God’s People Must Love Kindness
“What is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?”—MICAH 6:8.
1, 2. (a) Why should it not surprise us that Jehovah expects his people to show kindness? (b) What questions regarding kindness deserve our consideration?
JEHOVAH is a God of kindness. (Romans 2:4; 11:22) How the first couple, Adam and Eve, must have appreciated that fact! In the garden of Eden, they were surrounded by visible creations that gave evidence of God’s kindness toward humans, who could enjoy them. And God continues to be kind to all, even to unthankful and wicked people.
2 Being made in God’s image, humans have the capacity to reflect godly attributes. (Genesis 1:26) Not surprisingly, Jehovah expects us to show kindness. As Micah 6:8 states, God’s people must “love kindness.” But what is kindness? How is it related to other godly qualities? Since humans are capable of displaying kindness, why is the world such a cruel and harsh place? Why should we as Christians endeavor to show kindness in our dealings with others?
What Is Kindness?
3. How would you define kindness?
3 Kindness is displayed by taking an active interest in the welfare of others. It is shown by helpful acts and considerate words. To be kind means to do good rather than to do anything harmful. A kind person is friendly, gentle, sympathetic, and gracious. He has a generous, considerate attitude toward others. The apostle Paul admonished Christians: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” (Colossians 3:12) Kindness, then, is part of every true Christian’s figurative attire.
4. How has Jehovah taken the lead in showing kindness to mankind?
4 Jehovah God has taken the lead in showing kindness. As Paul said, it was when “the kindness and the love for man on the part of our Savior, God, was manifested” that “he saved us through the bath that brought us to life and through the making of us new by holy spirit.” (Titus 3:4, 5) God ‘bathes,’ or cleanses, anointed Christians in Jesus’ blood, applying the merit of Christ’s ransom sacrifice in their behalf. They are also made new through holy spirit, becoming “a new creation” as spirit-begotten sons of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Moreover, God’s kindness and love extend to “a great crowd,” who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”—Revelation 7:9, 14; 1 John 2:1, 2.
5. Why should those led by God’s spirit show kindness?
5 Kindness is also part of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit, or active force. Paul said: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) So, then, should not those led by God’s spirit show kindness to others?
True Kindness Is Not Weakness
6. When is kindness a weakness, and why?
6 Some people view kindness as weakness. They feel that a person must be hard, even rude at times, so that others can see his strength. In reality, though, it takes real strength to be truly kind and to avoid showing mistaken kindness. Since true kindness is part of the fruitage of God’s spirit, it cannot be a weak, compromising attitude toward wrong conduct. Mistaken kindness, on the other hand, is a weakness that causes one to condone wrongdoing.
7. (a) How did Eli prove to be lax? (b) Why must elders guard against showing mistaken kindness?
7 Consider, for example, Israel’s high priest Eli. He was lax in disciplining his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who officiated as priests at the tabernacle. Not content with the portion of a sacrifice assigned to them by God’s Law, they had an attendant demand raw meat from an offerer before the fat of the offering was made to smoke on the altar. Eli’s sons also had immoral intercourse with women serving at the entrance of the tabernacle. However, instead of ousting Hophni and Phinehas from office, Eli merely rebuked them mildly. (1 Samuel 2:12-29) No wonder “word from Jehovah had become rare in those days”! (1 Samuel 3:1) Christian elders must be careful not to succumb to showing mistaken kindness to wrongdoers who could imperil a congregation’s spirituality. True kindness is not blind to evil words and deeds that violate God’s standards.
8. How did Jesus display true kindness?
8 Our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, was never guilty of displaying mistaken kindness. He was the very epitome of true kindness. For instance, ‘he felt tender affection for the people because they were skinned and knocked about like sheep without a shepherd.’ Honesthearted people felt free to approach Jesus, even bringing their young children to him. Think of the kindness and compassion he displayed as “he took the children into his arms and began blessing them.” (Matthew 9:36; Mark 10:13-16) Though Jesus was kind, he was nevertheless firm for what was right in the sight of his heavenly Father. Jesus never condoned evil; he had the God-given strength to denounce the hypocritical religious leaders. As noted at Matthew 23:13-26, several times he repeated the pronouncement: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
Kindness and Other Godly Qualities
9. How is kindness related to long-suffering and goodness?
9 Kindness is related to other qualities produced by God’s spirit. It is listed between “long-suffering” and “goodness.” Indeed, the person who cultivates kindness demonstrates that quality by being long-suffering. He is patient even with the unkind. Kindness is related to goodness in that it is often displayed in helpful deeds for the benefit of others. Sometimes, the Greek word used in the Bible for “kindness” may be translated “goodness.” The display of this trait among early Christians so astounded the pagans that they, according to Tertullian, called those followers of Jesus ‘people made up of kindness.’
10. How are kindness and love linked?
10 There is a link between kindness and love. Concerning his followers, Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) And concerning this love, Paul said: “Love is long-suffering and kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) Kindness is also linked with love in the word “loving-kindness,” often used in the Scriptures. This is kindness stemming from loyal love. The Hebrew noun rendered “loving-kindness” includes more than tender regard. It is kindness that lovingly attaches itself to an object until its purpose in connection with it is realized. Jehovah’s loving-kindness, or loyal love, is displayed in various ways. For instance, it is seen in his acts of deliverance and protection.—Psalm 6:4; 40:11; 143:12.
11. What assurance does God’s loving-kindness give us?
11 Jehovah’s loving-kindness draws people to him. (Jeremiah 31:3) When God’s faithful servants need deliverance or help, they know that his loving-kindness is indeed loyal love. It will not fail them. Hence, they can pray in faith, as did the psalmist who said: “As for me, in your loving-kindness I have trusted; let my heart be joyful in your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5) Since God’s love is loyal, his servants can trust in him completely. They have this assurance: “Jehovah will not forsake his people, nor will he leave his own inheritance.”—Psalm 94:14.
