“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
One day a great lion lay asleep in the sunshine. A little mouse ran across his paw and awakened him. The great lion was just going to eat him when the little mouse cried, “Oh, please, let me go, sir. Someday I may help you.” The lion laughed at the thought that the little mouse could be of any use to him. But he was a good-natured lion, and he set the mouse free.
Not long after, the lion was caught in a net. He tugged and pulled with all his might, but the ropes were too strong. Then he roared loudly. The little mouse heard him and ran to the spot. “Be still, dear lion, and I will set you free. I will gnaw the ropes.” With his sharp teeth, the mouse cut the ropes, and the lion came out of the net.
“You laughed at me once,” said the mouse, “You thought I was too little to do you a good turn. But see, you owe your life to a poor little mouse.”
I share this story to illustrate that there is a measure of kindness that even the mighty, which seemingly need nothing, should show. We that hold to the mighty Scriptures need to apply this teaching of kindness in our ministries.
The Bible has much to say about kindness, generosity, and caring. The following passages deal with kindness in a believer’s life:
• Leviticus 19:34
• Psalm 85:10
• Proverbs 3:3-4
• Proverbs 11:17
• Proverbs 14:21-22
• Matthew 5:7, 42
• Matthew 25:34-36
• Acts 20:35
• Romans 12
• Romans 15:1
• I Corinthians 13
• Galatians 6:10
As you can see, numerous passages discuss kindness. As Christians, we should be exemplary in spreading abroad the love of God to those that have not been saved, but we should also be especially kind to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Galatians 6:10 says that we should especially show love to those that are of the “household of faith.”
Let’s consider Romans 12 to gain specific instruction for developing kindness.
1. Let the Lord Transform Your Mind (Romans 12:1-2)
Transformation is changing from the “old way” of doing things. The old nature is concerned primarily with self-gratification. It is not shocking when an unsaved person wants to cheat, push down, and connive to get ahead of others. However, once someone gets saved, this old nature should become a thing of the past. The new nature takes charge. The Spirit of God has liberty in a believer’s life by residing within.
This process of transformation will only come as we surrender ourselves to the Spirit’s leading. The old man will not surrender to the Spirit. Romans 12:1 instructs the believer to place himself at the mercy of the Holy Spirit and let the process of transformation begin.
2. Realize the Source of Your Gifts (Romans 12:3-8)
Commentator John Gill provided some interesting thoughts on this passage. Consider his statements:
Not to think of himself more highly: that is, either not to arrogate to himself what does not belong to him, and detract from others, who may have equal, if not superior, abilities to him; or not to glory in what he has, as if he had not received it, and as if it was altogether owing to his own sagacity, penetration, diligence, and industry.
But to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith: such ought to consider that what gifts, abilities, light, and knowledge they have, they have then, not of themselves, but from God.
When we understand that God has given us the gifts we have, it is then hard to take credit for achievements and accolades bestowed on us. The worldly person lives for himself; so even his acts of kindness are an attempt to gain some type of favor or recognition. Our purpose as Christians is to bring glory to God. We have been given gifts to use for God’s glory.
This mentality will also help us to better appreciate our fellow brethren. By gaining the right perspective of our God-given gifts, we will have the right opinion of ourselves. Not thinking too highly of ourselves is indicative of godly humility which portrays the spirit of Christ. Knowing from whom our gifts are given helps us to keep our pride in check. Remembering that God is the giver of the gifts helps us to love our fellow brethren. How? By understanding that God in His wisdom has given to each member of the body of Christ differing gifts within each local church so that we can accomplish His will and bring glory to our Savior.
