Brady: Kindness is necessary for this life

Published 8:31 pm Monday, September 4, 2017

Kindness is nothing to be sneezed at, and most of us are aware of its importance. I read of a young mother who upon hearing that her home had survived Hurricane Harvey’s onslaught, immediately went to the store and filled her vehicle with supplies to take her friends who had not been so fortunate.

As Paul put it, “Love is kind” (l Corinthians 13:4).

But kindness can go wrong! We see this in the biblical story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). To be sure, Jesus needs both his Marys and his Marthas, as they represent two prongs of vital faith-devotion and service. However, as I mentioned, kindness can go wrong.

As you likely recall, these two sisters had invited Jesus to dinner at their home in Bethany. Martha worked overtime to be sure the meal was properly prepared, the table set, and the house cleaned to perfection. While this was happening, Mary, who had also issued the invitation, simply sat at Jesus feet to listen and learn.

Almost needless to say, Martha’s temper began simmering toward Mary and she turned to the Teacher for help. “Lord,” she said, “do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” But Jesus’ answer is surprising. He essentially tells Martha to chill out. He states that while she worried about all those little details, her sister Mary has chosen the most important thing. She has chosen to listen and learn from him.

The late William Barclay, biblical scholar, says that if we are to understand this incident, we have to consider the context of the story. When this incident occurred, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to die. His whole being was taken up in the intensity of the struggle between his will and his Father’s will. With the cross looming before him, he needed some quiet time, away from the demands and noise of the crowd. A sandwich at the kitchen table would have been a more appropriate meal. Mary understood what was happening, and that’s what she gave Jesus.

Martha, on the other hand, in her excited kindness and celebration of Jesus’ visit missed the significance of the occasion all together. Jesus suggested that she had been “distracted.”

I suppose this is one of the great difficulties of life. So often we want to be kind to others, but we want to help them in our own way. And when we suddenly discover that our way of being kind is not on track, we run the danger of being offended and unappreciated.

The point is to always think of the needs of others first. Paul expressed it well when he says, “Love is kind, and does not insist on its own way.”

His name is Jerry. I haven’t known him very long. He came from another town. He said that he has to be in the shelter by 6:00 p.m, and out by 6:00 a.m.

Jerry just sort of drifts around during the day. He doesn’t have anything to do or any place to go. His wardrobe consists of the clothes on his back. He’s out of work and desperate. He has no money or options. He’s somewhat fearful of the streets. Jerry is homeless.

Recently, I saw a cartoon with a little boy asking, “Does love thy neighbor mean the people on both sides of the house?” As people of conscience, we resoundingly answer, “Yes.” And as people of faith and human beings, how can we best extend kindness to the Jerry’s of the world?

By now, we have all heard about the devastating tragedy that has occurred in Houston, and along the Gulf coast of Texas. With this horrific catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, the needs of the people are overwhelmingly great-thousands rescued, homes destroyed, roads closed because of flooding waters, overcrowded shelters and on and on it goes.

With our desire to help, how can we best extend kindness? Of course, the essentials need of life itself become our first consideration. And these needs of kindness will be continuous over the long haul.

Frederick Buechner, the noted author, decided once to explore the lives of the saints. The first three— Brendan, Godric and the biblical character, Jacob, surprised him. Because the more he researched their lives, the more skeletons he found in their closets. The resulting question Buechner asked himself was this, so what made this dubious group saintly?

He finally settled on the word “life-giver.” Buechner continued, “Passionate, risk-taking, courageous, each of the three made those around them feel more alive not less.”

“Life-giver” that’s the definition of kindness done right. A life-giver extends kindness according to the recipient’s need and not in any other way.

I close with the immortal words of William Penn.

He stated, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.