When we are converted we are spiritually turned around.
There is a lot of talk these days about the word kindness. There is so much chatter, in fact, one might think kindness is a human attribute, much like love. With both ideas and words, there are dimensions of the idea. The concept of kindness has been so watered-down, it is becoming difficult to decipher what is meant when people use the word in conversation.
I move that we take the time to clarify this powerful word, and that we honor this term that is of enduring significance. It nearly belongs on the Periodic Table. Perhaps, you remember from a chemistry class, the lower half of this chart of elements features those that endure for such long time frames we refer to them as having “half-lives.” When humans come in contact with such elements, there is no missing that one has been touched. Life will never be the same when anything with a half-life has touched our lives. So it is with is the enduring power of authentic kindness.
Kindness is everlasting.
A touch of kindness goes on forever. When one has experienced an act of kindness—whether the receiver or the giver—that “touch” will echo for the rest of one’s life. How is this possible?
Jesus made the memorable statement, “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, TNIV)
Kindness is from God. Human effort cannot produce kindness. True kindness never has originated from any person apart from God flowing through her or him. Those who are merely available vessels of God can be used in profound encounters to positively interrupt the lives of others, to experience true kindness.
Kindness is “naturally” supernatural.
What humans often confuse with true kindness is actually niceness. Niceness is great. There are far worse things for one to be caught up with. Make no mistake, however—human niceness is utterly different than the kindness of God.
The Apostle Paul clarifies the untangled way of kindness in this verse: “God’s kindness leads to a radical life change” (Romans 2:4, The Message)
If you have lived more than a decade, you probably have discovered that the enduring things of life have one thing in common: They originate with God—the God of the universe, the God of the Scriptures. Try as we might, for as good motives as we may have deep down, without the intervention of God in our lives, what we touch, what we even dedicate our lives to, will not endure. Regardless of the matter, if we hope to live lives that will bear fruit that endures, we are wise to find out what God is up and join forces with Him.
When God changes a life, that life changes for real and for the endurance. That change occurs from the inside out. This is no self-imposed attempt at self-betterment. This is no resolution. This is no “I’ll never again” try-harder, self-help approach that works in the end. If you have not been deeply “stuck” in addictive behaviors or self-destructive ways, just compare notes with someone who is there. They will be happy to fill you in on the facts of life. We are all in dire need of an intervention.
God has mercy on us by doing what we cannot accomplish in a thousand lifetimes of grand effort. He enters into our situations with His power to accomplish the undoable. He brings change in our time of desperation.
Psychiatrist Dr. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, used to treat “stuck” patients special prescriptions on his Rx pad. He would write just two words on his prescription: “Get converted.” According to his reports, he never had a patient return after a spiritual conversion who was not healed of their stuck emotional situation.
Bob Dylan said the same thing slightly differently: “Gotta change my way of thinking.” Amazing change occurs with all involved in all any aspect of God’s kindness.
Kindness is contagious.
The kindness of God that Paul refers to flows from one human to another. God’s nature is kind among other aspects of His diverse character. The Scriptures clarify that when God changes a person’s life, a new normal way of living begins. Our bodies look the same, but spiritually we are transformed. This transformation occurs from deep down and works its way outwardly.
For each person conversion is a unique story. It is unwise to compare stories. When that is done one will feel either arrogant in a given area or overly humbled. Comparisons are a bad idea.
When we are converted we are spiritually turned around. In Norwegian, the word used in daily nomenclature for conversion means the same as to take one’s pockets and turn them inside out. Entirely new ways of living, seeing and noticing begin to occur. One of the primary overflows of that life is kindness.
True conversion has everything to do with the way we treat other people. Jesus as well as the writings of His close followers clarify this truth. For one to say we love without the follow-through of changing the way we treat others is nonsense, according to the perspective of God. Much talk minus kindness with our neighbor does not compute.
When one is kind toward a neighbor, however, attitudes quickly change. I recently paid for the drinks of the car behind me at Starbucks. I got out of my car, gave the people a simple card (you can see these at ServantEvangelism.com) that directed them to one of my websites and told them, “Hey, we just want to show you that God is love. Sometimes words just aren’t enough. This one’s on us!” They emailed me later, and we have continued an ongoing email conversation for weeks now.
I later heard from the Starbucks manager that first “buy back” started a positive chain reaction. Thirty-seven cars in a row heard what was going on and paid for the person behind them. They may not have done it to show God’s love, but just the same, people are hungry to do what they can to at least begin to make a difference in the world.
Once we click into the kindness of God, at whatever point in our journey of following Jesus, it is as though blinders fall from our eyes. In my life, though I had followed “hard after God,” I had never picked up on the many verses that illustrate this concept of kindness. I hear this story each day several times via emails: “I can’t believe I never got this until now! How could I have not seen those verses? I’m onboard now. I want to move forward—I want to serve; I want to live in the power of God’s kindness!”
I am friends with numbers of visible authors, seminary professors and leaders from many parts of the Church in the United States and beyond. There is a universal light bulb beginning to blink over hundreds of these leaders. The conclusion being discovered is this: “We need to show our culture the reality of God. Information without first providing credibility does not work any longer.”
This credibility-building sequence is the way humans are wired. All people in all cultures require that before words are taken seriously, there needs to be at least a bit of “proof of life” before faith is taken seriously. This simple request to try out the product before a purchase is made is reasonable. Jesus brought the Kingdom with Him wherever He went. Let’s team up and build contagious cultures together.