This is my dear friend and Drawing Near to God Ministry board member, Mark Andrews with a great blog post on Extravagant Kindness.
Ephesians 4:31- 5:2
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Kindness comes in many shapes and sizes, but regardless of how big or small, we all appreciate a kind gesture. Kindness is a wonderful attribute. People can be kind apart from a relationship with God, but kindness can be perfected by the work of of God in our lives. At Galatians 5:22, scripture tells us that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit of God.
I trust that you all have been the recipient of some act of kindness. A simple act of kindness can brighten someone’s day. Kindness breaks down barriers and boundaries. Kindness opens the door to the fullness of God’s love and fellowship. True kindness does not discriminate. An extravagant and unexpected display of kindness can change a life.
When I was in law school there was a brief period when I held three jobs at the same time. One evening when I had the late shift at the steak restaurant where I worked several nights a week, I took the last table that was seated. They stayed way past midnight! I was closing down that night so they just ate and drank as I finished out my duties. My patience paid off as they left me a rather enormous tip of $100 that night. Remember, this was over 40 years ago when $100 bucks went a long way. But, when I received a check two weeks later from one of the men at the table, I was stunned. His gesture of extravagant kindness, payment in full of my next semester tuition, changed my heart, forever. Here I am, sharing that amazing act with you, decades later.
There are many examples of extravagant kindness found in scripture. In the book of Ruth, we learn of the recently widowed Ruth, her mother-in-law Naomi and Boaz and the extreme kindness displayed between them. Naomi loved Ruth who, was a foreigner and who had been married to one of Naomi’s sons. When Naomi, after the death of her husband and both sons, prepares to return from Moab (Ruth’s homeland) to her country Judah, she tries to release Ruth to return to her home and people. Ruth replied, “ Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16
So Naomi returned to Bethlehem with the foreigner Ruth where Ruth cared lovingly for the aging and dejected Naomi. One day during harvest season Naomi sent Ruth into the fields to pick up leftover grain. While there she met the wealthy landowner Boaz who, upon learning who Ruth was, told Ruth that he had heard of her extreme kindness to his close relative Naomi. Boaz was a man of integrity and demonstrated great kindness to Ruth. Boaz watched over and provided for Ruth.
Ruth’s extravagant act of kindness to Naomi was returned by Boaz and they were both blessed. And Naomi’s life was radically transformed.
Things in life can come at us fast. Opportunities are often disguised as challenges or even burdens and, in the moment, can be missed and lost forever. It would have been natural and easy for Ruth to have remained in Moab with her people. Rather, she made a covenant to stay with and care for Naomi. Boaz was moved to compassion by Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi, became her kinsman-redeemer and took her as his wife and provided for her. And the extravagant kindness of Ruth and Boaz moved Naomi from deep despair to joy!
While we are called to acts of kindness, we frequently fall short. Too often the opportunity to demonstrate loving kindness is lost because of fear. Fear of rejection or commitment or some other lie Satan has us believe in that moment. It seems safer and easier to walk by or look away as an opportunity to demonstrate extravagant kindness, the very compassion and love of God, appears before us.
But God….. he never passes by or looks away. He never fails to meet us at our point of need. He is our redeemer and has invited us to his table, to live life under his wing.
And God offers his Spirit, to guide us and counsel us in all things. It is by and through the Spirit of God that we can extend extravagant Christlike love to others.
And, by the way, Ruth and Boaz had a son. They named him Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David.
Ruth the Moabitess, the foreigner, from the land that was the enemy of Israel, was the direct ancestor of Jesus the Christ. All because of an act of kindness!
So, next time you are at that opportunity/burden crossroad, think of Ruth. Remember her extravagant demonstration of kindness to Ruth and the blessing that followed. And remember the kindness of our Heavenly Father who demonstrates loving kindness to all people, the righteous and unrighteous. Remember the ultimate act of kindness demonstrated by ourJesus, our Redeemer.
And when you feel alone alone and when your efforts seem inadequate, when the last thing you feel is “kind”, remember that Jesus offers each of us his Spirit to guide and empower us so that extravagant kindness can become our norm. It is our mission, as children of God, to show others the riches of God’s incredible kindness.
And when that happens, the very Kingdom of God breaks into this life. Barriers come down. People experience the fullness of God’s love and fellowship. Lives are changed.
We could all benefit from a bit more kindness right now.