Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends

I have recently found myself thinking about kindness and asking myself again what it really is. That may sound strange but I think it is important every now and again to think through core values and see if there is something new that can be learned. So, what is kindness? One dictionary defines it as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”. Another defines kindness as “doing something for someone not expecting anything in return”. That got me thinking, where does kindness come from and, when we are kind to someone, what motivates us?

I am aware, as you will be, that there are people in our world who appear to be kind and generous but their motive is not always altruistic. Their goal is often to do with promoting themselves or gaining kudos. Very often such people demonstrate their version of kindness by giving money or by heading up a charity. There is an expectation that something will be received in return. Indeed, many do get recognition, fame etc, (knighthoods). The question is, do their actions show the qualities of kindness? I am not prepared to judge as it is not my place.

The better way to approach this is to examine where kindness comes from. We meet many people who are truly kind hearted and it is particularly heart-warming where the person in question gives of themselves without any desire for recognition or reward; in fact, they shy away from any such accolade. In the Bible kindness is defined as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This suggests that being kind about espousing a way of life that is rooted in love and generosity. As Christians we believe that God is love and that, as we choose to live in Him, we live in love. The aim is to follow the pattern that Jesus set in his life. What that does highlight, however, is that, as human beings we are not always very good at choosing to love and care for others especially if they are different or if we don’t like them. Yet Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel that we are to love even our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. It is easy to like those who are likeable but much more difficult to have a care for those who rub us up the wrong way.

It seems to me that kindness naturally flows from a desire to want the best for those around us and a willingness to be an instrument of blessing towards them. It also is clear that sometimes, in order to show true kindness, we have to make a choice to want the best, even for those people we don’t get on with and would not normally associate with. It is why, in the Bible, the concept and quality of love is identified as being sacrificial and not just warm, fuzzy feelings towards another. In cultivating this way of life we imitate Jesus who, in his life, death and resurrection showed us the kindness of God. In showing true kindness by choice we become a resource to everyone around us and we build community. Hopefully we too will receive the kindness of others. May God richly bless you all.

Stephen

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