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So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience;
–Colossians 3:12, NASB

I recently witnessed an interesting discussion on kindness that really made me think.  Once person said that she believed it was a sort of innate trait; either you have it or you don’t.  The other said she believed it was important to try to be a kinder person, that it was something that could be developed.

I believe the latter.  Kindness is a trait that can be developed.  Like a muscle, the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes.

I think we’ve all seen bumper stickers or read e-mail forwards that exhort us to practice random acts of kindness.  And while I believe that “random” there is meant to refer to the fact that the acts of kindness are spontaneous and undeserved by the recipient, it also gives the feeling that kindness is something ocassionally practiced, when the mood hits.

I don’t think God asks us to be random in our application of kindness.

He certainly wasn’t random in the application of His: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (Titus 3:4-6, NASB)

God’s kindness to us was to send Jesus.  His offer of grace is to everyone, even though we don’t deserve it.

Our kindness should be intentional and universal, as God’s is.  Of course we are human and we won’t be perfectly kind to everyone.  In fact, there are days when it’s hard to be kind to the people in our lives who really deserve it, days when babies fuss or dogs bark all night, days when the plumbing backs up or it turns out that the last of the coffee is gone or there aren’t any aspirin left in the bottle.

But even on those days, God doesn’t give us a pass.  God doesn’t only ask easy things of us.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35, NASB)

Jesus wasn’t saying anything there about being kind to our husbands or our children, who we love, even when we’re having a hard day.  He’s talking about being kind to our enemies.  If we don’t practice being kind with the people we love, we won’t have the muscle built up to do it when it’s really hard.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB)

I think offering up ourselves as living sacrifices every day includes being kind when we don’t feel like being kind, to people we don’t feel like being kind to.

It means being kind to the people at the DVM when they seem determined to thwart your attempt to get a driver’s license.  It means being kind to the person who shoves ahead of you in line.  It even means being kind to the neighbor who plays their music too loud and turns it up when you ask them to turn it down.  It means being kind to people who do many worse things than these.

If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.

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I feel compelled to mention that the reason I wrote this isn’t because I feel like I’m a wonderful kind person.  In fact, I know it is one of the areas that I need work in.  Most of the things that I write about are on my mind because they’re things I’m working on improving.  Writing helps me organize my thoughts and motivate myself.

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