Back in 2000, there was a movie that came out called Pay it Forward. The acting was semi-decent and the plot was full of ridiculous and confusing twists, but the premise was pretty great: an 11-year-old kid decides to create a social network of sorts based on the idea of doing good deeds. The idea was that you did something great for someone, and in return they would do something great for 3 other people, who would each help 3 others, and so on. An exponentially growing network of people who were connected by kindness. Decent concept. As I've grown, I've started to reflect more on the idea of "random acts of kindness". I'm for the most part all for them. Being kind to one another and helping those in need is a form of basic human compassion. It's our proverbial middle finger to "survival of the fittest" in a way. When we do kind things to those we don't know, we rarely have anything to gain from it. In fact, we have things to lose: time, comfort, money, safety, you name it. It is our way of showing the world that every single individual matters no matter who they are, and that we're all in this together.
My biggest frustration however is that we can often find it "too hard" to be kind to those we know more. It's difficult to be kind to the people who hurt us, especially when we know that we won't have anything to show for it usually. It's hard to be kind when we just don't get along with someone. And it's extra hard to be kind to someone who is just plain annoying. What becomes frustrating is when we decide not to be kind to someone based on our assumption that we won't get anything in return. It's one of the biggest forms of selfishness.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking to us about how to treat others. One of the most often quoted parts of the Bible is what is referred to by many as "the Golden Rule" - to treat others the way we want to be treated. Too often, however, we want to turn it into "treat others how they've treated you," which becomes focused on retaliation for those who we don't get along with, or extra love and attention to those who don't step on our toes. Jesus took it a step farther, though, and told us "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." How hard is it to pray for those who seem to be actively against us? It's crazy! This type of love is so counter-cultural that I can barely wrap my head around it.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22 NIV)
What if we stopped focusing just on "random acts of kindness", but started practicing "intentional acts of kindness?" I know for me that there are people in my life that I've reacted negatively too, and as a result they've left my life and I've lost an ability to effectively share Jesus with them. Our acts of kindness and care towards others, especially those who do not know Jesus as Lord, allow us to develop relationships and open doors for the Gospel in crazy ways. I love that! What if you took 3 people in your life that you just don't get along with at all and focused the next 2 months on showering them in kindness, respect, and gentleness? How would that change us? How would that change their heart and their perceptions of you and the life you live? It'll have an incredible impact on every aspect of our walk and our relationships with those around us. When we allow kindness and care to be our native language instead of a dialect that we speak on occasion and hope it translates right, others around will learn to speak love way more through our actions than anything we could ever say.