the city was destroyed. “‘Please swear to me by the Lord, that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you’” (v.12). The spies agreed. “‘Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land’” (v.14). From her window in the city wall, Rahab let the spies down to the ground and instructed them to hide in the hills until the militia abandoned their search in three days.

The mutual kindness between strangers was predicated on trust. For their agreement to succeed, it was necessary for both partners to remain faithful. The spies must remember their promise to Rahab. She agreed to drop a scarlet cord from her outside window to identify the location of her family. Ultimately, all the believers were following the will of God, who orchestrated the perfect plan. “‘I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight’, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24b). Rahab and her family were saved, she was honored by Joshua, and her name is forever engraved in the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah (Matthew 1:5).

In addition to deliberately planned acts of kindness, we frequently perform random, spontaneous benevolent deeds. We spring into action when a situation presents itself. The moment may not be the most opportune for us, but in that instant we decide that another’s delight or safety is more important than our own convenience.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. ─Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, a man was walking alone on a road with a notorious reputation for sheltering opportunistic robbers who ambushed defenseless travelers. The pedestrian was attacked physically, stripped of his clothes and valuables, and left for dead. Both a priest and a Levite passed the beaten, bleeding man, ignoring him by crossing to the opposite side of the road. A Samaritan, hated by Jews and labeled a half-breed, came to the aid of the dying man. He anointed the man with oil and wine and bandaged his wounds. Then he lifted the stranger onto his own donkey, delivered him to an inn, and personally cared for him. The following day the Samaritan gave the innkeeper enough money to house and care for the stranger until he returned, at which time he promised to reimburse any additional funds he owed. (Luke 10:30-37). The parable illustrates the total devotion demanded by the Great Commandment. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

Kindness is defined as extending tenderness or goodwill; lavishing with happiness and grace. In God’s Word, it is frequently synonymous with love, lovingkindness, or unfailing love, often summarizing God’s covenants with His people. The Lord said, “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you {to myself} with unfailing kindness’” (Jeremiah31:3).

On earth, Christ showed kindness to everyone He encountered, regardless of their status. It is imperative that we learn the life principle Jesus embraced. When the Messiah was crucified, His body had already been physically abused beyond recognition. Tortured and with His last remaining trace of energy, Christ offered compassion to the criminal crucified on the cross beside Him.

“‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43). Christ granted kindness during His worst hour. Surely we can express similar outreach to others during our best of times. God expects more than civility in our relationships; He empowers us to adopt Jesus’ attributes. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Our compassion and kindness that imitate Jesus indicate a deep stirring within our inner spirit. True character is revealed when the charity that wells up in our hearts converts to tangible acts of lovingkindness.


All Bible references are taken from the NIV unless otherwise indicated.

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