Read: Ruth 1:6-18; 2 Samuel 9; 2 Timothy 2:23-26
I was running errands with a friend this week when a beautiful fragrance made its presence known in the place of business that we had just entered. It wasn't roses or the scent of lilies, both of which are favorites of mine. No, it was the unmistakable fragrance of kindness that wafted throughout that place. Upon entering the building, I heard one of the workers speaking quietly with an elderly gentleman. She was trying to help him fill out some sort of paperwork, but he was struggling to understand what he needed to do. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but the room was small enough that I couldn't help but hear what was going on. That worker's kindness as she tried to help her customer understand what he needed to do was like a gentle rain shower on a hundred-degree day. She never sighed or appeared to lose patience. In fact, even after I had transacted my business, she continued to work with her customer. Her tone remained kind as we walked out the door. Perhaps that incident stood out so much in my thinking because we often are flooded with the opposite kinds of images. People pushing and shoving to get ahead in a line. One voice trying to drown out another person's words. So many incidents that display unkind attitudes are paraded before our eyes each day. Yet, I am thinking how encouraged I was because of one woman's kindness.
Is it any wonder that this word is used so many times in the scriptures? It is part of the beauty that the Holy Spirit produces in and through our lives, Galatians 5:22-23. Let's glimpse a few places where kindness was demonstrated by those who love the Lord and bask in the fragrance that surely was enjoyed by the ones who benefited from it.
RUTH: She was an unlikely fountain of kindness. Let's remind ourselves about this Moabite woman's history. She surely was taught to worship false gods. In Moab, child sacrifice was practiced as a means of currying favor with the demonic entities that were falsely called gods. All kinds of wickedness were practiced in the so-called honoring of Moab's deities. Even so, Ruth married into a household where the True Living God was known. Sadly, Ruth's husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law all passed away in Moab. The three widows were all that remained of this family because no children were born to either Ruth or her sister-in-law while they lived in Moab. One day, mother-in-law Naomi learned that things had changed in Israel. The famine had ended; so, the three women packed up to go back to Naomi's home. Naomi laid everything on the line for her daughters-in-law. She made it easy for them to walk away from her. After all, things would be hard for these foreign women in Israel. They would not be accepted. Naomi had no chance of producing another son for either of them. She urged them to return home. Back to their mothers' homes and their gods. She no longer even desired to be called Naomi which meant pleasantness because she believed that the Lord had raised His fist against her. No, there was no reason, she told Ruth and Orpah, for the two young women to go back to Israel with her. Orpah cried, but she returned home. Not so with Ruth. She clung to Naomi. She promised her loyal love. Nothing would ever separate her from the older woman or her God. Orpah's kindness to Naomi ended on that road, but Ruth's continued on. Naomi's brokenness would not quench Ruth's kindness. The next chapters of the book walk that out. Ruth worked hard to sustain the two women, and there is no hint that she did anything begrudgingly. Both her deeds and her attitudes emitted the fragrance of kindness. What is so joyous in Ruth's story is that, as isn't always the case, Ruth's kindness is both seen and rewarded, Ruth 2:1-17. Enter the hero, but his story is for another time.
DAVID: In 2 Samuel 9, we read of a beautiful incident in King David's life. The king was living peacefully. God had been so gracious, and David's enemies had been vanquished. This left the monarch with a question. Wasn't there someone in King Saul's family to whom he could show "God's kindness, 2 Samuel 9:3? After all, David had promised Saul's son Jonathan that he would not do as was customarily done by victorious kings. Usually, the king who took the throne killed every member of the former king's family, thereby eliminating any who would try to take back the throne. David didn't do that. Instead, he sent for Mephibosheth, Saul's grandson. He was crippled in his feet. When he came before David, he was afraid, but David not only spared him, he also gave him honor as if he were a son in his family. How surprised this young man surely was when he learned not only of the mercy David offered but also the lavish kindness David poured out on him. He would eat with the King's family, enjoying the lavishness of the King's table.
In 2 Timothy 2:23-26, we read of practical ways we can demonstrate kindness as we interact with those who don't yet belong to Jesus. We should avoid foolish and ignorant controversies. When we become ensnared in them, quarreling often follows. Sadly, seeds of unkindness often grow while people are trying to one-up each other with words. The passage also reminds us that we should never be known for being quarrelsome; instead, we should be kind to everybody and patiently endure evil. Our words should be used to teach, and if we must correct it should be done with gentleness. Our desire should be not to win the argument but that God might bring people to repentance and that they would be freed from the Evil One's snare.
Is there anything we can do so that others will be touched by the fragrance of God's kindness as it flows out of our lives? Yes, we can think about what the Lord has done for us. How often has He lavished kindness on us by not giving us what we deserve and instead giving us gracious gifts? How many times has He lavished His forgiveness on us even after times of repeated sin? No wonder Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to be kind and tender hearted toward one another. Hard to do unless we remember what the end of the verse says. We can forgive because we have been so richly forgiven.
Lord, remind us of Your kindnesses. Let these remembrances fill us up so that the fragrance of Your kindness flows out over others.