Can You Display More Loving-kindness?
A TWENTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD nurse fell into the waters of Lake Michigan. As she struggled to escape, an elderly man reached out to assist her, but couldn’t make contact. He asked another man to help, but he kept walking by, refusing to help in any way whatsoever. The nurse drowned.
A group of theology students were assigned to tape-record short talks on various subjects. On their way to the taping session, the students encountered a person slumped in a doorway coughing and groaning. Unknown to the students, however, the “victim” was part of an experiment. Result? Sixty percent of the students hurried by to record their talks, some of which dealt with Jesus’ parable of “the Good Samaritan.”—Luke 10:29-36.
Have you ever been seriously in need of help, only to be ignored by passersby? This experience is becoming ever more common today. According to psychiatrist Daniel X. Freedman, such behavior reflects “the lack of community in our society, the lack of confidence and trust, and the lack of knowing how to behave.”
How refreshing it would be to live in a world where people would view the welfare of their fellowman as more important than their own! But is that possible? Yes, it is. But, first, people must learn “how to behave,’’ to use the words of Dr. Freedman. In this regard, the Bible, which provides the finest counsel on human relations, highlights an important quality. How so?
What do the Scriptures mean by loving-kindness? Is this quality practical in a world so filled with hostility?
The Hebrew word translated loving-kindness is hheʹsedh, which means more than simply kindness stemming from love or affection. It is kindness that lovingly attaches itself to persons, becoming evident in continual kind acts. Jewish scholar Samson Raphael Hirsch remarks in his commentary on Genesis: “What [love] is in feelings, hheʹsedh is in deeds, love translated into action.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament points out that this word implies a prior relationship between persons. This reference work says as to hheʹsedh:
“It is the attitude which the one expects of the other in this relationship, and to which he is pledged in relation to him. Thus the relationship of mutual hheʹsedh arises between relatives and friends, hosts and guests, masters and subjects, or others in covenant relation. Hheʹsedh is not primarily a disposition but a helpful act corresponding to a relationship of trust.”
A deed of loving-kindness, therefore, is an evidence of loyalty to a previously established relationship. In fact, an alternate rendering of this Hebrew word is “loyal love.” Would you like to improve in displaying this quality? How can you do that? Let us briefly consider some areas where improvements may be made.
Do you have personal habits that you know displease family members or others with whom you regularly associate? If so, what should you do? Do you adopt the viewpoint: “I’ll do what I want. I don’t care what others think”?
Loving-kindness calls for a different attitude. To illustrate: Though indicating that all types of meat and alcoholic beverages in moderation are permissible for Christians, the apostle Paul wrote: “It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.” (Rom. 14:21) Of course, this does not mean to cater to persons who are chronic faultfinders. However, if you become aware that some of your personal habits bother the consciences of others, would not making changes be an act of loving-kindness?
On the other hand, is your problem perhaps being overly sensitive, becoming easily offended? When hurt by someone, do you have the urge to retaliate, or the tendency to ‘clam up,’ refusing to speak to the individual for a considerable length of time? If so, there is need to apply loving-kindness in a particular way. As an aid in this regard, the Bible sets forth the perfect example of God himself, saying: “You are a God of acts of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness.” (Neh. 9:17) If God, who never offends anyone, freely forgives the offensive deeds of others, how much more should imperfect humans do so!
One thing that will help you to be forgiving is realizing how often you yourself have caused offense. Wisely the Word of God counsels: “Do not give your heart to all the words that people may speak, that you may not hear your servant calling down evil upon you. For your own heart well knows even many times that you, even you, have called down evil upon others.”—Eccl. 7:21, 22.
Loving-kindness involves positive aspects too. For instance, how do you respond when someone is in need? Are you like the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable of the friendly Samaritan? Both of them passed by, ignoring the plight of a fellow Jew who had been attacked and beaten into helplessness by robbers. It was a man from a people despised by the Jews, a Samaritan, who aided the unfortunate victim. Regardless of the animosity between the two peoples, this Samaritan obviously felt a relationship with the distressed Jew as a fellow human. The Samaritan gave evidence of this by deeds of loving-kindness. (Luke 10:29-37) How do you react when seeing someone in distress?
Can you be sure that such acts of loving-kindness will not simply invite others to take advantage of you? Sadly, that might happen on occasion. But that is not the way people normally react to kind deeds. For instance, Jesus assured: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) Thus, it works out that “a man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul.” (Prov. 11:17) Millions of Bible believers can testify to the truthfulness of these Scriptural statements.
How can you display more loving-kindness? The first step is to increase your knowledge of Scriptural teachings. In this way you will learn God’s viewpoint as to which deeds are a true expression of loving-kindness. Regular association with persons who apply Bible principles in their lives is also important. Developing this godly quality is worth the effort, for loving-kindness will adorn your life with continual happiness and blessings.