16th century Anabaptist Dirk Willems, imprisoned for his faith, escapes and runs for his life but turns back to rescue the pursuing prison guard from drowning in the river. The guard, once safely on land, re-arrests Dirk at the insistence of the town mayor. Even though pressured, Dirk refuses to renounce his faith, and is burned alive at the stake on May 16, 1569. (as told in the Martyr's Mirror)
"More than Necessary"
Good morning friends,
A number of years ago I stumbled upon a saying that goes something like this: “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is likely fighting a battle that you know nothing about.”
I’ve tried to nail down the source, but it’s been elusive. It seems everyone from Plato to J.M Barrie and quite a few in between have been credited with some variant of this bit of wisdom.
But no matter who said it first, when I heard it, I liked it. It resonates with my experience. It has in it a ring of truth. I cannot tell you how often I’ve heard something about an acquaintance and I’m like, “Really? I had no idea that they carried a heavy burden like that!”
So yes, ‘Be Kinder than Necessary’ has become a bit of a motto for our family. And of course, subsequently, it has entered our team work culture too. New hires hear it at their first interview, and we remind each other often.
Be kinder than necessary... The nobility of the aspiration just feels right. It helps us respond with compassionate, unselfish care to all we meet.
But then one day I looked deeper into my heart and into this saying itself. And this pondering is what I really want to share with you this morning.
Maybe I over-analyze. Some people think I do. But please hear me out. I think this does have some value. I know it has been good for my heart and soul to process this on a deeper level. Maybe there is something here for you too.
So here were my questions:
Is it actually possible to be kinder than necessary? And if I think so, what am I really admitting? Am I ok with essentially saying that at some level, kindness becomes unnecessary?
What would be the factors that I use to determine this line between kindness that is necessary and a kindness which is more than necessary?
Is it likely that I, as the self-proclaimed dispenser of kindness, would arbitrarily draw this line at a different place than the beneficiary of my kindness would draw it?
Could it be that the satisfied feeling of being this honorable, high character person who is kinder-than-I-really-would-have-to-be... could this actually spring from a subliminal root of ungratefulness?
Or maybe another way of saying it, could it come from a lack of awareness or at least a lack of acknowledgement of how much I have truly received from God and from others?
I’m not making this up. These are real ponderings that I had. “Search me, O God, and know my heart...” Psalm 139:23
These questions call for some wisdom which is from above.
What does God and His Word have to say?
Is there such a thing as being kinder than necessary?
The first verse that comes to mind is in Ephesians. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” ~ Ephesians 4:32
So, as we could expect, God requires us to be kind to one another. But not only that—we are also commanded to be tenderhearted and forgiving. I don’t know about you, but tenderhearted and forgiving doesn’t just sound like surface niceties of kindness. It sounds like the real deal.
And that’s not all. Notice the degree to which we are to show this tenderhearted level of kindness. As much as God has been kind to us! As much as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me! Hmm... That is a lot!
So, this is serious food for thought... but does the Bible have more? Maybe even something from Jesus himself on kindness?
Yes, here is more from Jesus.
This one we find in Luke 6 from a beautiful sermon Jesus preached on the same day that he chose his 12 apostles.
The entire sermon runs from vs.13 to 49 and you really should read it all when you have a chance, but vs. 35 is Jesus' words on kindness that stood out to me.
In the middle of a larger discourse on personal relationship, Jesus gives us this gem..."But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil."
Wow! Being kind, even unto the unthankful and to the evil is what Jesus expects of the Children of the Highest. And that is what I want to be.
Lots to think about...
So, I still like the core thought of the original saying. I do believe that we must be thoughtful and compassionate to all we meet with the awareness that they likely are carrying a burden that we cannot see.
But rather than thinking of that compassion and thoughtfulness to others as being kinder than necessary, I have tried to readjust my thinking to be aware that, in light of God’s great unlimited kindness toward me, God forbid that I would put limits on my kindness to others.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." -Titus 3:3-7
Yes God. Yes Father. I get it. I believe. In light of all you’ve done in loving-kindness toward me, my kindness toward my fellow man is always necessary.
It’s a debt I cannot pay back... but I can always pay it forward and it’s never more than necessary.
Your Mennonite Christian friend,
* "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." ~ Ephesians 4:2-6
Song of the Week
For maximum worship experience, read and contemplate on the lyrics while listening. Just let the message sink into your heart. Sing along if you wish. Remember... it's only the message of the words that feeds the soul!
Click on the title to hear the song:
Sing a song! Spread some cheer! There are sad and lonely people everywhere. Be a friend! Show some love! It will lift them from the dungeons of despair. Show a little bit of love and kindness, Never go along with hatred's blindness, Take a little time to reach for joy and wear a happy face. Sing a little bit when the days are dreary, Give a little help to a friend who’s weary, That’s the way to make the world a happy place. Offer help! Bring some hope! To the fainting and discouraged on life’s road. See a need! Lend a hand! There are many who are crushed beneath their load. Show a little bit of love and kindness, Never go along with hatred's blindness. Take a little time to reach for joy and wear a happy face. Sing a little bit when the days are dreary, Give a little help to a friend who’s weary, That’s the way to make the world a happy place. Be a light! Show the way! Be a light within the night for those astray, Speak a word! Loving word! That will bring them back to walk the narrow way. Show a little bit of love and kindness, Never go along with hatred's blindness. Take a little time to reach for joy and wear a happy face. Sing a little bit when the days are dreary, Give a little help to a friend who’s weary, That’s the way to make the world a happy place. Show a little bit of love and kindness, Never go along with hatred's blindness. Take a little time to reach for joy and wear a happy face. Sing a little bit when the days are dreary, Give a little help to a friend who’s weary, That’s the way to make the world a happy place. That’s the way to make the world... A Happy Place!
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