Is Kindness A Burden?

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:3-4

Loving difficult people is grueling sometimes. Constructive conversations dissolve into arguments as their strong will pursues a personal agenda above all else. Perhaps you know someone who struggles to possess genuine empathy for others. It’s hard not to want to put them in their place and let them know how hard it is to get along with them. Showing them kindness feels more like a burden than a privilege.

Unfortunately, I was having similar thoughts not too long ago. My bible reading was in I John and I experienced heavy conviction as I came to chapter 5 verse 3, which says, The commandments are not burdensome. Reality hit me like a sudden slap across the face: I was allowing myself to be crushed by the weight of faithful responsibility. God has called me to demonstrate the fruit of the spirit because His spirit is in me. I was allowing His tree of life to wither with criticism and judgment. Grace had become foreign to me. I wanted the other person to know just how much I disapproved of their behavior.

But that’s not what God calls me to do. God has given two specific instructions: to love Him and to love my neighbor. Matthew 22:37-40 says, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Those two commandments are the core values of our faith and without them, we are only a resounding gong or clanging symbol. (1 Corinthians 13:1) Love is the essence of who Jesus is and why He sacrificed Himself for us. Love conquers death. It shows grace to life-long criminals. Without love, there would be no kindness.

As a child of God, I have the responsibility to turn my heart towards Him. Doing so reminds me that my calling is not to put others in their place, but to point them to Jesus. Showing kindness isn’t a burden when I take myself out of the equation and allow God to love them through me. Because, who knows, we may be the only glimpse of Jesus they ever get to see.

Wounded By Words

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 118:5-6

“You can really hurt someone by the words you speak,” I told my son. Knowing he had felt the sting of criticism in the past, and I reminded him to choose his words carefully.

As I was getting ready for bed later that evening, I realized how much I allow the words of others to influence my mood or opinion of myself. Just that day, I had been feeling discouraged about the critical words and tone with which someone else spoke to me. As much as I wished it had, their comment didn’t just roll off me. It stuck like a glob of glue in my heart and it didn’t feel good.

Then, I came across Psalm 118:5-6. True to God’s nature of perfect timing, He reminded me that His opinion is what matters most. I had been pressed into a state of gloom, allowing another’s statements to steal my joy. But being reminded of God’s love for me, my heart danced off the goo and was free of bondage to the approval of man. What can mere mortals do to me when I have the affections of the God of the universe?

Perhaps you, too, allow the words and actions of others to influence the way you view yourself or the world. It’s hard not to sometimes, especially when those people are close friends or family. We value their opinion.

But if what they’re saying is critical, condescending or simply maligned from the Word of God, then we need to proceed with caution. Taking a moment to pause and reflect may be just what we need to redirect negative thoughts to the truth.

Is what they’re saying true? What is their spirit communicating? Two simple questions point us to clarity and confidence.

If what they’re saying isn’t true, we can stop there and rebuke Satan’s efforts the convince us otherwise. If what they’re saying is true, whether we want to hear it to not, then we need to listen. God may be using them to speak to us.

If their spirit communicates tenderness, we should be grateful God has given us a special friend who speaks the truth in love. But if their aim is to tear us down or build themselves up, then let’s see that for what it is. God is gentle and kind; He never speaks with condescending tones. He may want to get out attention, but He will not do so with criticism. Ridicule is the language of Satan; let’s claim victory over him in those moments.

God wants us to live under His affections, under His supernatural acceptance. His intentions are not for us to seek the approval of man or try to please others. He desires we look only to Him for our true identity and reliance.

We’ll never control what comes out of others’ mouths, but we can control what we say. As I encouraged my son to do, may we not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
(Ephesians 4:29)