3. Develop a Genuine Love for Others (Romans 12:9)
The word unfeigned means “without hypocrisy” or “having a genuine love.” Alexander Maclaren says the following about having genuine love:
It means, hiding what one is; but there is simulation, or pretending to be what one is not. There are words of love which are like the iridescent scum on the surface veiling the black depths of a pool of hatred. A Psalmist complains of having to meet men whose words were “smoother than butter” and whose true feelings were as “drawn swords”; but, short of such consciously lying love, we must all recognize as a real danger besetting us all, and especially those of us who are naturally inclined to kindly relations with our fellows, the tendency to use language just a little in excess of our feelings. The glove is slightly stretched, and the hand in it is not quite large enough to fill it. There is such a thing, not altogether unknown in Christian circles, as benevolence, which is largely cant, and words of conventional love about individuals which do not represent any corresponding emotion. Such effusive love pours itself in words, and is most generally the token of intense selfishness. Any man who seeks to make his words a true picture of his emotions must be aware that few harder precepts have ever been given than this brief one of the Apostle’s, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”
Developing a kind heart is a process for the believer. It does not come naturally. Our natural man is self-centered, egotistical, and vengeful toward others. We, in our natural state, tend toward those that have similar ideas as we do. They bolster us; however, when someone opposes our ideas, we tend to malign and denigrate “their ideas.” A Christian works to transform his mind, surrenders to the leading of the Spirit, understands that God gives differing gifts, and then works at developing genuineness. Genuineness (some may call it transparency) is a characteristic that has to be developed all through one’s life. Many folks are scared to let others see who they really are because they may find flaws. This is silly because there are no “perfect” people. We all have flaws. Having transparency helps a person to feel comfortable among others.
Christians should develop proper decorum. We should not be “a loud mouth,” rude, uncouth, or vulgar. We should have a “filter.” But, it is refreshing when you can sit down with someone that is not “prickly.” They make you relax, and you have a true sense that this person is genuine. A believer will have to work at this because we, like the Pharisees, want to have an air of superiority—an air of righteousness.
4. Learn to Hate Evil and Love Good (Romans 12:10-16)
I would like us to consider two words as we look at this idea of hating evil and loving good. The first is the word abhor; it is a verb meaning “to have an intense dislike.” This is the only time it is used in the New Testament. It is in the present tense which means that it is an ongoing action. Abhorring that which is evil must be at the forefront of daily life. Another word in the text is cleave. This same idea appears in I Corinthians 6 where the Bible says, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”
So these two words (abhor and cleave) provide instruction as we pursue kindness. A Christian must have a disdain for evil. This disdain is an intense dislike. Evil must not be tolerated in our lives, and we must seek to rid our lives of its influence. To help us in the right hatred of evil, we are to cleave to that which is good. The word cleaving gives the idea of “super glue.” We are attached to truth and righteousness with a bond that cannot be separated. This attachment to that which is good will make the evil that we are active in abhorring unable to get hold of our lives.
5. Avoid the Dangerous Trap of Revenge (Romans 12:17-21)
One man said it this way, “Revenge is a cruel word: manhood, some call it; but it is rather doghood. The manlier any man is, the milder and more merciful, as Julius Caesar, who, when he had Pompey’s head presented to him, wept, and said, ‘I seek not revenge, but victory.’” (J. Trapp)
Why would so much energy be put into the ruin of another? It sometimes might seem absurd to a person to see so much energy put into the tearing down of another, but we all seem to enjoy the toppling of a dynasty or a top-tier athlete, etc. There is a built-in envy in our natural man that does not like for another human being to gain notoriety above what we are able to achieve. Add to this natural tendency someone who is maligning and opposing us, and you have a very strong motive for revenge.
Revenge and hate are very popular rhetoric today in America. Everyone is supposed to have a cause to fight for, and those that have been slighted somehow by somebody should gain a following and march. However, this passage has been building toward our having a right mindset toward our fellow brethren in Christ.
What is this mindset? Lay yourself and your ambitions at the foot of the Savior; realize that God is the giver of talents and gifts; work at developing an unfeigned love for others; strive to hate evil and love right, and then leave “getting back at someone” to God. God knows what has happened to you. Maybe He has a lesson for you to learn through the disappointment and hurt. Don’t let the devil use outside circumstances that someone else is bringing into your life to gain an entrance into your heart.
Flattery is not kindness. “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue” (Proverbs 28:23).
“A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet” (Proverbs 29:5).
These verses demonstrate that the use of flattery is not kindness. A flatterer is self-serving. The only reason that someone uses flattery is to gain something for themselves, not to prefer someone above himself.
“But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (Acts 26:25).
“Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (I Timothy 2:7).
We also see the example of the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul spoke the truth in love. He knew that he had to present the gospel and knew that it might be offensive. There are times when what you say may be offensive in its nature because the Word of God can be convicting. We need to be sure that our words are not offensive because of our carnal tendencies. Analyze your life to see if your life clearly reveals the kindness that the Bible indicates should be in a believer’s life. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Alexander Maclaren said, “Kindness does not require us to be blind to facts or to live in fancies, but it does require us to cherish a habit of goodwill, ready to show pity if sorrow appears, and slow to turn away even if hostility appears.”