THE CARPENTER'S SHOP: Pay it forward ... as Jesus told us

Dr. Barry Carpenter
Dr. Barry Carpenter

A woman drove up to the tollbooth of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and said, “I’m paying for myself and for the six cars behind me.” One after an-other the next six drivers came up to the booth with dol-lars in hand only to be told, “Some lady up ahead already paid your fare. Have a nice day.”

This random act of kindness was in-spired by an index card the woman saw on a friend’s re-frigerator. It said, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty.” The friend saw the saying spray painted on a warehouse wall. Her husband liked it so much he put it on the blackboard of his seventh grade class. One of the students was the daughter of a colum-nist. She took it home to him, and he put it in his column in the paper. Soon, random acts of kind-ness were being done by people all over the country. Bumper stickers were made, and people were put-ting the idea on letters and business cards. Articles came out in Reader’s Di-gest, Ladies Home Journal, Red Book, and People’s Weekly. The idea was so sim-ple — anything you think there should be more of in this world, do it ran-domly.

It is a great idea that was a fad for the world, but it is to be a way of life for the Christian. It is not a motto merely, for kindness is to be a basic in-gredient of who we are, and not just a temporary program.

Colossians 3:12-25 The Message

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Henry James once said to his young nephew, “There are only three things important in human life: be kind, be kind, be kind.” The Bible is full of examples of kindness. Abraham to Lot; Boaz to Ruth; Jonathan to David. These examples of kindness found throughout the Old Testament are meant to encourage others to acts of kindness. God has been gracious to us so that we might be gracious to others through doing good works and kind deeds. The prophet Jeremiah, speaking for God says: But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who ex-ercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I de-light, declares the Lord (9:24).

Most people know about the idea of kindness through Jesus’ words. It is called the Golden Rule. “So in every-thing, do to others what you would have them do to you” Matthew 7:12).

One of the great examples of the Golden Rule ethic was Abraham Lincoln, who frequently spoke with kindness toward the Southern states even during the worst part of the Civil War. On one such occasion, an elderly woman accosted him in the reception room of the White House. “How can you speak kindly of your enemies,” she asked him, “when you should rather destroy them?” President Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Ask God to help you be more loving, patient, kind. Frederick William Faber said, “Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power which seems to be beyond natural causes, as if they were some angel’s song which had lost its way and come on earth. It seems as if they could almost do what in reality God alone can do soften the hard and angry hearts of men. No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm — crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm were clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.”

Every act of kindness is the beginning of the transformation of the world. In a world full of hostility, hatred, violence, indiscriminate evil, we sometimes wonder what difference any of us can make. Helen Keller said, “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do every-thing, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.”

Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

We can make a dif-ference. It can be-gin today. It can begin with you and me. Today is the day that our kindness can begin to help produce kindness in others. Kindness is more than sharing a feeling. Kindness in me meets needs in you. It is active. Practical. We see kindness. It shows itself in practical ways. It smiles. It offers encouragement out loud. It is seen in the help offered to a struggling stu-dent, to an elderly person who no longer can do some of the work around their homes. It compliments. It shares with a brother or sister. And the Bi-ble insists that when we show kindness to others that we are doing it for and in reality to Jesus Himself. Kindness is love ex-pressing itself. “Be kind and com-passionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God for-gave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Dr. Barry Carpenter is pastor of Destin United Methodist Church and can be reached at b@barrycarpenter.com.