By Deb Burma
WLI Speaker and Ambassador
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” In these turbulent times across our country and around the world, we see this catchphrase – or a portion of it – on everything from t-shirts to journals to coffee cups, bumper stickers, and beyond. And the phrase has some merit, right?! After all, the last part sounds strikingly similar to the first part of this Scripture verse: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) It’s certainly sound, wise advice. And it reminds me of a mother’s words of correction to her child: “Be Nice!” (Insert Mama’s raised voice, following a sibling squabble.)
It’s a command we need to hear, because our sin would have us be anything BUT nice or kind. Our hearts are far from tender, and all-too-often hardened: against those who have hurt us or others. Against those who don’t think like us, whose divisive words have us feeling defensive.
And certainly, against those who don’t desire or deserve our forgiveness.
“Be kind” may be the furthest phrase from our minds. At home. In the workplace. Among those with whom we’re currently struggling.
So where does that leave us? On our own, incapable. Stuck. Unable. (Maybe even unwilling.) But we are NOT left on our own. Read this verse again, letting your eyes rest on the last portion: “…as God in Christ forgave you.” God came to us, forgiving us even when we were unkind and hard-hearted. Though we didn’t deserve it, He cleansed our sins in Christ. He traded our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) and filled us with faith, by the power of His Spirit.
God’s forgiving power rests upon us, even now. May we seek His strength and grace today, that we may be able to forgive others. That we may show the same people kindness, in our verbal and nonverbal communication; in our next step toward them. That we may approach every person with a tender heart, loving like Jesus does.
In response to Christ’s saving grace and sacrificial love, and by His work in us, we can:
💛Be kind. 🡪 A humble response to harsh words can quickly cool a heated conversation.
💛Be tenderhearted. 🡪 A softened heart toward others enables us to earnestly seek to understand them, listen with compassion, and build better relationships.
💛Be forgiving. 🡪 Extending forgiveness provides a powerful witness, along with opportunity for healing and reconciliation.
In a specific situation, we may ask ourselves:
“What’s the next kind thing I can say…or do, regarding this person/situation?”
“How can I respond to his words/actions in Christ’s love?”
“Where can I give her grace?”
There’s still merit to the popular phrase, “be kind.” But it no longer leaves me, for one, with a knot in my stomach, since I fail so often on my own. I’m reminded by this verse that I’m NOT on my own. I’m forgiven. I’m free: capable, UNstuck, able. (Even willing. 😊)
Reading the catchphrase in light of the Gospel, and empowered by the One who has forgiven me, I can, by God’s grace, BE KIND!
In a world where people need Jesus more than anything, Lord, let them see Jesus in me! In His name. Amen.