Pause for thought: Kindness, Compassion & Grace
I don’t know if you managed to catch the performance of Lewis Capaldi at Glastonbury this summer. He is an incredible singer, but also not free from some mental health concerns, he is prone to panic attacks, a shoulder twitch and a recent diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome. If you listen to him in interview you’ll also see that he suffers with imposter syndrome manifest by his very low self esteem. And in the middle of his most famous song “Someone You Loved” in front of 100,000 fans the issues began to surface leaving the superstar unable to sing. And so, 100,000 fans took over, singing every word as Lewis stood on stage overcome with emotion. No boos from the crowd who after all had paid hundreds for their tickets, just compassion and kindness.
Philippians 2:15 asks that in the midst of darkness we “shine among them like stars in the sky” and I wonder if the simplest keys to doing just that are those incredible gifts of grace and compassion and kindness. I wonder if one of the key areas that we have been called to model in front of our children are these twin keys of compassion and kindness. And I wonder if those around us will be more willing to listen to the good news of the God we serve if they see us engaging with our family, our friends, our neighbours and the stranger … especially the stranger, and all from a position of compassion and kindness.
It seems to be key to everything Jesus did. Mark 1, a Leper comes to Jesus and begs for his healing, the Bible says, Jesus has compassion on him and healed him. Mark 5, the demon possessed man is set free and Jesus tells him go home and tell them I had compassion on you. Mark 6, Jesus sees the people are like sheep without a shepherd and He has compassion on them and feeds five thousand.
But let’s flip over to John’s gospel and see some more wonderful acts of kindness outworked.
If we go to John 2 we’ll see the first miracle at Cana of Galilee. Jesus protests to his mother that his time has not yet come, but Mary is having none of it, these people will be embarrassed that they have run out of wine, they need more, fix it! Even the son of God has a mother! And Jesus does. Motivated by kindness and compassion he turns water into wine. No deep spiritual truth, no fulfilment of prophecy, just kindness.
John 4 introduces to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus asks for water. He asks! He makes himself vulnerable. She has something he needs. A conversation emerges about places of worship and water that brings eternal life. But Jesus wants to talk about the woman. You have had many husbands, and the one you are now with is not your husband. But there is no condemnation – she’s expecting it, but it doesn’t come. Just kindness and compassion and grace flowing from Jesus.
His strong words of rebuke are reserved for the Pharisees with their moral absolutes and hard and fast list of laws and rules and regulations.
In John 5 there’s a disabled man at the pool Bethesda. The story goes that at certain times an angel would move the waters and if you could get into it you would be healed. But this man had been there for 38 years already. When Jesus is told how long the man has been there, he asks him if he wants to be healed. The man explains that he can’t get to the waters. No, do you want to be healed? Yes. And so motivated by compassion for this man, he heals him.
Kindness and Compassion and Grace. Our most effective tools for mission.
And then let’s pop to Luke 23 for one of my favourite demonstrations of grace and compassion and kindness. It’s completely irrational. It will show you that grace will not be restrained by rules. In verses 42 and 43 Jesus is in agony hanging on the cross and yet a conversation takes place with the thief beside him, “Will you remember me when you come into your kingdom?” asks the thief, and Jesus through the agony responds, “today you will be with me in paradise.” Sorry! What!! This thief doesn’t have a denominational affiliation, no personal conversion experience, I’m not even sure he’s a Christian! And that’s what happens when the guiding principles become grace and kindness. People get into heaven and we don’t know how!
That is power of kindness, compassion, and grace.
Revd Dr Mark Griffiths