I don’t suppose that most people who read my blog have ever been faced with the question of what they should do with the remaining members of a rival dynasty who might stake a claim to their recently acquired throne. It’s not exactly a pressing issue for most of us.
If we strip away the dynastic and regal overtones and think more in terms of how we should treat rivals or enemies, real or imagined, then the story of David and Mephibosheth becomes a little more relevant.
2 Samuel 9 relates how David treated Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. He invited him to meet with him, restored the property that belonged to his grandfather and gave him a place at his table for the rest of his days. He did this, because he wanted to show kindness to anyone related to Saul (v.3).
Kindness is an incredibly important and powerful virtue. Important, because without it we would easily degenerate into something less than human. Powerful, because of its ability to transform relationships and individual lives.
David’s kindness towards Mephibosheth illustrates almost perfectly God’s kindness towards us through Jesus Christ. Romans 2.4 singles out God’s kindness as the attribute that leads us to repentance. Titus 3.4 roots salvation in the appearance of the kindness and love of God appearing in Christ. Divine kindness turned us from God’s enemies into God’s friends.
In Paul’s letters, we find that kindness is not only something we experience from an encounter with Jesus. It is something that, through the Spirit’s work in our lives, should find expression in our relationships with each other (Galatians 5.22; Ephesians 4.32; Colossians 3.12).
Kindness when found amongst God’s people is potentially life changing. One “fruit” of kindness is forgiveness (see Ephesians 4.32). That is life changing. Not every act of kindness will have such a life altering impact, but impact it will have. You might not change the world, but you can change someone’s world with kindness.
What is sometimes overlooked is that kindness benefits not only the recipient of the kindness, but also the person who is being kind.
The book of Proverbs highlights at least five benefits of being kind: receiving honour (11.16), benefiting yourself (11.17), cheering up anxious people (12.25), blessing (14.21), reward (19.17). Four of those blessings of kindness are for the kind person.
Little wonder that research has shown over and over again the social, psychological and physical benefits of kindness.
The Morgan Freeman character in Evan Almighty might have been overstating it when he said:
“Do you want to know how to change the world son? One act of random kindness at a time.” But come to think of it, it might not be much of an overstatement after all.