By Rev. Tony Cooke
People who yearn to do God's will and positively influence others are always looking for ways to increase their effectiveness. I believe one of the most essential characteristics we have at our disposal-kindness-has often been overlooked. There may be those who think of kindness as somehow inferior to seemingly more dynamic or spectacular gifts, but kindness is an attribute of God that can produce amazing results when it is released through us.
Bible commentator Alexander Maclaren said, "Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it." William Barclay echoed a similar sentiment when he noted, "More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world."
Abraham Lincoln said, "I care not for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not better off for it." In short, if your faith doesn't translate into your being a nicer person, it hasn't transformed you the way God desires. The ancient philosopher Plato emphasized the necessity of kindness when he said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle." Henry James remarked, "Three things in life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind."
Most students of the Bible remember that there was a time when the Kingdom of Israel went through a split. The ten northern tribes (known as Israel) split from the two southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin). What many don't recall, though, is the occasion for this split occurring. Solomon had died, and the people, because of the massive projects Solomon had led them in, were exhausted. They came to the new king, Reheboam, and essentially asked him to ease up on them a bit.
Reheboam first did a wise thing. He went and asked the older men, Solomon's advisors, what he should do. They gave him this counsel: "If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever" (2 Chronicles 10:7). If you recall the story, though, Reheboam rejected the wise counsel of the old men, and responded to the people harshly, roughly, and rudely. As a result, he lost ten of the twelve tribes he would have governed. Kindness would have been good for the people and good for Reheboam's leadership, but he was oblivious to its significance.
True kindness is not an act or a facade we put on to manipulate others. Rather, it is rooted in having a genuine concern and interest in the welfare and well-being of people, and is expressed in demonstrating that care to others in tangible ways. Kindness is one of the most desirable attributes we can develop in our lives. Proverbs 19:22 says, "What is desired in a man is kindness." Abraham Heschel said, "When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people. Now I admire kind people."
Every believer would do well to embrace the philosophy by which William Penn lived: "I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there can be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." May God bless and help us all as we grow in kindness toward others.