All of my life I have been involved in team sports. I played most sports as a child and now my children play in the local recreation league. Usually, on the recreation level at least, a parent of one of the players does the coaching. When I watch a game, I can always tell which player is the coach’s kid – even if I’ve never seen them before.
You would think that the coach’s kid would get a little favoritism, and maybe sometimes they do, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I can always tell who belongs to the coach because, in most cases, the coach is far more gentle with the other players than to his own child.
Often it’s much easier to be pleasant to a perfect stranger than it is to be pleasant to the people closest to us. But being pleasant is not the same thing as being kind. We can be pleasant to someone that we despise. We can never be truly kind to them.
Kindness arises from a deep place within us in which we genuinely honor and wish for the good of another. We see them as worthy of our consideration. This kindness comes from a disposition of benevolence toward others. Being pleasant, on the other hand, can come from a posture of self-serving. I want to appear to be a good person, so I play the part in front of others. The truth is, if we are unable to be kind to those close to us, we’re really not being kind to anyone.
We have to keep this truth in mind in order to cultivate kindness. We must remember when we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves, that our first neighbors are those who live in our own house. If kindness is to lead us into a life of agape love, then we must start cultivating kindness with our spouses, children, parents, brothers, sisters, and whoever else with which we share life.
We cannot bypass or rush this step. As we intentionally cultivate kindness toward those closest to us, we must allow time for it to permeate all of our interactions with them – which will transform the entire orientation of our lives. Our pleasant speech and considerate actions will become other-centered rather than self-centered. Instead of being forced, kindness will begin to flow out of us as from hearts that genuinely honor the people God has placed in our lives and, if we are intentional, it will spill over into all of our relationships.
The blessing of Aaron, found in Numbers 6:24-26 is God’s gift to us to mediate His presence to others. This week for the discipline of fellowship, sit down with someone in your household (or if you live alone, choose someone with whom you are close) and take turns blessing each other with the words found in Aaron’s blessing. Say them slowly as you look into each other’s eyes. It will feel a little awkward if you’re not use to this sort of thing, but that’s ok. Learning to do anything worthwhile is usually awkward in the beginning. But discipline, when faithfully practiced, will lead us into a life of freedom and joy.
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