What does real kindness look like?
Do we have to be kind to others who aren’t?
Thinking about kindness in different forms through Ruth’s story has helped me keep my focus on God when others aren’t being too kind to me. When others are failing to do their part at work, or when another selfish driver cuts me off during my commute, I (try to) take a mental step back and think, Okay: I would like to be a person of integrity and gentleness. Especially gentleness, because that’s not my strong suit when I’m angry. So I’m going to take a deep breath, walk down the hall and get some coffee, and respond to this person in a few minutes.
Why? Because they’re probably not targeting me; they’re just having a heck of a day and don’t know how to deal with it any better than I do.
We are bound to show kindness to others because of the kindness and mercy God shows us:
But when the kindness and the love of God our savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. Titus 3:4-5
I love how that verse reminds us why we’re here and living this mostly wonderful life under a sky that has been particularly gorgeous lately: God gave up His son for us so we could be heirs to His riches and have the hope of eternal life, in a new body and a new environment that doesn’t come with the burdens of this world. Showing kindness is one way to show others the mercy God has shown us, and to re-create a little glimpse of what I imagine Heaven is like.
What can kindness earn us?
I also love how it echoes Ephesians 2, to remind us that we can’t earn or work toward God’s kindness and love, and neither can those who cross us. It’s given out to everyone who wants to receive and accept it.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Is kindness doing whatever is necessary for family?
Ruth must have had no family of her own. Or she doesn’t like her family, and that’s why she’s willing to go to Bethlehem with Naomi, probably to never return to her hometown.
I’ve been trying to think of why Ruth would insist on going with Naomi to a place where her religion and customs are not accepted. The modern day equivalent might be your in-laws asking you to move closer to them, or you choosing to move closer to family for financial or logistical reasons. I have been thinking what I would do in Ruth’s shoes. I’m not sure I could follow my mother-in-law somewhere strange. It would take some extreme circumstances for me to move back to my family. But then, Ruth and Naomi’s circumstances as unemployed, non-benefited widows in a heavily patriarchal society were extreme, too.
What place does kindness have in our married life?
I was thanking God for teeing up a week about love this past week. I needed reminders of His love and examples of others’ love to emulate. Husband did a lot around the apartment this week so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Acts of service is one of my love languages and he has been communicating that way to me a lot lately. I love it! He has emulated another definition of love I found from Wikipedia, which has a surprisingly good entry about Love: “The unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another.”
In our marriage, unselfishness is the toughest part of love to live out. We have no problem being faithful/loyal, and we don’t intentionally harm each other (Usually.) But serving the other when they are nagging you to clean up again, or when they want to do something you don’t, or when you disagree with what they are saying and want to commandeer the conversation your way: That’s really tough. Our human need to prevail tries to trump our spiritual teaching to compromise.
More and more I find myself saying a quick prayer to God in the middle of a disagreement with Husband: God, show me how to love him. Let the words that come out of my mouth next be words of love. Or at least not hurtful. Tell me how to show him love, and not the anger I want to respond with.
What forms can kindness take?
I see how God shows us love even when life is going awry: Even though Naomi and Ruth were widowed, they had each other. (I picture Naomi throwing up her hands, turning on her heel, and walking off toward Bethlehem when Ruth has insisted for the hundredth time that she’s coming too, but slowly coming around as they walk.) They’re in pretty good health to make the trip back to Bethlehem. God protected them on the way. And he ensured they arrived in time for the barley harvest, which gives them a source of food. So their situation is not ideal, but they are alive and healthy, and able to work.
I see how God is behind our plans that are motivated by love, too. I called my dad last week about a letter I received from his bank telling me that I’m a beneficiary of a generous life insurance policy my parents took out when I was in high school. Another form of love: Making sure your loved ones can be financially secure if you can’t provide for them. They haven’t paid the premiums in more than 10 years, though, so the letter was asking if I want to pay them.
When I called my dad to find out the backstory, he explained that they took out the policy so that if something happened to them, my brother and I would be taken care of. “It was a big investment that made sense at the time, but it didn’t work out, so I’m letting the policy expire. It just didn’t work out like it was supposed to,” he kept saying. Finally, I told him, “Dad! You’re still alive. Mom’s still alive. David and I are still alive, and we’re all functioning adults. The policy, and our situation, has worked out just fine.”
Our family looks very different from 15 years ago, but we’re okay. We’re alive, we have all we need, and we still talk to each other, which is a huge victory considering how other branches of my extended family don’t.
God has loved our family so much that He’s taken care of the obstacles we’ve faced that no life insurance policy could ever cover. We drew closer to Him when our family broke up, and while I wouldn’t say our love for each other is expressed or demonstrated perfectly every time, we constantly try, knowing how much love He has shown us.
Knowing how my parents prepped for the worst reaffirms how much they have loved me and my brother, and I am grateful for how they continue to love and remain loyal to us, even when they don’t have to.