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Be Kind

It seems like a spirit of meanness is raising its ugly head in our day. People don’t want to listen they want to accuse. We don’t want to reconcile we want to blame. We don’t want to give people a break we want to embarrass them on social media. We don’t want to work together we want to conquer and divide. We don’t want to forgive we want to get revenge.

We are tired. We are weary of our world being on fire in so many ways. I get it. But what do we want to be?

I just heard of a book by a former pastor called “If God is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk: Finding A Faith That Makes Us Better Humans.” The author says he wrote the book because our relationships are worth it, our well-being is worth it, the Church is worth it, and because the world could use a little more kindness is worth it, too.[1]

Shouldn’t our relationship with God make us better humans? I don’t want to be a jerk even as the pressure grows.

“Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” That’s what King David asked, and it’s surprising he did so because King David had every reason to not be kind to those from the house of Saul. Saul, the previous king of Israel had tried to kill David. David spent a couple of years running for his life from Saul. We would expect David to wipe out anything and everyone related to Saul.

Saul had made David’s life miserable, and wrought terror in David’s life. (I don’t know how you respond to people who try to kill you but I have a hard time being kind to people to try to kill me.)

So, it is surprising to hear David ask if there is still anyone left of Saul’s family to whom David could show kindness.

What kind of kindness wants to show goodness, compassion, and blessing to one’s enemies, to the family of a man who had wreaked havoc for David? Yet, that is exactly what David wants to do when he asks Ziba, a servant from Saul’s house if there is anyone around whom he may show “the kindness of God”? Notice that in v. 3: it isn’t just any old kindness, but the kindness that is of God. And there is no kindness like the kindness of God.

Ziba tells the king that there is a son of Jonathan still around. Now Jonathan was the son of Saul, and Jonathan and David were best friends. They were close. They were deep.

Saul could not have hated David more. Jonathan could not have loved David more. David and Jonathan loved one another and had made a covenant of loyalty to each other that whoever became king would always remember and treat the other favorably. Jonathan had died but David had not forgotten the covenant he made with Jonathan.

The word for covenant love in the Old Testament is a special word. It is very common, strong and multi-faceted word meaning “to keep faith,” ”to show love and loyalty”.[2] It isn’t based on convenience but remains loyal even when things aren’t favorable.

It is used to describe the way God loves us. And God’s love is not determined by how we react to or respond to God. God’s love toward us is always faithful even when we are not.

Here in 2 Samuel 9, the word is translated “kindness”. That is a dimension of God’s love and of this word. David, the king of Israel, remembering his promise to Jonathan wants to extend the faithfulness, loyalty, love, and kindness God shows us to someone from Saul’s house.

He finds Mephibosheth. What a name! The name Mephibosheth means “seething dishonor”. His nickname might as well have been “you’ve got problems”. I don’t know why you would name a child that.

Mephibosheth’s feet were crippled and he was unable to walk because of an accident when he was young. He is handicapped. We sense that his life has been full of hardship. He is kind of a pitiable character. He is summoned by King David.

Now you are Saul’s grandson. You know your grandfather persecuted David fiercely. Now David is king and you are being summoned. Probably to be imprisoned or put to death as David cleans house and enacts vengeance on all his enemies. David was a warrior and military leader and could be ruthless at times.

When Mephibosheth meets the king he falls on his face and bows before David. Why not? One last effort to have your life spared and perhaps convince the king to show mercy. Mephibosheth was probably sweating bullets.

But this is what he hears from the mouth of the king, “Do not be afraid, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” David’s promise to Jonathan overrides his experience with Saul.

He had every reason to be bitter, angry, and vindictive but David desires to show kindness. At best he could have just left alone anyone remaining from Saul’s family.

Upon finding this member of Saul’s line David doesn’t just shake hands with Mephibosheth and say, “Hey, let bygones be bygones.” This is what David does for poor Mephibosheth: He restores to him all the land that belonged to his grandfather Saul. He sets it up so that Ziba and his family and servants (which was a healthy work force of 35 people) are to work the land and bring in the crops for Mephibosheth so that he would be provided for. And, to top it all off, Mephibosheth will always eat at the king’s table and they weren’t just eating microwave dinners at David’s table.

There is a reason restaurants today are called The King’s Table. Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. David treats Mephibosheth like royalty. He blesses him extravagantly. This is how David showed kindness. It is how God shows kindness to us.

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4 to Christians in that city: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, and every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

How many people, how many families, how many households, how many relationships, how many churches, how many communities, how many nations, how many parts of our world could use some kindness?

My other job is at the Salt Lake Running Company and last week a customer came in with a shirt that said “Dude, be nice.” The Bible never uses the word nice. We are never told to be nice. But we are told to be kind, which is a much stronger thing. “Dude, be kind.”

It’s not hard to be kind to those who are kind to us. The challenge is to be kind to those who aren’t kind to us. Right? The challenge is to get rid of bitterness, rage and every form of malice and be kind. I believe Paul wrote that because the Ephesians struggled with it just like we do.

We are more likely to nurse the grudge, harbor resentment, justify why being mean right back is the way to go. But when Paul writes, “Get rid of,” he means exactly that. Throw it out. Banish it. Make a clean break with the need to get revenge, with the feelings of hostility.

Yes, it drives you nuts they won’t get vaccinated. Yes, it drives you nuts that they run their sprinklers 24/7 when we are in a drought. Yes, it drives you nuts they think their life is one special occasion and look down on you. But being unkind isn’t going to change them.

