Friday, January 22, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

This was the message I delivered at the Ladies' Meeting at Faith Baptist Church.

Last time, we learned that hospitality was different from entertaining. With entertaining of family and friends, there’s a possibility of a return invitation. With hospitality, you invite people for a meal or do something to make them feel welcome at church, with no expectation of reciprocity.

This time, I want to talk about Kindness. Kindness may be related to hospitality, but not necessarily. Kindness isn’t so much a gift of the Spirit, as it is a fruit of the Spirit. It should be present to some degree in every believer.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Gal.5:22

What is kindness?
“A kind deed.” (favor)
“The quality or state of being kind.” (affection)

Those are from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I don’t really like it when they use a word to describe a word, but you get the idea that you are doing a kindness for someone when you do something good for them; with a feeling of affection towards them, and you want them to feel loved by that action.

Not to insult your intelligence, (as if you didn’t understand the concept of kindness), or your maturity as believers, (as if you didn’t already know that we should be kind to one another), but we can never be too kind. It’s a characteristic of true love (1 Cor. 13 “Love is…kind”). We can always improve; always strive to be more aware of those around us.

A quote from the book, Random Acts of Kindness by the Editors of Conari Press:

“Random acts of kindness. It has such a beautiful ring to it. A part of the beauty is undoubtedly the turnaround from that ugliest and most frightening of all phrases: random acts of violence. We all know of, or at least we know the deep personal fear of, random acts of violence. Haven’t we all considered at some point that anytime, from anywhere, it could come, and for no apparent reason we—or someone we love—could be struck down? It’s so easy to fear. It’s so easy to create an almost palpable reality out of our imagined terror. Random acts of kindness ring pure and true as an antidote to that fear, as life-affirming revolutionary acts.”

Kindesses I’ve Experienced:
-someone giving up their seat on the bus when I was pregnant (unfortunately, usually these were women. The men would hide behind their newspapers pretending they didn’t see me).
-a ride from the bus-stop on a rainy morning (Mom).
-laundry, cooking, child care help (Mom).
-my husband turning on the coffee pot so I can sleep a few extra minutes until it’s ready.
-flowers, massages (from my husband). Are these romance because he’s my husband or are they kindnesses? Probably more romance, since I’m the only one who would receive them, but still they are kind, because it shows he knows what makes me happy. It also shows I’m a bit of a princess.
-compliments and encouragement.
-thank you cards and encouraging e-mails.
-gifts that show that the person knows what I like, instead of getting me something they’d like.

Bible Verses re: our topic:

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Phil. 1:27

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Phil. 2:2, 3
-Be aware of others and their needs.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
-That’s it?
-It’s the little things that matter to God.

“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to him, ‘Depart in peace. Be warmed and filled;’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” James 2:15, 16
-God hates lip service.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ.”
Col. 3:23, 24
-Ultimately, everything we do is for Christ.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph. 2:10

“…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5
-Doing good deeds does not give us merit before God. We are saved by grace. We don’t do good works to be saved, but because we are saved.

In almost the next breath, Paul says,
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” Titus 3:8
-Good works are the evidence of our salvation.

“And let our people learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” Titus 3:14
-God expects to see fruit of salvation in our lives.
-We need to respond to things as they come up.

“And let us consider one another to stir up love, and good works.” Heb. 10:24
-Be provocative, in a good way.

“Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Heb. 3:16
-These things are sacrifices at times.

“Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another.” Rom. 12:10

“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Cor. 5:9, 10
-Christians stand before Christ, for various degrees of reward.

If you have means:
“Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.” 1 Tim. 6: 8

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 2 Pet. 1:5
-It takes some effort (diligence) on our part.
-We should have fruitful growth in our faith.
-Every Christian virtue begins with faith and ends in love.

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
-Not just talk, but action.
-Evidence of our faith in and love for God.

“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” 1 John 3:17
-Practice, not just theory.

Why is this even a topic for a Ladies’ Meeting?

