Kindness

Tip #3 in our series “Cultivating wellbeing in a church community”

Kindness 

Being kind is at the very heart of God’s character. Chesed, the Hebrew word for steadfast love or lovingkindness, is a rich word which our English language struggles to translate.  Kindness is one word that captures what God is like. 

Being kind is doing something for another without expecting anything in return. It’s the opposite to transactional. It’s about being considerate, generous, putting yourself out to be helpful whenever you can, overlooking any cost to yourself. When we are kind, we are being loving and we are being “like God”. The whole story of the bible is a story of rescue, redemption and grace. God sends his Son to the world to rescue us from sin, brokenness and shame. He does this simply because He loves us. Chesed.  God’s lovingkindness in action. He wants to offer us a way out of our mess. 

“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 

As Christians, we have experienced God’s kindness.  He has noticed us.  His eyes have seen our deep need.  His ears have heard our cries for help.  Our salvation story is a story of God’s kindness towards us.  It’s a wonderful story. 

As Christians, we have experienced God’s kindness. He has noticed us. His eyes have seen our deep need. His ears have heard our cries for help.  Our salvation story is a story of God’s kindness towards us.  It’s a wonderful story. 

The bible contains many examples of the kindness of God and the kindness of ordinary men and women.  They powerfully unpack what kindness looks like: Boaz in the story of Ruth, the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ interactions in the gospels. What is interesting is that in each of these stories, the key player notices a need and chooses to respond in very practical ways. 

Being kind is a way of demonstrating practical love. It’s how we love our neighbour. 

Secular research and thinkers have also spoken richly and thoughtfully about the place of kindness.   Barak Obama says: “Being a strong man includes being kind, and there’s nothing weak about kindness and compassion; nothing weak about looking out for others.” [1] There is even research that shows that people recover more quickly from illness when they have been shown kindness. [2]

ABC journalist, Leigh Sales, in her book, Any Ordinary Day, talks with people who have faced personal tragedy. How have they coped?  The people she interviews repeatedly say that it was people’s kindness that helped them.  One woman spoke of the professional who came into her home and emptied the vases of dead flowers.  A small and inconsequential act that communicated compassion, love and care. An act of kindness. 

The thing about being kind is that you need to notice others. You need not to be so consumed by your own concerns that you see someone else and notice what you could do to make a difference. It may be as small and inconsequential as looking directly at them, face to face, and smiling. It might be doing someone’s shopping, cooking a meal, cleaning a house, driving them to a medical appointment, or making a cup of tea and sitting down and listening as they speak. Being kind could be sending a text message, praying, or if you really have no idea of how to be kind, asking what you could do to help and then doing it. 

And then there are kind words. In a world where there is often outrage when someone holds a different opinion to us, with its callout culture and tribalism, words can be angry, irritable, rude and indifferent.  How powerful is a word of kindness that speaks to another’s need? 

The apostle Paul encourages his readers to be kind.[3] And it’s is not an optional extra in the Christian life, but a firm exhortation to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit and to be like God in how we treat others, how we speak to others. 

And being kind is even good for you! The secular research has found it benefits our mental wellbeing.  Being lifted outside ourselves and doing good for others will help you feel better about yourself.[4]

Here are some suggestions of how to create of culture of kindness in your church community: 

  • Modelling – others notice how you act and it has an impact.  If you are kind, you will show others how to be kind.  If you are on staff or in a role of leadership, be kind. Over time, you will find that others begin to behave like you behave. 
  • Tell stories that show kindness in action.  Last year (this is pre-COIVD), one of our small bible study groups befriended a homeless man who stood outside the railway station selling The Big Issue.  They stopped and talked to him, invited him to come to Christianity Explained and then Alpha, went with him and got to know him.  They found out that he was estranged from his family who lived in a different city, but couldn’t afford the airfare to visit.  The group paid for his flight, enabling a reconnection and healing of brokenness in his family relationships.  This homeless man experienced kindness and this began a change in his life.  What story could you share? 
  • Pray that the Spirit fills you with kindness and that your church becomes known as a place of kindness. 
  • When you are out in your community, turn your phone off and notice your neighbours, start praying for them and thinking about how you could reach out and be kind. 

Don’t leave it to the secular world to model and promote kindness.  Don’t leave it to writers such as Henry James to promote kindness.  This is what he reportedly once said to his nephew: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” 


[1] Judith Newman “You’re not going to kill them with kindness.  You’ll do just the opposite”, NYT, 8 January 2020

[2] Newman, ibid.

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12

[4] E.g. Harold G. Koenig, ‘Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications’ International Scholarly Research Network Psychiatry 2012, Article ID 278730; Leslie J. Francis & Gemma Penny, ‘Christian Commitment and Personal Well Being: Exploring the Connection Between Religious Affect and Global Happiness Among Young Churchgoers in Australia’ Journal of Research on Christian Education 2016, 25:3, 223-4; Ruth Powell & Mandy Robbins, ‘The churches and well-being: perspectives from the Australian National Church Life Survey’ Mental Health, Religion & Culture 2015, 18:1, 2-3.

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