Why Is the World So Cruel?
12. When and how did oppressive rule have its start?
12 The answer to this question has to do with what happened in the garden of Eden. Early in human history, a spirit creature who had become selfish and haughty introduced a plan to become a world ruler. As a result of his scheming, he did become “the ruler of this world,” indeed a very oppressive one. (John 12:31) He became known as Satan the Devil, the arch-opposer of both God and man. (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9) His selfish plot to establish a rule rivaling Jehovah’s kindly rulership was exposed shortly after Eve was created. Thus, bad rule had its start when Adam chose the road of independence from God’s rule, totally rejecting His kindness. (Genesis 3:1-6) Instead of truly ruling themselves, Adam and Eve actually came under the selfish and proud influence of the Devil, becoming subjects of his rule.
13-15. (a) What were some of the consequences of rejecting Jehovah’s righteous rulership? (b) Why is this world a harsh place?
13 Consider some of the consequences. Adam and Eve were evicted from a section of the earth that was a paradise. They went from a lush estate with easy access to healthful vegetation and fruit to the difficult situation outside the garden of Eden. God said to Adam: “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and took to eating from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. And thorns and thistles it will grow for you.” The curse pronounced on the ground meant that cultivating it would now become very hard. The effects of the cursed ground, with its thorns and thistles, were so keenly felt by Adam’s descendants that Noah’s father, Lamech, spoke of ‘the pain of their hands resulting from the ground which Jehovah had cursed.’—Genesis 3:17-19; 5:29.
14 Adam and Eve also exchanged tranquillity for distress. God said to Eve: “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” Later, Cain, the firstborn of Adam and Eve, committed the cruel act of murdering his brother Abel.—Genesis 3:16; 4:8.
15 “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” declared the apostle John. (1 John 5:19) Like its ruler, the world today manifests evil traits that include selfishness and pride. No wonder it is full of harshness and cruelty! But it will not always be that way. Jehovah will see to it that kindness and compassion, rather than harshness and cruelty, prevail under his Kingdom.
Under God’s Kingdom Kindness Will Prevail
16. Why is God’s rule by means of Christ Jesus marked by kindness, and what does this obligate us to do?
16 Jehovah and the designated King of His Kingdom, Christ Jesus, require that their subjects be known for their kindness. (Micah 6:8) Jesus Christ gave us a glimpse of how the administration entrusted to him by his Father would be marked by kindness. (Hebrews 1:3) This can be noted in Jesus’ words that exposed the false religious leaders, who burdened the people with heavy loads. He said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) All too many earthly rulers, religious or otherwise, exhaust the people with wearisome burdens of endless rules and thankless tasks. Yet, what Jesus requires of his followers fits their needs and abilities. A refreshing, kindly yoke indeed! Are we not moved to be like him in showing kindness to others?—John 13:15.
17, 18. Why can we trust that those who rule with Christ in heaven and his earthly representatives will display kindness?
17 Jesus’ striking remarks to his apostles highlight how God’s Kingdom rule differs markedly from human rule. The Bible states: “There also arose a heated dispute among them [the disciples] over which one of them seemed to be greatest. But he said to them: ‘The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those having authority over them are called Benefactors. You, though, are not to be that way. But let him that is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the one acting as chief as the one ministering. For which one is greater, the one reclining at the table or the one ministering? Is it not the one reclining at the table? But I am in your midst as the one ministering.’”—Luke 22:24-27.
18 Human rulers seek to establish their greatness by ‘lording it over’ the people and by seeking great titles, as if such titles make them better than those they rule over. But Jesus said that true greatness comes from ministering to others—diligently and persistently reaching out to serve. All those who will rule with Christ in heaven or serve as his earthly representatives must strive to follow his example of humility and kindness.
19, 20. (a) How did Jesus convey the extent of Jehovah’s kindness? (b) How can we imitate Jehovah in displaying kindness?
19 Let us look at other loving counsel that Jesus offered. Showing the extent of Jehovah’s kindness, Jesus said: “If you love those loving you, of what credit is it to you? For even the sinners love those loving them. And if you do good to those doing good to you, really of what credit is it to you? Even the sinners do the same. Also, if you lend without interest to those from whom you hope to receive, of what credit is it to you? Even sinners lend without interest to sinners that they may get back as much. To the contrary, continue to love your enemies and to do good and to lend without interest, not hoping for anything back; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”—Luke 6:32-36.
20 Godly kindness is unselfish. It asks for nothing and expects nothing in return. Jehovah kindly “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45; Acts 14:16, 17) In imitation of our heavenly Father, not only do we refrain from harming the unthankful but we do good to them, even to those who have acted as our enemies. By displaying kindness, we show Jehovah and Jesus that we desire to live under God’s Kingdom, when kindness and other godly qualities will permeate all human relationships.
Why Show Kindness?
21, 22. Why should we show kindness?
21 For a genuine Christian, displaying kindness is especially important. It is evidence that God’s spirit is at work in us. Moreover, when we display true kindness, we imitate Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. Kindness is also a requirement for those who will be subjects of God’s Kingdom. We must, then, love kindness and learn to display it.
22 What are some practical ways in which we can show kindness in our everyday life? The next article will address that subject.
How Do You Answer?
• What is kindness?
• Why is the world a cruel and harsh place?
• How do we know that kindness will prevail under God’s rule?
• Why is the showing of kindness important for those who desire to live under God’s Kingdom?
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Christian elders strive to be kind in dealing with the flock
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Jehovah’s loving-kindness will not fail his servants in difficult times
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Jehovah kindly allows the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon all humans