Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. – Colossians 3:12
Two weeks ago we took a look at what it means to show tenderhearted mercy. Today, I want to go further in this scripture and consider what kindness and humility might look like in a practical sense.
We learned that mercy is showing compassion or goodwill to someone whom we might otherwise treat harshly or punish or look down upon. We show mercy to our enemies, to those who have sinned against us. We might show mercy to someone who is less fortunate than us. Mercy is called for in circumstances when we might feel completely justified to not be merciful.
Kindness on the other hand is the quality of being friendly, generous, considerate. Kindness doesn’t have anything to do with the actions of another person. Kindness doesn’t worry about deserving, it doesn’t worry about justice, it doesn’t worry about circumstances. Kindness is just kind. All the time, in every situation, in the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are called to be kind. Kindness is random. Kindness is all the time. Kindness is just because.
- paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru lane
- calling up a friend you haven’t talked to in a while just to find out about their life
- introducing yourself to the new family at church
- inviting the new girl in town to your Thanksgiving meal when she has no family in the area and no money to return home
- clearing off the foot of snow that has accumulated on your coworker’s car during the workday
- buying that cute necklace for the mom you always chat with in the preschool drop off line because you know she loves the color and would look great wearing it
- giving up the good parking space to that other driver, even when it’s cold out
It’s not hard to be kind. It’s actually quite easy. It doesn’t cost money to be kind. Yet so often we just move throughout our days and never once think of someone else. We aren’t necessarily rude or selfish, we are just busy. But God calls us to clothe ourselves with kindness. Just as we wouldn’t go about our day without clothes, we shouldn’t go about our day without being kind. For some people this is second nature, but I think for most of us, we have to train ourselves to actively think about ways to be kind. I think that our call to kindness goes beyond just being a nice person. Kindness is an action that requires us to step out of our selfish bubble, no matter how “nice” we are, and consider other people, give to other people, bless other people, every day. All day.
Humility is a tough one in our modern world. There is always this drive to be the best, put yourself at center stage, show off your talents, and reap the rewards of letting the world know how great you are. We are constantly pushed to show off our best qualities and demand recognition so that we can get ahead. But this is not humility. Humility is putting others first. Humility is thinking of ourselves less. Humility is removing the idea of a scale from our minds, to forget words like better or worse, or successful and unsuccessful, or wealthy and un-wealthy. When we’re talking about people, we are all just people. There is no scale. I am no better than you, you are no better than me. Humility is putting your needs before my needs, not because I don’t think I deserve something, but because you are just as important as I am.
Humility is not low self-esteem. True humility recognizes one’s own strengths and best qualities. A humble person understands that all of their successes, their gifts and abilities come from God as a blessing, not deserved, not as a reward for all of their hard work, not because they are a great person, not because they have done all the right things… Humble people realize that God giveth and God can take away. They recognize that all blessing, all talent, all of their best qualities are because of God alone.
The thought that someone who is less successful than me is less successful because they are lazy or not as smart as me or not as good as me is arrogant. A humble person recognizes that if that same person was given the same talents and life experiences, they could be just as successful, they might even be better than me! I can’t place myself on a pedestal because of all the hard things I’ve accomplished in life, because I know that I’ve only accomplished any of those things because God allowed it.
Humility is realizing that I’m not important. That my agenda, my goals, my hopes and dreams don’t matter. What matters is Jesus. We can recognize our talents and abilities. We can be grateful for the blessings that we’ve received. We can work hard and achieve great things, but we must recognize that it is all for God, through God, and by God. We must always remember that all of our hard work, all of our goals and agendas should be serving a higher purpose. My agenda must equal God’s “agenda”. My goals should should be in service to the Will of God. If not, then I am arrogant. If my goals and dreams are to further myself then I’ve completely missed the mark.
A humble person doesn’t fall for the comparison trap. A humble person makes others feel more important. A humble person uplifts. A humble person listens, truly and completely, listens. A humble person actively tries to help others become better. A humble person gives more than they receive. A humble person serves at all times.
A humble person is extremely driven, but driven only by the pursuit and realization of God’s mission on Earth.