Holding onto a grudge and staying mad usually hurts us more than the other person. In all our hopes of getting vengeance we are the ones who are left carrying the burden. No matter how long we nurse a grudge, it won’t get better. It ruins us, not the other person.

David was not ruled by anger or bitterness. He was not going to spend the rest of his life feuding.

It is important to believe the right things as a Christian. There are doctrines and theological beliefs that shape our faith. It is important to know Scripture and be a person of prayer. It is important to believe in church order.

But for all our desire for doctrinal, biblical, and theological truth we can never lose sight of some basic virtues that are essential to being a Christian. There is something to be said for the plain and simple characteristics that need to mark our lives.

Like kindness.

Sometimes we lose sight of the practical side of this faith, the part where the rubber hits the road, the morals and virtues that are needed in our daily relationships and living. Sometimes I get so caught up in evangelical zeal that I forget to just do the simple virtues of Christ-likeness.

Can we just be kind to others?

The New Testament is full of kindness. Paul included kindness in many of his letters to Christian churches. In I Corinthians 13, that great chapter about love, we read that “love is kind.”

Paul listed kindness as a fruit of the Spirit when he said, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”[3] Kindness is something that grows in a person who is controlled and led by the Holy Spirit.

In another place where Paul lists qualities that should characterize our lives he says,

“…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothes yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…”[4] Wear kindness like a piece of clothing.

Of his ministry, Paul said that as servants of God they experience troubles, hardships, beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, hunger, but that they do all of this with “patience and kindness.[5] Whew, you make trouble for me, take away my sleep, and make me hungry and I am coming after you. Your pastor, needs to change.

Through all the stresses and pains of serving Jesus, through all the wrong that can be done to us, through all the inconveniences, we still need to represent him with kindness.

The necessity of kindness is laid upon us if for no other reason than because this is the way God has treated us through Jesus Christ. I said earlier that there is no kindness like the kindness of God. Jesus taught to “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back because God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”[6]

Think about that. God is kind even to the ungrateful and the wicked. That’s one of the things that drives me nuts about God.

In Romans, Paul warns against criticizing and judging others while imagining our own faults won’t be seen by God. He says when we do this, it is “to show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads us toward repentance.”[7]

Yes, others may be wrong. They may be very wrong. But we have our issues to. And God shows us kindness by withholding judgment on us in hopes that it will lead us to change our ways.

God cuts us a lot of breaks.

David’s kindness to the family of an archenemy anticipated the way God would show kindness to sinners like us in in at least four ways.

1.) David was very powerful.

He was successful, blessed by the Lord, victorious, wealthy, and reigned over many people. Instead of using his power and position of strength to vindicate himself he uses it to show generous and extravagant kindness, kindness to someone who he could have easily made his enemy.

Jesus was powerful. He was in the beginning with the Father, he owned galaxies, he is the light of the world. Yet, he came down to this earth and asks, “Who can I show kindness to?” The All-powerful used his power to save. The Creator of the universe humbled himself, came down off his throne to show kindness to you and me by giving his life on a cross and showering upon us the riches of his grace.

2.) David took the initiative to show kindness to Mephibosheth. We did not make the first move toward God. God took the initiative to love and save us. He didn’t wait for us to get our act together.

3.) The object of David’s search was not a friend, or one who deserved it, or one from whom he could expect something in return. The object of David’s search was one who had come from a place that had caused him lots of trouble. And Mephibosheth could not give anything to David.

The object of God’s search through the good shepherd, Jesus Christ, is not because we could give God anything in return. The scripture says, “For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”[8] Not while we were lovely, beautiful, perfect people. But while we were still sinners.

4.) David’s motive was a promise he had made with Jonathan. It didn’t matter that Jonathan wasn’t around anymore.

David didn’t show kindness because of any personal worthiness on Mephibosheth’s part. David was acting on something done long before Mephibosheth was even born.

So, God acts in grace toward us not because of any personal claims we have upon him, but because of the love he has for us in his Son, Jesus Christ. Long before you and I were ever around, God entered

a covenant with Christ, promising to extend mercy to all who belonged to God’s “house,” to his people.

Mephibosheth received kindness because David was loyal. We receive kindness because God is loyal.

We see the kindness of God in Jesus Christ anticipated in David’s actions.[9]

When we are touched by God’s kindness we are able and more willing to be kind to others. When you understand how God has been kind to you,

…when you realize that despite your mistakes and those parts that don’t look so great God still treats you with kindness,

…when you are touched in your very soul by God’s goodness, forgiveness, and love, you can’t help but be kind to others.

In a day when people are crazy over getting revenge, stepping on others to exalt themselves, and when competition knows no limits, where are those who are kind?

One of the best ways to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice, and to be kind is to take a concrete step toward someone. David took a step toward Mephibosheth. God took a huge step, an eternal, cosmic step toward us.

Is there anyone in your life to whom you can show the kindness of God?

It has been said that “Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it.”[10]

So be kind.

Be kind.

Be kind.

PRAYER: Lord, we want and welcome your kindness to us. Help us to show kindness to others. Holy Spirit, grow in us the fruit of kindness. The kindness that David showed. The kindness shown to us by Jesus Christ. Amen

[1] John Pavlovitz, see [2] The Hebrew word is hesed and is common through out the Hebrew Scriptures. [3] Galatians 5:2 [4] Colossians 3:12 [5] 2 Cor. 6:4-6 [6] Luke 6:35 [7] Romans 2:4 [8] Romans 5:8 [9] see The Life of David, Arthur W. Pink, p. 363 [10] Alexander MacLaren

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