The other day, as I was driving to the hospital to see my dad, I passed a school here in Atlanta displaying a large sign hanging on the fence that said, “Be kind.” Apparently, bullying is a growing problem here in the United States and many initiatives are being put forth to reduce this malady. I can appreciate that. Students are being exhorted to change their behaviour and slogans such as the one I saw displayed are attempts to curb horrible behaviour. But there is a glaring and fundamental inconsistency with such admonitions: When children are indoctrinated with the worldview that they are animals, the by-products of some impersonal, godless, evolutionary process, then such slogans are merely wishful thinking. A trip to the Kruger National Park will quickly dispel any theory that animals are kind to other animals; nor are they kind to mammals for that matter. After all, there are some really sound reasons for the warnings throughout the Park for visitors to remain within their vehicle!
No, something more is needed if children will truly be kind to others. What is needed, of course, is the gospel—the message that takes both God and people seriously. Only by being reconciled to God through Christ will people consistently endeavour to be kind to others. I am grateful that my father was saved by this gospel. And his legacy of showing kindness towards others serves as a great encouragement that he was indeed reconciled to God.
For the past several days I have been blessed to sit at my father’s bedside and to meet so many people who have come to show their love and appreciation for this great man’s life. One of the most significant things that everyone has shared with me about my dad was how kind and compassionate he was. My father was not an extrovert when it came to displaying affection, but he was heartily and practically compassionate.
One of his former colleagues told me that he remembers how, many years ago, he was leading their church’s yearly Christmas initiative where they give gifts to many needy people in their community. Someone came to my dad on Christmas Eve and said that a child needed a bike but that donations had all been distributed. This individual remembers my father giving a stern directive: “Then go buy one!” Another told me that my father then paid for it out of his own pocket.
In addition to his many manifestations of kindness to his own family, my father likewise displayed this to so many others. He helped many people find employment, provided food and clothes for those in need, and encouraged people as they faced times of deep sadness and trial. He practically ministered to their varied needs. He was kind. And he did not learn that in school; he learned it from his Saviour.
One of the most precious memories that I will take back home with me after my father’s inevitable funeral is of a lady who came to visit him one day in hospice. After she left, my mom told me that she and my dad had invited this lady to church, over and over again. As an unbeliever, she resisted until she could not resist my dad’s invitation any longer. After attending several weeks the Lord Jesus saved her. This woman, whose name is Carol, wanted to see my dad before he finished his earthly race. His, and my mom’s, kindness went a long way to the winning of her soul (Proverbs 11:30).
This kindness did not arise because of some socially constructed campaign. Rather, this kindness flowed from his relationship with Christ.
My dad was not perfect. He was not always patient. And no doubt he was not always kind. But as a life characteristic, he was indeed kind. And he would want me to quickly acknowledge all glory to God. You see, it was the gospel that made the difference in my dad’s life. I understand that unbelievers can behave in a kind and compassionate way. And I have every reason, in the light of what my mom has told me, to believe that my father was kind even before his conversion some 55 years ago.
Yet it was the gospel which drove my dad’s selfless commitment to show compassion. His love for Christ motivated him to be kind to others. The compassion of the Good Shepherd to him was the basis for my father’s kindness towards others.
When fathers and mothers have a worldview shaped by the gospel, and by all of God’s Word (including the creation account) then children will be taught to be kind. When families are grounded in the gospel of God then compassion will flourish, bullying will be an evil aberration and communities will be characterised by kindness—the type of Christ-centred kindness exemplified by the one of the greatest men that I have had the privilege of knowing: the man that I, thankfully, call Dad.