Acts of Christian kindness can change the world

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By Donald L. Hughes — In my book, A Christian Guide to Being Kind in an Unkind World: How to Overcome Evil with Good in Your Daily Life, I suggest that believers can turn the world upside-down for Christ simply by doing acts of kindness. People will plead with us to know why we showed them unexpected love and mercy. We gain a hearing so we can point them to Christ. Here is an excerpt from the book:

Will people repent and follow Christ due to our acts of kindness? I believe so because Jesus validated his divinity through signs and wonders. Seeing is believing. And people will believe in Christ as a result of seeing our acts of kindness and asking us to reveal our motivation. This is not overt evangelism, nor is it intended to be that. We love and care for others because Christ loves and cares for us.

Nevertheless, showing kindness to others is a type of servant evangelism. It is how we plant seeds of hope in the minds of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 3:6), which has merit of its own. It is rooted in the actions of Jesus and the behest of the Apostle Paul, who encouraged us to “do good to everyone” whenever we can (Galatians 6:10).

Is servant evangelism merely a passive way of sharing our faith in Christ? Not really, because it takes a lot of effort. But it is a far more Christlike way than being a recruit in the culture wars by preaching to people on street corners or butting heads with the nay-sayers in the halls of academia. When we do acts of kindness, we disarm them; they ask us why we have been so kind to them. We are happy to share our faith at that point.

When they ask that question, there is no need to whip out a Bible and start quoting verses. Yes, we have an unambiguous directive to be prepared to explain the reason for our hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), but we are urged there to do it with “gentleness and respect.” We do that by using the “oral tradition” and simply explaining how you came to know Christ. We have all traveled the same path, so our testimony is similar; how we lived in sin, how we encountered Christ, and the change that occurred once his Spirit entered our life.

There is no harm in letting questioners know that the kindness they received resulted directly from your spiritual transformation. Tell them they probably could have expected much less from you before but that you were “made new” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and now have a new outlook.

SAY “NO” TO RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

With this in mind, Christians must say “no” to the notion of “random acts of kindness.” That idea is perpetrated primarily by social activists, not those who hold citizenship in the Kingdom of God. I’m sure that various foundations and humanist groups perpetuating this philosophy are well-meaning. I hope they are doing some good. However, most often, the random acts they promote are superficial and transitory, like merely giving compliments to others.

Those doing random acts are motivated because it makes them happy, rather than any deeper concern for the other person or meeting an actual need. People who do a random act of kindness take a selfie and post it on Facebook. Random acts are too often hit-or-miss actions that lack deeper motivation. Jesus said we should beware of doing such things to be seen by others. He said, “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpeter before you” (Matthew 6:1-2).

From a Christian perspective, kindness is perpetual gratitude to God for his kindness to us and a heartfelt desire to display that love to others daily. There should be nothing “random” about giving glory to God by being kind to others in word and deed. We want to start our day by asking God to make divine appointments for us. We want to ask God to open our eyes so we are aware of opportunities when we encounter others during our daily routine.

SAY “YES” TO PREMEDITATED KINDNESS

Premeditated kindness is a powerful force that positively impacts both the giver and the receiver. It is a form of kindness that is not based on the actions or behavior of the people we encounter, but on a genuine desire to love and serve others.

One of the key elements of premeditated kindness is selflessness. This means putting the needs and well-being of others before your own. An individual can implement this element by actively seeking out opportunities to help others and being willing to make sacrifices for the sake of others. For example, suppose a friend is going through a difficult time. In that case, an individual can offer to help them with their household chores, take care of their children, or in other practical ways.

Another vital element of kindness is forgiveness. This means being willing to let go of past hurts and grudges and to extend compassion and understanding. An individual can implement this by practicing forgiveness in their daily life. For example, if someone has hurt you in the past, you can try to understand their perspective and then let go of your resentment towards them. You do that by an act of your will. You do kindness when you take the initiative to seek reconciliation.

A third element of kindness is empathy, a topic that will frequently appear in this book. In brief, empathy means being able to understand and share the feelings of others. An individual can implement this element by actively listening to others and trying to see things from their perspective. For example, suppose a colleague is having a hard day at work. In that case, an individual can take a moment to ask them how they are feeling, listen to them, and then offer tangible help.

A fourth element of premeditated kindness is humility. This means recognizing our humanity and limitations and extending compassion and understanding to others. An individual can implement this element by avoiding judgment and criticism and acknowledging that everyone has struggles and challenges. For example, suppose a person is struggling with addiction. In that case, an individual can extend compassion and understanding rather than judgment or criticism.

Finally, kindness is rooted in the belief that all people are created in the image of God and deserving of dignity and respect. This does not mean we are obligated to accept the aberrant ideas and behavior of others rooted in their rebellion against God. We can and should be kind without accepting their destructive beliefs or lifestyles.

In summary, premeditated kindness is a powerful force that can positively impact both the giver and the receiver. Implementing its key elements in daily life, such as selflessness, forgiveness, empathy, humility, and understanding that all people are created in the image of God, can help us build more substantial and meaningful relationships with others. That will make the world a whole kinder and more compassionate place.