Micah 6:8 says something like this: that God has shown humanity that what he requires of us is to be just, or fair, in how we relate to one another; to show kindness (often translated ‘love mercy’); and to walk humbly, to tread the earth lightly, looking to him.
It seems to me that kindness is at least in danger of becoming a forgotten virtue, and one worthy of reflection. Here are some final thoughts.
Kindness and Our visible identity
In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul describes various people groups. There are the Greeks, and the Jews; the barbarians, and the Scythians. Each is immediately recognisable by their cultural or tribal attire, just as today we can identify a hoodie or an emo by what they wear. But God has created a new people, out of all these previously separate peoples. And this new people must also be recognisable by what they wear: not literally, but by ‘clothing themselves’ with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12). That is, other people are supposed to be able to look at us and immediately tell that we are God’s people because of our visible kindness (among other things). It is part of our tribal insignia.
Kindness and the Person of Peace
Towards the end of the book of Acts, Paul is travelling by sea as a prisoner to Rome, to stand trial before the emperor, when the ship is caught up in a storm and wrecked off Malta. Luke, who was accompanying Paul at the time, describes the Maltese as being of ‘unusual kindness’ – which I think is an incredible description. He goes on to describe various ways in which the Maltese showed kindness. The story does not end with an account of the islanders coming to believe in Jesus. But today the Christian community on Malta (of various traditions) is known for its hospitability, a characteristic they trace all the way back to Paul’s shipwreck.
While we are called to show kindness, we must not assume that we have a monopoly on kindness. Indeed, it would appear that willingness to show kindness to us is a clue that someone is open to us and to the message we carry – what Jesus called a Person of Peace. Such a person is kind because God is already at work in their lives. Where we fail to value kindness, we blind ourselves to the relationships God is putting in our path.