|Art by Alissa Yarbrough|
As a little girl I watched Disney's animated film of Cinderella again and again until I knew all the lines by heart. Others would say I ran it in the ground, but after all, Cinderella was my hero. Or shall I say, is my hero. Like every girl I loved her story: from servant to princess, worn out clothes to ballgown, receiving no love to receiving the love of a prince. A story like this appeals to our hopes that dreams can come true, as the tagline goes, as well as encourages us that maybe after pain we can expect some reward for not losing hope.
As I grew older, and my problems matured, I began to respect Cinderella's story for more than the fancy ballgown and palace experience, I learned to respect her character. Growing up with a role model like that, kindness in the face of cruelty, however fictional the story may be, inspired me to expect greater things from myself. And yet, as the real world became all too familiar, the harder it was to employ.
We've all experienced hard times that caused us to despair. Maybe the "hard times" seem like life to you. People hurt us and leave us feeling unimportant, difficult situations only seem to get worse -- in times like these it is easy for us to laugh at the fairy-tale standards of goodness that we once held in such high regard, and bitterly conclude that real life just doesn't work that way.
Just a Fairy-tale Concept?
"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully." (1 Peter 2:19)
There was a man who was accused of many crimes, but even though he was entirely innocent, he was eventually tried and murdered. During the trial, this man knew the truth, that jealousy prompted his accusers hate, and he knew that he was innocent of their claims. But for a greater purpose, one that his accusers couldn't fathom, he remained quiet and only responded with patience and calm.
Jesus endured ridicule, gross injustice, great physical pain, and complete rejection (1 Peter 2:22-23). He, more than anyone else, had a reason to fight for his case, to condemn in return, and what's more, he had the power to bring about true justice. But he remained silent. It's hard for us to understand this kind of behavior, isn't it?
There were many reasons why Jesus did what he did in choosing to be murdered for us and take our rightful punishment. One of them was to be an example for us, to show us how to live. He was a king who lowered himself to our status so that we could know how to do what we were called to do.
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." (1 Peter 2:21, emphasis mine)
We were called to endure!
Being kind in the face of cruelty is not easy, we all can agree on that. But God does not leave us to figure it out on our own. He has shown us how in the way he lived, all 33 years of his life. Before his death, Jesus said,
"But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away... But I say to you, love your enemies," (Matthew 5:39-42, 44).
And he followed through with his actions every time. Every time.
What is the ResultYou see, kindness to a cold heart does something unexplainable. Proverbs 25:21-22 says,
"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you."
John MacArthur says of this passage, "As metals are melted by placing fiery coals on them, so is the heart of an enemy softened by such kindness."* Who can resist a happy person? How hard it is to stay angry with someone who is treating you kindly. God calls us to do the hard and unthinkable thing because it is just the thing to shake the enemy.
Not everyone will respond to your kindness, but you can know that they will never forget it. Dr. Charles Stanley has often spoke of a time in seminary many years ago, where he was greatly annoyed by a fellow student. He said the man was always smiling and offering to help, and it annoyed him so that he would try to avoid him altogether. In the end, the man's kindness won out and the two became friends.
There are so many accounts of kindness softening the hard heart in the Bible alone, let alone the history books. And yet it's easy to miss if you aren't looking for it.
Many things have changed since the days of Jesus on earth. Instead of walking from town to town, we drive or fly, and make greater distances than anyone in the ancient days could have ever dreamed of. There are numerous scientific discoveries that have made life more understandable, and technical advancements that have made life easier. And yet, with all the change, the need for kindness is just as real today as it was then.
What it Looks Like Today
In the most recent depiction of Cinderella, the admonition to "have courage and be kind" is the backbone of the heroine's actions. It's a good thought but somewhat empty when push comes to shove. However, where the story lacks any solid reasoning for this mindset, God tells us the very same thing for a deeper, more meaningful reason, namely, to please and serve Him.
What You Get in ReturnBy being kind to the cruel, you not only soften hearts, but you get refreshed in return. Can you believe it? It goes against human logic to do something hard in order to be refreshed but it's nonetheless true.
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)
We can apply the truth of this verse to many areas of living, but in this case, by taking on the nature of God, or literally being gentle and humble as He is, we are refreshed and reinspired. Kindness energizes us!
So how can we be more like God and respond with kindness? It's going to take some resolution but don't worry, no one gets it right immediately. Think of how you can employ this new attitude in your every day life. It may be as simple as not honking your horn at the driver who cut you off or stole your parking spot. Or maybe by holding your tongue on social media when a troll tries to pick a fight. Start with little things and work your way up. Kindness is hardly second nature, but it is a gift you can give that will give back.
So what do you think? Do you have any ideas as to how you can make a few changes toward kindness in your life? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to let me know them in the comments below!
*All scripture is take from New King James Version of the Bible
*Excerpt taken from the John MacArthur Study Bible