I know you've seen them adorning the bumpers of cars, rusty and pristine alike. You know, the bumper stickers that tell us to practice random acts of kindness. Sometimes they are next to the COEXIST stickers. Sometimes not. While I appreciate the sentiment that we should be kind, such actions should truly not be random. On the contrary, they should be very intentional acts of kindness. For us as followers of Christ, they should flow out of the love we receive from Him and point the recipient back to Him, giving God all the glory, not our random altruism.
Scripture tells us this is our duty, not an option. In St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians we are instructed to "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Through his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul tells us we should "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience..." Perhaps the most beautiful and compelling argument against random and self-directed altruism is the Christ-hymn of Philippians. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."
So you see, my reasons to strive to show kindness and pass that trait onto my children is not random at all. It's not simply a nice attribute. It helps me to strive to imitate Christ in his humility. We really are called to intentional acts of kindness to everyone. We never know when we are meeting Jesus in distressing disguise or may be in the company of angels. It is upsetting to me how often people are completely unaware of others in their midst, myself included. In a devoutly individualistic culture, it is counter-intuitive sometimes to put the welfare of others before ourselves. Our intuition needs fine-tuning. Our efforts at kindness must be intentional for it to become a habit, for us to reach a point where no longer is it a random thought, but it becomes effortless and natural, an organic part of who we are and what we do in the name of Christ.
We are still new at the family and parenting gig. What I know is that I want, by example and by instruction, to foster an environment that makes kindness part of my children's natural instinct, especially when the crowd is moving in a different direction. I want to always live as though we may be called on to entertain angels or have Jesus in our midst. I've got a long way to go to conform my heart (and our home) to be ready for such an open invitation, but I'm determined to work on it.
What are some ways you encourage your children to act out of kindness? How do you as a family practice intentional kindness and generosity, readying yourselves to entertain angels?