August 29, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:31-32 (NRSV)
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Sometimes living as a Christian is complicated. Sometimes it’s pretty simple. In Ephesians 4:32 we’re told to “be kind to one another.” That seems pretty simple, though we can easily forget to put it into practice. We have a great opportunity to make the love of God tangible to others by treating them with kindness, just as God has treated us in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 gives us a shortlist of actions in which all followers of Jesus should major. This verse says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” There it is. A simple list of ways we can live that serve others and glorify God.
Today I’d like to focus on the imperative, “Be kind to one another.” Kindness involves doing good things for others, especially in situations when others are unworthy or unable to reciprocate. If you do good because you owe someone or because you might get something in return, that’s not really kindness. God’s kindness, for example, can be seen in the fact that he is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” (Luke 6:35). Earlier in Ephesians, God’s kindness is an expression of his incomparably rich grace (Ephesians 2:7). You can think of kindness as a tangible expression of grace.
So then, are you kind? Do you do good things for the people in your life, not only because it’s expected of you, but “just because”? Do you think of ways you can serve and encourage your co-workers? Spouse? Family members? Friends? Neighbors? Even people you don’t know? When somebody you supervise at work messes up, do you treat that person kindly, dealing with the problem in a way that doesn’t strip away that person’s dignity? Do you treat kindly those whom our culture undervalues?
As I was reflecting on this verse from Ephesians, from out of nowhere a memory came to me of an experience I had in New York City almost 40 years ago. I was in grad school at the time, traveling back to Massachusetts after visiting my family in California. Because I had little money, I used the cheapest way to get to Boston from Los Angeles: flying to New York City and then taking the Greyhound bus from the Port Authority to South Station in Boston. It was a long and draining trip.
On one particular occasion, my flight to New York had been delayed by bad weather, so I didn’t get to the city until late evening. I was exhausted and discouraged by the prospect of a five-hour, late-night bus ride to Boston. Plus, I was missing my family and feeling pretty depressed about my sorry life.
Before catching the bus, I needed to get something to eat, so I stepped into a burger joint. This was in New York, of course, so the restaurant was jammed and noisy. I waited for a long time until I was finally able to plop down in a small booth. I noticed that the only waitress in the place, a woman about sixty, was rushing around like crazy. Given how hungry I was, I silently rebuked myself for picking this place. I figured I’d have to wait forever before being served.
But, to my surprise, the waitress hurried over to my table. She stopped for a second to look closely at me. “Sugar,” she said, “you look pretty down. What can I get you to help you feel better?” Now, I don’t usually like to be called “Sugar,” but in this case, that name sounded sweet to my ears. Somebody had noticed me. Somebody had actually seen me. Somebody was being kind to me, even in a crowded burger joint in New York City, of all places.
I ordered my dinner, feeling strangely better about life. Throughout the meal, my angelic waitress kept checking on me, saying things like, “You doing okay, honey? You need anything?” She wanted to know why I was in the city and so I described my long day of travel. “Sounds awful,” she said. When it was time for me to go, I asked for my check. “You have a safe trip, now, sugar. And know that things will get better. God bless.”
For some reason, when she told me things would get better, I believed her. And, indeed, God had already blessed me through her because of her wonderful kindness. I thought to myself, “A little kindness goes a long way.”
Chances are you and I won’t be serving people in a crowded diner in New York City, but we have the chance to show kindness to the folks we encounter at work, in our neighborhoods, at the market, and even in our own homes. May God give us the grace to follow the guidance of Ephesians 4:32 as we are kind to others.
Do you ever do good things for the people in your life, not only because it’s expected of you, but “just because”?
Do you think of ways you can serve and encourage your co-workers? Spouse? Family members? Friends? Neighbors? Even people you don’t know?
When somebody you supervise at work messes up, do you treat that person kindly, dealing with the problem in a way that doesn’t strip away that person’s dignity?
Do you treat kindly those whom our culture undervalues?
Ask the Spirit of God to show you what is true about yourself when it comes to expressions of kindness. Confess your sin if that is needed. Invite the Lord to help you show kindness today to someone who needs it.
Gracious God, thank you for your kindness. Thank you for all the ways you have revealed your grace to me through kind actions.
Help me, Lord, to be like you in the way I treat others. Inspire me with new ways to be kind to those around me. Help me to be kind to all the people in my life, to my family members and coworkers, to my neighbors and church members, to restaurant servers, and to cashiers. May my life be a demonstration of your grace alive in me. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Ethics of Conflict (Luke 6:27-36; 17:3-4)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Dear Dr. Roberts, I was just reading your message on Eph. 4:32 when a repair maintenance man came to fix my air conditioner. I opened the front door and asked him if he had been vaccinated. He said “no” and since I am over 80 and my husband is not well I said I was sorry I could not run the risk of having him in my home. I’m afraid had I not just read your message I would have had a rather angry reply He in reply was kind to me and will send someone tomorrow who has had their shots. He said he would not want to make anyone sick. This could have been an unpleasant confrontation but kindness changed it all. Thank you for reminding me to follow my Lord’s example.