When Kindness Becomes Influence
A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. (Proverbs 11:17)
“It took me half my life to realize it,” my dad once told me, “but the Golden Rule is a way to influence other people.” My dad was reflecting on Jesus’ great command, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). He recognized that not only is it right for us treat others the way we want to be treated, but it is also wise because treating them well usually results in them treating us well in return.
Last year Kamala and I finished our ministry at our old church. It was an emotional time as we moved on from one church family in search of our next calling. But the transition was made so much easier by the outpouring of letters, cards, gifts, and affection from those we were leaving. One long-time member of the church said to us, “You taught us God’s Word, you loved us, and we will miss you very much.” As a pastor, that’s about the best summary of my ministry that I could have hoped for. Without noticing while it was happening, our years of showing kindness to the congregation – imperfectly, of course, but faithfully – had stored up benefits for our family in a crucial moment in our lives.
Human life is inescapably bound to the people that God has placed around us, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of our lives depends heavily on the relationships that we have cultivated (or not cultivated). After Jesus gave the Golden Rule, he went on to describe how human relationships flourish when we follow his command:
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:37-38).
The main reason we should love one another is because it honors God, whatever may come. But secondly and importantly, we discover that our kindness to others usually “benefits ourselves” while our cruelty (or indifference) “hurts ourselves.” God wants us to act rightly to please him, but he has created a world in which right behavior usually works out to our advantage as well. So today, do the right thing, do it especially when it is not the easy or natural thing to do, and remember that it probably means others will do right by you as well.
Father, thank you for surrounding me with people whose lives support mine. By your Spirit, fill my life with kindness for everyone I meet today. Help me to thrive, and help others to thrive, as we walk in obedience to you today. In Christ’s Name, Amen.