“Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32)
Do you remember “Be kind please rewind?” Rewinding those old VHS tapes before taking them back to the video store was a bit of hassle, but its was the nice thing to do. Since there are no video stores and no one is rewinding anything, perhaps a modern equivalent would be returning the carts at Walmart. You could leave the cart in a parking place, take it to the cart return, or even take it all the way back to the store. What would the nice thing to do?
Christians, you need to be nice. God has been and is good to you. God has blessed you. God forgives you. Are you kind or critical? Do you try to overlook offences or do you look for offences? At the conclusion of Ephesians, a letter in which Paul beautifully extolled the grace of God, Paul commanded us to “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
Theological Basis for Christian Kindness
First, look at the theological basis for our attitude–God in Christ has forgiven you. Why should we forgive? Why should we be more compassionate than critical? Because God has forgiven you in Christ. Notice that Paul used the past tense of the word forgiven. You have been forgiven. This forgiveness is certain. It is done. Your cosmic treason has been removed from the divine record. At what cost? God paid the price. God sent his Son so you can be forgiven. What cost is too great for you to be kind? What are you not willing to forgive?
What Does Christian Kindness Look Like?
Paul began his admonition with the command to be kind. The Greek word translated kindness is “χρηστοί” (chrestoi). In Greek it is easy to see the similarities between the word for kindness (chrestoi) and the word for Christ (Christos). There is no real connection between the words, but perhaps you would allow me to make the point that to be kind is to be like Christ. The word is defined as “pertaining to that which causes no discomfort, high standard of value, morally good, reputable, kind, loving, benevolent, and beneficence” (BDAG). Do you live so as to “cause no discomfort to others” or maybe to remove discomfort from others? How can we do a better job of removing pain and from not being a pain?
God says we are to be compassionate. To be compassionate is the opposite of being critical. The Greek word means “to have tender feelings for someone” (BDAG). Christian, you are commanded to have tender feelings for everyone. The best way to put this in practice is to start with you spouse, your children, your friends, and then move to your enemies. You can love your enemies. You can forge tender feelings toward them. This is what God has done for us and what God expects of us.
If we are going to have these Christian feelings toward others, we are going to need to have some way to remove those barriers to loving relationships. The key to removing these barriers is forgiveness. The word for forgiveness here is χαριζόμενοι which means to “show oneself gracious by forging wrongdoing” (BDAG). To be forgiving here, then, is to be a living demonstration of grace. Remove those barriers and restore friendships. Rebuild those bridges. Reclaim love.
Church, more than likely you have tried the path of harshness. Being critical comes natural. We can’t help but notice what everyone does wrong. Lets look for ways to be gracious. Lets look for ways to be like Christ. Lets look for ways to build up others and enjoy our own lives.