I recently read a book by Sharon Hinck, called Stepping Into Sunlight. It has an interesting concept. To help her recover from a violent event that resulted in panic attacks, depression and agoraphobia, the character of the book, Penny, decided to try to get her focus off herself and onto others, by searching out ways to show kindness to at least one person each day. She wasn’t doing it for merit, but to break free of being self-absorbed. She would record it in a journal and she slowly saw progress. I don’t suffer from those symptoms, but I do know I can be self-centred. This book led to the development of the blog which has ideas of kind things to do for people. It included a challenge to try to be kind to at least one person per day, for a month, on purpose. The reason for the journal is just to keep focused. For those of you who don’t know, a blog is basically a personal webpage in which you can write. I have one. It’s (That’s just a commercial). ;-)
This book challenged me to try to think of new ways to be kind to those around me. I bought a notebook and began to record a date, a recipient and a deed, daily. Some of these were small things, that I would have done anyway, but I recorded them to be more aware of others and to keep me on track. Examples were visits to hospital, sending a letter to a soldier in Iraq (which was cool, because I heard he received it and it made his day), baking for someone, bringing food to a food bank, buying a gift for a new baby, or sending an encouraging note.
Some were things that took effort because they weren’t things I normally did, but I knew would mean a lot to the people for whom I did them. Examples were mending for Gary and packing a lunch for Leah. They were shocked! You're probably shocked, too. What mother doesn't pack a lunch for her child? Me.
Others were hidden things, like cleaning a closet or filling the tank with gas, or getting the car washed, or buying them a treat, or a phone card or bus pass.
Some were things I never would have thought of, but were kindnesses hidden in mischief. What does that mean? Going through a Drive-thru and when you pay, asking how much the car behind you owes, and then paying it and driving off. Positively sneaky!
Occasionally, we would plan to do something that would cost us something. Sometimes sacrificial giving is the most meaningful for both the giver and receiver. If you have the means, larger gifts like covering someone’s tuition costs or purchasing a needed item, or buying a gift card for food is a great way of being the answer to someone’s prayer.
Others were not costly in monetary terms, but only in time. Things like visits or phone calls.
Others cost nothing at all, like a smile, or a compliment, or a courtesy like holding a door open. Would I record a smile as a good deed? Not likely, but once you start challenging yourself to be less self-centred and more other-centred, even those little things come more naturally.
Guess what else? It feels good. It makes you happy. (Self-centred people are the most miserable people). It makes you more thankful for the blessings God has given. It makes you realize you are a steward of what God has blessed you with and you’ll be accountable for what you did with it. It makes you want to do more. It makes you give glory to God. It makes you ask Him for more opportunities to show kindess.
We should try to out-do each other in kindness. Not a bad competition, is it? Not done to puff ourselves up, but to build each other up. It reminds me of those two gophers on Looney Tunes, who would hold open a door, and say, “After you.” “No, I insist, after you.”

There are several resources to help:

One is the blog I mentioned:
Three books I found helpful: Stepping Into Sunlight by Sharon Hinck
Random Acts of Kindness by Editors of Conari Press
Christian Random Acts of Kindness by The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

So take the challenge. I dare you. If you don’t, know one will know. But if you do…


Brainstorming Session

Give Notebooks and pens to everyone, along with a copy of the Brainstorming Ideas. Let the group add their ideas to the lists.
These notebooks are a good size for a month long challenge, if you choose to do it. If not, fear not, they won’t be collected. You can use it for notes or grocery lists if you want. Or you can record date, recipient and deed for one month. Try it, I dare you.

Gifts for friends, new moms, students, Pastor
Prepare meal for someone who has had surgery or a new baby
Donate used clothing, books or household items
Donate old cell phones or ink cartridges
Give to a charity that is close to your heart
Offer hospitality to someone even when it’s not convenient to do so
Fill tank with gas
Take car thru car wash
Pack lunches
Take a friend out to lunch
Clean out fridge/shed, or some other disagreeable task
Pay for the person behind you in line at a drive thru
Bus or train passes
Tim Horton’s gift cards
Gift cards for grocery stores
Gift baskets for shut ins
Yard work for elderly
Hospital visit
Card to encourage or thank someone
Encouraging letter or e-mail
Care package to student or soldier
Pay for someone’s camp/retreat/course fees
Help a friend move
Hugs, smiles
Bake for firehall
Food to foodbank

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